Sunday, May 30, 2010

Weekend Suburi and Sushi

Short post today!

I was out sick on Wednesday, so I didn't get a chance to practice, so I was very open to the idea of getting some people together for a suburi session at the park yesterday. It's Memorial Day weekend, so we didn't have practice yesterday or tomorrow. That means one more official practice before Obukan, and I wanted to get in as much as I could before then. I put up a posting online about it, and we ended up having four people there (myself, Sean, Jeronimo and Marek).

After some fun killing time on Sean's new slack line, we decided to do the team training suburi, which is made up of nine varying suburi drills, and we decided to do fifty sets of each. They are:

-Jogeburi (big swings, all the way back to your tailbone and all the way forward as far as you can, step back as you swing back, step forward as you swing forward)
-Men (two steps forward, two steps back)
-Sayu-Men (Men strikes to the right and left side of the head, alternating, two steps forward and back)
-Tai-a Sabaki (? not sure on spelling; basically we Men in the center, but we turn our bodies for each hit, as well as alternate our footwork so right and left are in front on every other swing....hard to explain in words)
-Katate-Men (One-handed Men strikes with the left hand, no stepping)
-A striking drill resembling one of our warm-up exercises. We place our feet about twice our shoulder width and squat down while striking Kote, and then bring the shinai all the way back behind us and we rise up again, repeat
-Another drill that I don't think has a name. We place our right leg forward and bend it so that it's at a 90 degree angle with the ground, and keep our back leg straight and then do fifty Men strikes in the position. Switch legs and do fifty more
-Haya-suburi (fast-paced swinging drill. strike Men as you hop forward with proper foot position, and then bring the shinai back and you hop back into proper foot position. Very fast drill)

After a little cool down, Sean (McNally Sensei) decided we should do a little kata to finish things out for the day. We all decided to learn Kata 6. It looks very simple, but like all kata there are many subtleties to be learned and executed. One of which was not only the very, very small Kote strike the Uchidachi does, but the very, very small footwork that Shidachi does as they do Suriage Kote to counter. Definitely something I'll have to work on, but not a kata I will have to officially know how to do for a few years. Still I am of the mind that if I can learn it now I would like to. It gives me that much more time to practice it for later.

We decided to go and try out the new sushi place here in the valley, Sushi Sakai. That's another story in itself, food was hit and miss (my lunch was good, at least), and service was definitely a big miss. Ah well, like Wendy said it gave us more time to visit :D

Until next time!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bruises and Illnesses

Late post today. I usually post in the afternoon, but I've been out sick all day. Caught some kind of cold from somewhere (I think it's going around). Right now my head feels all pressurized and my throat is very dry and scratchy. Definitely no fun! Let's hope tomorrow I'm ok for Kendo practice. I just realized that we only have two more official practices before Obukan!

Sinclair Sensei and the rest of our dojo were back last night, after a weekend at the Bellevue Jr. Taikai. Our 15 and under team took second place, and our 16-18 team took first! Also many, many top finishes for a lot of the people who fought in individuals. Makayla made some news by not only placing fourth, but also third! How that happens, I do not know, but the official placings that Marsten Sensei posted show her at third, so congratulations either way!

I had an interesting event occur before our practice even started. For some reason still unknown to myself I developed a large, ugly-looking bruise on my left thumb. It appeared around the time that we were bowing in and starting the advanced class. Again, no idea where it came from, but as the night went on it got worse and worse looking, although it didn't really affect my Kendo at all. I still have it today, but it doesn't hurt or anything when I touch it now. Anyway...

After our normal warm up exercises, stretches, and suburi, Sinclair Sensei interlaced our normal Kirikaeshi drills with Men-uchi drills. It brought a little different rhythm to the practice time and I welcomed it. I still feel like I'm leading just a bit with my right shoulder on my Men hits, especially towards the end of class when I'm tired (I noticed it a lot during Ai-Men drills with Ando Sensei). Again I need to remember to square my shoulders. I need to not give the opponent any forewarning of what I'm doing.

