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Ando: The Man, The Myth, The Sensei

Considering I'm still sore from last night, it must have been a good practice =)...

After some warm-ups (those Hayasuburi are easier and easier every time I do them....I think all the at-home suburi is paying off), we jumped straight into our Men and straight into quite a few rounds of Kirikaeshi. Again, as always, we focused on slow, accurate, clean hits before speeding up. When I compare myself to other people in the dojo, especially Sean (who said to me when we started, "Just block as fast as you can"), I feel I'm still really slow at this part, but also I can tell I'm faster than when I first started, or even 6 months ago. Sometimes the climb is only one step at a time, which is ok.

We did a few rounds of basic drills next, with Takado Sensei leading the way. Let me just say, if anyone doesn't know Takado Sensei, she is a great teacher, but I'm pretty sure she is a robot. Or like the Energizer Bunny. She just keeps going, and going, and going...Anyway. We went over Men, Kote, Kote-Men, and Do, before doing all out Uchikomi which included all of these hits at once, with a little Kote-Taiatari-Hiki Men thrown in for good measure. My Kote hits felt good today, I didn't catch anyone's Shinai, but I still need to work on Do. I feel that it's too weak still. Maybe I'm still not fully committing to the hit when I do it. I took some time during waza-geiko to work on it, but I'm still not satisfied with it right now. When no one is in front of me, I can do the hit and the motion just fine. Put someone in front of me and all of a sudden I pull my hits on Do. Definitely a major issue and one I will want to correct ASAP.

Afterward we had time for some Kakarigeiko. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take part because my tape was pulling off of my foot, so I decided to just ditch the tape and wait for jigeiko. I still have a tender spot from where I had a blister last week, but I felt it was good enough to do jigeiko on. But all the moving and turning involved in Kakarigeiko would have done bad things to it for sure.

Jigeiko...my first opponent was probably the hardest person I've ever faced. Ando Sensei. Let's just say it was a humbling experience. I felt as if I had no defense against him. Even when I did block one of his Men strikes he was gone before I could even think of counter-attacking. He tells me I need to hit more. This is true! In my mind I was thinking, "When I try to attack you hit me three times before I can move!!" But on the bright side, this is something I want to strive for. To have such good Kendo that I can see openings and react on them in an instant, that I can hit multiple targets, accurately, as they open up. That I can have the speed to act faster than my opponent, and demonstrate good Zanshin after each hit.

My other opponents in Jigeiko were closer to my own level of experience by comparison, and I fared better against them. I took some good hits, but I also gave some good hits, and I was able to play a bit and get some reactions I was looking for. For instance, in one round I brought my hands up as if I were going to hit Men. When my opponent went to block/counter, I switch and hit Kote as their hands came up. Also played a bit with Nuki Men. I would really like to use this more as I start doing more tournaments (taikai), so I really want to work on it and get it down really well. Last night it was hit and miss, but I felt pretty good when I would do it. I was stepping back far enough to at least get out of the way of my opponent's attack, even if I didn't always have the speed to follow up with an attack of my own. Might need to learn to make my Fumikomi step a LOT shorter on these hits, or even in place. I feel a lot more comfortable doing Jigeiko now. I remember when I first started doing Jigeiko I was so nervous, and I was very hesitant to actually hit people. Now I am able to jump right in, although I still need to make sure I'm not pulling my hits...

After class I went up to thank Takado Sensei for a good practice and we talked a little about my shins. They are definitely feeling a lot better these days. Instead of taking days to feel better, they take an hour or so at the most. I'm able to move around without much pain at all, and even when I walk long distances now I have a mild discomfort, but no pain. Hopefully in a few more months they'll feel good enough for me to try running again.

Some thoughts:

Men: Make sure that I'm using left hand for power, right hand to direct the shinai. I don't know if I was successful at this last night or not, I was concentrating more on making good hits and snapping my wrists back and forward when I swing, but it's always something I want to try and work on whenever I can.

Kote: I was doing better with hitting the opponent's Kote and not their Tsuba, or their Shinai. I need to be sure to step across, like I'm stepping towards their right foot when I strike. This will put me in the proper position so that I can just lift my hands up and bring them down for the Kote hit.

Do: Oy....starting to become my problem area. Don't pull the hit, hit with meaning and commitment, follow through smoothly, and remember to bring my left hand back down to center, just like in Kote when I hit. While doing Do Kirikaeshi I felt good with this, but our regular Do drills were still very weak.

Taiatari: Sean (McNally Sensei) mentioned to me that our Taiatari is really weak, and demonstrated for us that we should come in and crash into our opponent and not stop. He said they should be the ones stopping us, not us stopping ourselves. I'll need to remember to start doing this, as I've always had a habit of stopping myself. Takado Sensei also pointed out that I need to put more of my whole body into the hit, not just my hands.

Hiki Waza: In general, I need to use this more. I have a tendency to try and get my opponent to do Hiki Waza when I'm in Jigeiko, and I need to remember what a valuable technique it is and practice it more myself. If I crash in, take a second or two to look for/create an opening and then go for it.

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