Oy....Had my first blister in a long time last night, and let me tell you, I DO NOT miss that feeling. Ended up having to tape up my foot pretty heavily for the end of practice. but I pushed on, and I'm glad I did. I didn't do as well as I think I would've without injury, but I'm proud of myself for continuing on. Now, let's get down to business...
Last night was a very good practice, indeed. The focus of the night was on big, proper strikes and cuts. When I say big, I don't mean big as in Jogeburi, where you bring the shinai all the way back to your tailbone and all the way forward. I mean big and is hands over the head, equal distance from the shoulders, wrists back, and shinai no lower than parallel with the floor. After warmups (which we did in 4 lines instead of in a circle like we normally do), Sensei elaborated on proper striking technique for a while, which is always very welcome. Even if I think I know something in Kendo, there's always so much more to learn.
We started with a LOT of Kirikaeshi. At least twice as much as we usually do, and we really focused on bringing our hands up over our head and doing proper strikes throughout. Wendy pointed out that my left hand was slightly out in front of me, which in time will cause me to use too much right hand. I'll be mindful of this in the future, and work hard to correct it.
Next we did a lot of Men drills, and Men variations, such as Men-Taiatari across the dojo floor, and Men and go through, then turn and immediately hit Men again. During these strikes I really focused on my left hand (bringing it all the way above my head before striking), and on my follow through steps. I think the follow-through steps are starting to feel better; I'm getting more comfortable with the shorter steps. I was a bit embarrassed during practice, though. We did a Men drill where we hit Men and go through and then turn to hit Kote immediately after. Sensei had me demonstrate to the class a couple of times, and then pointed out that even though I'm not the fastest person in the dojo, in a shiai setting I would be able to pick off a lot of people that are faster than me if I demonstrate good technique like that. He said a lot of people will be looking for the hit when I turn, not expecting me to be hitting back. Very kind words which I hope I will be able to honor with my continued devotion to improve myself.
We next moved on to some Men-Debana Kote drills. Sensei had us perform the Debana strike while moving backwards and to the side, so he said in that situation we'd really have to be sharp with the Kote strike. Not hit harder, but just sharply and with a lot of commitment (sutemi), to show that we really meant to hit their Kote. I felt really weak today with my Debana strikes, but on the last couple of rotations I really picked it up and put my all into the hits.
We had some time after this for free Waza-geiko, where we get to pick what drill we want to do with our partner. I used the time to focus some more on my Men strikes, and on my Do strikes. Do is still very weak for me, I'll definitely have to pick it up to be able to use it in taikai (tournament) situations.
I had to step up at this time to tape up and jumped back in for a few rounds of Jigeiko. I fought with Jeff again. I'm still trying to figure out a good way to fight such a wall of an opponent... The main things for me right now are to not back up against such an opponent and to try and find an exploit a weakness in his technique...at my experience level that is a tall order, indeed.
We finished class with an interesting drill that I had never done before. We had one person stand in the middle with 3 hitters on each side. Hitters would take turns trying to hit Men on the person in the middle, which the person in the middle would counter with Do. They would hit on one side, then turn in place and hit on the other side. The drill was very fast, and I have to admit that I downright sucked at it. My problem was taking too many steps. Sensei pointed out that I should take one small step to the side as I strike, and then turn and hit the next person. I knew what I needed to do in my head, I understood it, I just couldn't get my body to do it. I kept getting a feeling that I needed to step out of the way, even though the hitters were instructed to go around me. Oh well, practice, practice, and more practice!
Overall a great night, and I hope that my wound heals soon. Some points that I took away from last night:
-Men: When doing big swings be sure to bring my left hand all the way above my head, don't leave it hanging out in front of me.
-Do: Needs to one fluid motion from start to finish. Right now I have two motions: The hit, and the follow through with a very tangible pause between the two. I need to commit to the strike and commit to following through after, I think this will help bring the two motions together for me.
Ashi Sabaki: I'm feeling better with the follow-through steps. Still working on them, though. When I turn to face the opponent I still tend to bring my left foot in front of my right before I turn.