Kote and Kote-Men came next. I have to say that my Kote-Men feel a lot better these days. Sinclair Sensei pointed out a few times before to make our kiai for Kote-Men as fast as possible, and try to match our footwork and our swing with that speed. Last night I felt that it was all starting to come together. I even had some feedback from the sidelines that I looked a lot faster out there than I should at my experience level. Still, though, many things that I can pick apart on work on, but I feel a little more enlightened to that technique now.

We moved onto a couple of rather interesting drills after this. Sensei had us form two lines at the far end of the dojo, and we would go as pairs (two pairs on the floor at once). We would start by hitting Men and going through, and then as we turned our partner would hit Men as we were about 45 degrees from facing them. As they went through, we would hit them at the 45 degree mark, and so on all the way to the end of the gym. He did this to help us focus on and think about using that time to our advantage, and being able to hit the opponent and the earliest point possible before they are able to get ready again.

After a few rotations down and back across the dojo, we did a slightly similar drill. We would hit Men and go through, and then our partner was supposed to follow us closely, first just to keep right on us, and then to come to tsubazeriai and perform a Hiki Men before we were able to ready ourselves. Since my tendency is to hang back and hit them as they turn, I had a very hard time following closely and actually pushing out of tsubazeriai to get a good strong hiki strike. There were a couple of times (with Ando Sensei) that I felt I did a good job, but the rest of the time I failed horribly with the Hiki Men. I think with Ando Sensei a lot of times just training with him causes me to try harder, since his Kendo is so much higher than my own. Since this is true of everyone in the dojo (their Kendo being higher than my own), I need to be able to apply that mindset to everyone that I train with, so that I can push myself, and them, to excel further.

I had a quick break for some water and then jumped into waza-geiko, and finally jigeiko. during waza-geiko I focused on Do strikes, and some Debana Kote. Sinclair Sensei pointed out that I still popped my foot up too much a few times when I would do my fumikomi for the Do strike, so when I focused on that I was able to keep my foot down, but then I felt like I sacrificed speed on my hit...I definitely need to keep working on this one. Right now Do seems to be the thorn in my side.

Sensei also mentioned to me, during jigeiko (he gave me a lot of advice last night, which I was very thankful for), that I had a lot of really good hits, but I need to keep my zanshin going to finish the hit. I have a tendency to hit and keep my kiai going, but my body stops moving (usually because I end up in tsubazeriai). I'm still thinking on this one, a good way to have zanshin and keep my body moving without being caught up in taiatari and tsubazeriai.

A great practice, all in all. I really pushed myself tonight (I could tell because while we sat there at the end I felt a bit light-headed from exhaustion). I received a few tips to remember for the upcoming taikai, which I'll list here (paraphrasing, of course):

Mark B: "When the match starts and you stand up from Sonkyo, make sure to step forward and have a good kiai." Sounds like Seme right off the bat, which I'm guessing would be very effective at the level I'm at right now.
Marek: "Be sure to catch people as they turn around as much as you can. Also when you go through, think about going off at an angle so that you can keep your opponent guessing where you'll be at. And be ready to attack and/or counter when you turn around yourself."
Sinclar Sensei: "At your level you'll want to attack a lot, use a lot of off-timing (such as Kote-Men), or feints. Make sure you have a good waza going forward, a good hiki waza, and are ready when they turn around and when you turn around."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Just Relax...

Yesterday was a great Kendo day. Not only did I make the advanced class, but we had team training afterward. AND I helped out the intermediate class and went over some more Kihon Kata.

Sean (McNally Sensei) led the advanced class today, and he wanted to emphasize being relaxed and having relaxed arms and shoulders and everything during our drills. And how did he accomplish this? By putting us all through the team training suburi. Sixty of each drill. Yikes! I held in for most of it, but two of them I had to cut out early at fifty (one of them being the one-handed suburi). After we were all thoroughly tired out by this, we started training proper.

