It was not easy getting up this morning. I didn't get to bed until about 11:30 last night, after a quick bite, cleaning my armor, hanging up my keikogi and hakama, and getting ready for bed. 6a.m. came WAY too fast, but I'm glad I was able to drag myself out of bed and do some suburi. I had a nice view of the sun coming up over the hills and houses as I went through my various drills (9 different drills with 30 strikes each, plus some extra Hayasuburi at the end, because, well, I wanted to!).
Practice last night was really good, although my mom didn't show up. I was hoping she would come and catch my practice, but since she'll soon be moving over here then she'll have time to come another time. We started with our normal warm-up exercises and suburi, then moved straight to some Kirikaeshi, really focusing on making good clean cuts. After a few rounds of that (both slow and faster at the end), we did a lot of work on Men strikes. Katate Men, to help us focus on driving the shinai with the left arm and using it for power instead of the right arm. I really liked these drills as we seldom do them, so it's nice for a change of pace here and there, and it definitely helped me focus on my left arm the rest of the night.
We also did some Kote and Do, and then Kote-Men and Kote-Do drills. I felt comfortable with the Kote-Do, but my Kote and Kote-Men strikes were off for some reason. I was trying to go too short on the hits and kept hitting the tops of people's Shinais =(. Oh well. I just need to relax and focus on the cut more, maybe make my movements a bit bigger for now.
We also focused on Taiatari during a lot of the later drills, which was very helpful for me, as I learned some more about the proper way to do Taiatari and where my feet and hands should be. Ando sensei pointed out that we should be taking a slight step forward when we receive Taiatari, to kind of brace ourselves for the impact. Left hand should still be at center, right hand should come up above the left, and palms should be facing the opponent to give more surface area to receive. A lot to think about when someone is rushing in at you after a hit, but hopefully with practice it'll become second nature.
*for those of you who don't know, Taiatari is a term used to describe when one Kenshi crashes into another one, usually after attempting a strike. Taiatari is the actual crashing that happens, and can often be a very violent action*
Jigeiko went well. I think I gave just as much as I received. Maybe. One lady in our dojo, Jean, really beat me up, though. She is a very sneaky lady, I could learn a lot. At one point she hit me two or three times with Kote, so when I saw her motion for it again I went to block and she hit my Men!
I was able to use a Men block that my buddy (and Sensei) showed me before class very effectively, following it up with a solid Men strike afterwards. I was very proud of this one moment, and I'll continue to work on that block so I can use it more effectively.
Men: Use it more! I tried concentrating on this during jigeiko last night, and I think I was doing ok with it, but I definitely need to look for more openings or create more opportunities to use it.
Kote: Don't be in such a rush, take my time, make a slightly bigger swing so I'm sure to get over the opponent's Shinai. I'm pretty good at going under their Shinai, but I don't want that to be the only way I can hit Kote effectively
Hiki Waza: Bring my hands up a little higher when making the strike. I did catch myself doing this a couple of times, and it was reinforced by Sensei's wife pointing it out. I'll be sure to work on this, so that I can land my Hike Men strikes on top of the Men instead of on the Mengane (grill).
Taiatari: Be sure to have my feet in a proper position when going into Taiatari. Sensei's wife pointed out that my left heel was up too high when I would crash into my opponent. I need to have it down close to the ground a good stance so that I can move wherever I need to out of Tsubazeriai.
Ashi sabaki: I'm still working on my follow-through steps, making sure that they are nice and smooth and that my left foot isn't going in front of my right foot. I definitely feel like I'm shuffling around more when I do this!
After practice I spoke with Sensei's wife, and she said that I move very fluidly and that I have really good basics, but to be sure to pay attention to where I'm hitting. Make sure if I'm going for Shomen that my Shinai strikes right at the center and on top of the Men. Likewise for Kote and Do. I appreciated her kind words and advice and will be sure to utilize it in future classes. She says a lot of this comes from using the left arm/right arm for power. If I continue to work on using the left arm for power, then my right arm is freed up to direct the Shinai to where I want it.
I'm very much looking forward to this weekend. Japan Week starts here and we are doing a Kendo demonstration as part of the opening ceremony. Hopefully I'll get some good pics and be able to post some here!