We concentrated mostly on Men strikes and drills today, with a few Kote drills thrown in. Most of them were done with three strike each, so we could take our time setting up the strikes and letting ourselves relax. We also did a couple of interesting drills. One of them we had to hold our kensen above our partner's head and then snap our wrists down to hit Men, and then hit again and again from this position (very short, arms already extended out from the previous Men strike). The other "drill" that we did involved our Kamae. we were told to hold Kamae and Sean walked around and pulled on everyone's shinai. He said that if we had the proper grip that the shinai should slide right out of our hands. If it didn't, we needed to loosen up the grip. Mine, unfortunately, did not slide out, so the rest of the time I focused on keeping my hands light around the tsuka (shinai handle). I've read elsewhere that you should imagine holding eggs in your hands. You don't want to grip too tightly or you will crush the eggs. a strong, firm grip should only come at the time of impact with your strike, and then immediately be relaxed again. There really is so much more to think about besides just hitting the opponent.

We broke up into Yudansha/Mudansha groups at this time and worked on waza-geiko. I worked solely on Men strikes during this time, and continued to try and focus on a relaxed grip throughout the strike, with proper tenouchi at the point of impact. I was told earlier by Harvey that I had a good swing and tenouchi, but that I needed to relax after the hit. My tendency was to stay tightly gripped on the shinai after the hit, as I passed by. This is definitely something that will take some time to do, but it is something that I need to be able to do on every hit.

I was only able to do a few rounds of jigeiko, as I not only got a new blister, but it also broke open on me, so with about fifteen minutes of class left I hung in the towel. It was a very, very good, if extremely exhausting, class.

A few thoughts:

Men: After class I talked with Ando Sensei for a minute and he said that my Men strike was "very beautiful" and that I should continue to strike Men like that. That really made me feel good, as I've been concentrating a lot on my Men strike to be able to use it more efficiently in jigeiko and later on in taikai/shiai matches. I still need work, but I feel like I hit a milestone with it.

Kote: I still need to step to the opponent's right on my strikes. That became evident during practice as I went to hit Kote on one of the drills and slammed my shinai into my partner's shinai, which then caused them to become stuck together. After freeing my shinai, I checked it and no damage was done, but still this is a good reminder to move my body far enough so that I clear my opponent's shinai when I strike. And, just because I thought it was kind of funny and coincidental, my shinai wasn't the only one that stuck together. The same thing happened to a buddy of mine in class later on.

Jigeiko: I'm falling back into a pattern of waiting for an opening instead of trying to create one. I need to more aggressive and active during jigeiko.

Two weeks until Obukan...I hope I can get in enough practice to really feel ready by then

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kihon Kata

Last night was a short Kendo night for me. I attended the intermediate class, where they were going over Kihon (basic) Kata very in depth. For people who don't know, Kihon Kata is a relatively new thing for Kendo, and focuses on doing regular, shinai kendo movements and waza. There are nine Kihon Kata in all, and our intermediate class is learning 1-5. They are performed with two people, the Motodachi (receiver), and the Kakarite (attacker).

1 - Kihon Waza. Men (head strike), Kote (wrist strike), Do (abdomen strike), Tsuki (throat strike)
2 - Ni-dan waza. Kote-Men (hit Kote first, and Men)
3 - Harai Waza. Harai Men (knock the opponent's sword out of the way with a very short, sharp swipe to the side while raising the sword to hit Men).
4 - Hiki Waza. Men-Tsubazeriai-Hiki Do. Kakarite hits Men, which Motodachi blocks. Both come to Tsubazeriai (sword-guard lock). Kakarite gives a push down on Motodachi's sword, which causes them to raise up. At the same time Motodachi raises their sword, Kakarite steps back and performs Hiki Do (strike while moving backwards).
5 - Nuki Waza. Men-Nuki Do. Motodachi strikes Men. Kakarite performs Nuki Do be stepping slightly forward and to the right. Nuki is an oji waza (counter-attack) that mean to no be there. When the opponents moves to hit you, you either move forward, to the side, or back, and are no longer at the spot they are trying to hit. This sets you up for an attack of your own.

We worked on this for the entire hour, and I was able to really dig into a few of the kata, including three and four. I had previously done one through three, but four and five were new to me. I especially had trouble with four, as it seems to be the most complex one out of this group. All in all I had a valuable lesson on kata, and one that I hope to be able to apply to my shinai Kendo. I also hope to visit intermediate class here and there to receive more help and advice on Kihon Kata, and on basics in general. I really believe that good basics make a great, solid foundation for everything else.

A few thoughts on the different katas:

1: Kakarite - Always remember to end my strikes either very close (i.e. Kensen is over the Motodachi's head on a Men strike), or far away. Never end it with the Kensen close to the Motodachi. This is for safety reasons. On the Tsuki, arms should come forward and Kensen should slightly raise up to the throat level, don't over-extend. A sharp forward movement with the sword should be done at the same time as the back foot pulls up into place, and sword should move to the throat area and then back to Kamae (read position). it shouldn't linger there at the throat area.
Motodachi - After Kakarite strikes, on their last step, I should bring my sword back to Kamae very strongly, don't make it a relaxed movement. It should be sharp back to Kamae so they know I'm ready. This is true for all of the Kihon Kata. Also on the Tsuki strike, remember to step back. When the Kakarite steps back, Motodachi should take a step forward on the Kakarite's last step, joining them in Kamae simultaneously.

2: Kakarite - Again, remember to make the hit closer to the Motodachi. After striking Men, three steps back to the starting position, instead of the two steps for most other Kata in this set.
Motodachi - Kensen should put up and to the left for the Kote strike, and then come forward and in an arc to the right side for the Men hit. Do not arc the kensen right in front of the Kakarite, have it raised slightly up and back for safety. On the Kakarite's last step (third step), step forward to join them in the starting position again while coming back to Kamae.

3: Kakarite - the Harai movement should be very short and sharp. And when I say short, I mean VERY short. the Harai strike and the movement to hit Men should be one smooth motion, too, not two separate ones.
Motodachi - not much to do here. Let the Kakarite knock your sword away, and be sure to snap back into Kamae on their last step. No movement necessary when Kakarite takes their steps back to position.

4: Kakarite - During Tsubazeriai it's important to have your tsuba/sword on top so that you can make a good push down on the Motodachi's sword. Last night I noticed that a few times my partner was not making a very forceful push, and I couldn't tell when I should raise up. When the Motodachi pushes up and raises their hands, step back and raise the sword, and strike Do as the right foot snaps into place. I had a big issue with striking Do as my right foot came into place, I always seemed to move my right first and then strike Do.
Motodachi - The initial block doesn't have to be much, pretty much just raise the sword straight up in front of you. The Kakarite isn't coming in to hit you, so there should be no danger of getting hit here. When dropping down to Tsubazeriai, take a small step (half-step?) forward and make sure that the swords are crossed at the tsuba (hilt guard), and that you're not smashing fists with the Kakarite. When they push down, raise all the way up so that you are in a position ready to strike Men. On the Kakarite's last step back, take a half-step back to position while lowering the bokken back to Kamae.

5: Kakarite - When striking Nuki Do, the angle should be enough to just barely pass the Motodachi, it doesn't need to be any bigger or else stepping back to the center/starting position is hard and requires too large of a step. Also when stepping in for Do, a small step is all that is need. Since Motodachi is moving in to strike at the same time, both people can take a smaller step and still be at the right distance. After striking Do, body should be facing the angle you stepped, but the head should be turned to keep eye contact with Motodachi. Take a slight angled step backwards and turn to come back to Kamae (don't cross the feet, turn first and then step back), and then take another step to the left to return to the starting position.
Motodachi - Again, a small step is all that is needed for the Men strike. Be sure that the Kakarite is ready, too, since up to this point the Kakarite has been initiating all of the kata. After striking Men, turn head to keep eye contact with Kakarite, and then take a slight angled step backward (again, turn and then step so you don't cross your feet) and turn body to Kamae, and then take another step to the left to return to starting position.  Both people should only need one step to their left to return to their original positions.

Throughout the Kihon Kata it should be remembered to keep eye contact between Kakarite and Motodachi, and that the swings are nice and big. Sword should be at 45 degrees above the head, or at most parallel with the ground (no further than this, as it's dead movement). Hands should be above the head, not in front of the head.

I'm looking forward to being able to do some more Kihon Kata later on, but this was a great start for now.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's all in the Wrists

I always feel like I should be greeting someone at the start of these posts. But then I remember that my audience is the vast, nameless void that is the internet. Full of information yet super anonymous at the same time...Anyway...

Last night we switched things up a bit for the warmups. We started with a jog around the gym for a few minutes, and then went into some new stretches and warmup exercises, then moved into some suburi (Jogeburi, Men, Sayu Men, Kote, Do, and Hayasuburi).

Next up was some more in-depth advice from Sensei on hitting small Kote and Men. Again he emphasized using your wrists and lifting the hands slightly. He made an example that you should think of lifting your hands and the shinai up to and through the opponent's Tsuki (neck), and that you should not use your elbows. There should be very, very little to no elbow movement, all the power comes from the hands and wrists in these hits. Sean (McNally Sensei) also pointed out that if you are at the proper distance to hit Kote that you don't have to raise the shinai nearly as high as if you are too close. When you are close you have to raise the shinai higher to get over your opponent's shinai, and then drop down onto their Kote. This creates wasted movement, and the point of these drills is to keep movement as small as possible while still performing valid strikes and cuts.

Sensei Sinclair had us do Kote drills in place, first, starting with our shinai on the opponent's shinai. We were to raise up very slightly, bring the left hand up just a bit, and then bring our left hand back down and snap our wrists to create the hit. Little movement, a lot of power. I focused on snapping my wrists back and then forward again throughout this drill, and also on the grip of my left and right hand. Left hand gripping with the pinky and ring finger and pulling the shinai back while driving it down with the hand, and the right hand gripping and pushing forward on the handle with my palm.

After putting on our Men (helmet) we had a few rounds of Kirikaeshi and then moved into small Men, Kote, and Do drills. Emphasis was on small hits, and hitting on the way down instead of tapping the opponent on the way up. My Do is still a bit weird. Again I felt like it was hit, and them my follow-through was a separate movement. Watching the higher ranked people I can see that they are very fluid with it, so I guess I will keep practicing...

We moved onto some Oji waza drills (Men-Nuki Do and Kote-Nuki Men). I felt very, very slow with my Nuki Do. I think the main reason was that I couldn't anticipate when my opponent was going to strike. This was especially apparent while practicing with Ando Sensei. He is very good, very clean with his hits, and I seemed to always be a step behind him on my hit. Nuki Men was a little better, but only because the step back gives me an extra moment to react. Since Nuki Do is done going forward into the opponent it's something that has to be timed very, very well. I can see that I don't have to be faster than my opponent with that strike, I just have to be better at reading their intentions and moving when or before they do.

We split into Yudansha/Mudansha groups at this time, and had some time to do waza geiko. I used the time to work on straight small Men strikes, as well as Debana Kote. I feel like my Debana Kote is getting a lot better. Even though I was really tired by this time in the practice I was able to do some really good Kote strikes (Marek said they were good, so I'm happy with that for now). The Men strikes are feeling a lot better. I'm working on pushing my center forward, pushing forward with my hips, and then striking small Men. When I feel comfortable with that I need to go back and remember to bring my left foot up very fast behind me. I don't quite know if this is happening right now or not, but I know it's been a problem in the past.

Jigeiko time! I was super tired at this point, so I was doing very VERY bad at initiating the attack, but still I tried. My mind definitely wanted to go, but my body said, "slow down kid, I need a breather!" I went against Loren and Makayla, and I must say that Makayla did really well. She was attacking and countering, and for some reason I felt like I couldn't get a hit on her. I know that many of my Men strikes missed and ended up landing on her shoulder. I do remember one good Kote strike that I got, but I don't think I had proper zanshin (follow-through, in a sense), so I don't think it would have been a good hit. I'm still working on all the small stuff, and I'm sure I'll still be working on that "small stuff" throughout my life.

Some thoughts from last night:

Men: Small strikes, push with the left foot and hips, move with my center leading me, and use my wrists to create the power in the hit.

Kote: Wendy said I'm still coming into the hit a little too straight, and I should step to the left more so that I can bring my shinai straight up and then straight down to hit Kote. If I move my body to line up the hit I don't have to move my shinai itself, which eliminates wasted movement.

Do: I was slow tonight! Need to work on that "small c" or "heart shape" that Sensei points out to hit Do. Also Takado Sensei said "always look at Do." I think she meant to tell me that I look at Do when I hit it, which I think I do. This is a bad habit because my opponent can pick up on that and can tell where I'm going to strike. I need to look straight at the opponent so I don't give them any hints on where I'm attacking when I raise my shinai up.

Debana Kote: Marek said my hits were really good, but one of them was a little high on the Kote. I need to be a bit more accurate with this one, and push through more for zanshin. Last night Marek was moving very fast, so I had to hit Debana Kote almost in place, and then move forward through him. I should work to eliminate the pause between when I hit and when I move forward when I'm forced to do the hit in place.

Jigeiko: Might have been because I was really tired that I didn't take the initiative much, but I need to remember to be on the offensive most of the time. Look for and create openings and go for them. When I attack and push through, I should turn around and be ready and in a position to instantly attack again.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Feeling Old...

I felt very old and hindered today at practice. A few days ago I woke up and my knee felt kinda funny when I would walk and it would straighten out, and that feeling was still there for Kendo, only worse because of all the movement that we do during practice. I also still had my blister from the last practice, so I had to tape up (the tape kept moving around and rubbing my foot, too...wonderful!). Plus I forgot to take some pain reliever before I went to practice, so my shins were not doing very well by the end. I ended up having to sit out the last half hour of class due to everything. While I welcomed the break from the practice, since it was probably the hottest day of practice so far, I really, really wanted to stay in the whole time.

Today was a bit different. After a few rounds of Kirikaeshi, Sensei Sinclair stopped us and had us focus on short hits. He showed up small Men, which we were used to doing by bringing our left hand up until we could see our opponent underneath it, and then striking Men. He said for the drills we were doing today we were cut the movement in half. Instead of bringing the left hand up until we could see under it, we brought it up to about chin height before striking. I hadn't done this short of a movement yet, so the drills were very interesting. First he had to strike from one step back, and then move in to strike while in place (Kamae and then small Men). Finally he had us strike while keeping the kensen above the opponent and in position from our last hit. What a difference a few inches can make! I took the time to try and absorb this new information, so I did the drills very slowly to observe my hands, my wrists, to make sure my shoulders were relaxed, and everything else I could think of about my swing.

After everyone got used to hitting Men with these drills, we did Men strikes from To-ma distance (one step away from hitting distance). We would step in, and then Fumikomi and hit Men, but again the emphasis was on small, small Men cuts. After a few rotations of this we went into Do drills.

With though we were told to have the same feeling at the end of our hit that we did with the Men strike. Sensei went over this a few times to drill it in. Pull with the pinky and ring finger of the left hand, push with the lower part of the palm on the right hand (hard to explain in words). palm of the left hand and the bottom of the tsuka (grip), and always in contact with it through the hit. Very small movements that come from the wrist and forearm; little to no elbow movement throughout the strike. We stood one step from our opponent and stepped in to hit Do, and then went on to doing Do drills where we would hit and go through. I'm still feeling a little weird with my Do hit, but it's getting better, I think. Slowly, but it's happening. I felt a little quicker today with the hit and the follow-through. Could just be in my head, though...

This was about where I had to stop and sit out. I didn't want to tear that blister anymore, and my knee wasn't feeling too good after all the Fumikomi and the turning on it. A short post, for sure, but sometimes it's inevitable that we have to cut our practice time short so we can heal our bodies up for the next one.

A few thoughts:

Men: On the small Men strikes that Sensei was showing us, he said to be sure to hit on the downward movement of the wrists and arms, not on the way up. He pointed out that some people had a tendency to hit while their hands were on the way up. That is not good Kendo. Also most of the power is generated from the snapping of the wrists, that's how such a small movement can be so powerful. He had Sean (McNally Sensei) and Ando Sensei demonstrate small Men hits a couple of times. Wow! I hardly noticed their hands move before they hit, because their movements were super small.

Do: Same feeling as the Men strike. Small movement, the shinai doesn't have to move that much (same as Kote, which we didn't do today). All the power and movement is basically generated by the wrists; the arms just raise up slightly to get the shinai moving up and around. Small heart-shaped movement (or small "c" movement, as Wendy says"). Left hand should end up the center, same as with Kote, and should not stray from the center while moving up and down.

Here's to looking forward to Monday practice, and hopefully a better knee and no blisters!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Shiai-Geiko practice

It was a lot easier to get up this morning and go walking/jogging. I actually was awake around 5:30 this morning, just tossing and turning and waiting for the alarm to go off at 6am. I was able to jog for a short block before my shins starting acting up. I'm trying to push a little more out of them all the time, but I know that this is a slow recovery process, so I'm also not frustrated that I can't do much yet. It'll come, with time. And then I'll be bouncing and running all over the place!

Kendo practice last night was awesome! I was tired, sore, ended up with a new blister, but it was well worth it. My brother came to visit and watch practice, and he's very excited about starting with us in August. It'll be fun to have someone doing practice with me, and I'll hopefully be able to help him along the way. Also Takado Sensei was back to practice with us, after being gone for all of last week. We don't have much longer to practice with her before she leaves us for good (about a month), so I'm trying to enjoy each and every practice left, and learn all that I can from her until then.

We started out with warmups and Kirikaeshi. Wendy emphasized slow, deliberate hits with tangible pauses in between to start, finishing after a couple of rotations with Kirikaeshi as fast as we could. I'm still slow in this department, but I'm trying, lol. I can safely say I'm a lot faster than I was even 6 months ago.

After this we moved onto some kihon (basic) keiko, with Men and Kote-Men, and then a drill in which we did Kote-Men, Kote-Men, and then Kote-Do. Wendy wanted me specifically to focus on doing small Men strikes, since I'm getting ready for my first tournament, so she wanted me to make sure that I was doing small hits and focusing on doing those clean and fast. For the most part I was doing them ok, but here and there I could still feel myself leading with my right shoulder instead of keeping them even and squared up. My Kote-Men felt good tonight, the Kote-Do....not so much. I think I need to take smaller steps so that I'm not burying my shinai as deep into their Do when I strike. We'll see, I'll keep it in mind for next time we do that drill.

We ended our waza drills with some Oji Waza, including Men-Debana Kote, Men-Nuki Do, and Kote-Kote-Men (in other words, using our Kote strike to knock down then attack and then striking Men), and Ai Men (a waza where we both hit for Men, the point being that we hit before our opponent does). Debana Kote felt pretty good, for the most part. The one problem that sticks out to me is that a couple of times I started my Kote strike earlier than my opponent started their Men strike, and a few times I actually missed because I anticipated where their Kote would end up incorrectly. While this in itself isn't a bad thing (being faster than my opponent), it does show that I need to be more accurate with my strike.

With Nuki Do I didn't have as much luck. My Do is still slow compared to other people's Men strikes. I was able to hit it only a handful of times, and I honestly don't think they would've counted as good, clean hits in a match. My swing was too big, my footwork was a little off, and I was very slow starting my hit, especially against guys that are a lot faster than I am (Aaron, Marek, etc).

With my Kote-Men I was feeling ok. I'm getting better at doing really short Fumikomi, or doing Fumikomi in place on a faster opponent. As Wendy pointed out, though, since my opponent is already moving to the side to hit my Kote, I can just hit Kote-Men going straight ahead, I don't have to move to the side for them. A small thing to remember, but it eliminates even more wasted/unnecessary movement.

Finally we did Ai-Men. My success rate in this drill was about 50/50, but I think that was a bit skewed as one of my opponents I had a HUGE reach advantage over so I could hit from a lot further out. I felt bad about that one, but it's how the rotation went so I did my best despite my guilty conscience. But again, more speed, more speed, more speed. On this drill I really tried pushing forward with my hips a lot, and starting my swing while I was already moving forward, instead of starting my swing at the same time as I started moving, or even before I started moving. It's a subtle change, but big in terms of timing.

We moved onto Jigeiko here. At about that point I was dying last night, so I had to sit out a couple rounds. When I jumped back in I had the privilege of fighting Jeff, who has recently taken up Nito. Wow...that was an experience. Having never fought Nito before, I was very, very unsure of what to do. He does a lot of sweeping motions with the Shoto (shorter sword), while hitting you with the Daito (longer sword), and it was very difficult for me to deal with. He pointed out after class that the Shoto is not the proper Kamae distance, so I don't need to come all the way up to the Shoto to hit. But he also said that this was a common mistake that a lot of people make, even higher ranks. Long story short, though, I need more practice against Nito, and I have a feeling I'll be able to get it since we have a few people that started Nito recently.

We took a short break before moving into some practice shiai matches. When I heard we were going to do shiai-geiko I was really excited. I haven't done it in a few months, and I wanted to see how I would do in a somewhat regulated setting. Unfortunately I couldn't have my rematch with my buddy Matt (last time we fought shiai-geiko it ended in a tie, 0-0). They split us up into 18 and under and adult categories. Which means that I had to go up against a lot of higher ranked people, including Jeff and his Nito (fortunately I didn't have to fight him...this time).

My first match was against Marek, who is 2 Kyu, and has very good, fast Kendo. Our match dragged on for quite a while (seemed like forever to me since I was already tired), but he finally scored two points on me to end the match. I had a lot of fun fighting him, and I think that I put up a good fight. He said afterward that I had a couple of Kote that he thought I should have scored on, but honestly I was ok with him winning. It was a great learning experience for me.

After a few rotations I had my next (and final) match, against Mark H. A couple of seconds into the match he scored Nuki Do on me. Wow! It was a great hit, I was wide open because I went for Men. We reset and started again, and after a few failed attempts on both sides to score, I backed him up toward the boundary, and then Scored with a Kote-Men. Wow! My first point ever! I was really excited about that. We reset one last time, and after a few seconds I saw him move to hit Men, and I went for Debana Kote. I hit and stopped for just a second before following through, and I heard Ando Sensei call out "Kote-Ari!" What?! I actually won? Wow! I remember thinking when I saw Mark move, "I just hope my strike is faster." I knew that his Men strike was dead on and unavoidable, so I threw everything I had into my Debana Kote. I think now, looking back on that one moment, I understand a bit more about Sutemi. I had to throw all all regard for blocking, or moving, and just dive straight into my own attack. Mark and I congratulated each other and we ended our shiai-geiko session.

Ando Sensei talked with us about our hits, and he said that a lot of us had really good hits, but no follow through, no Zanshin. He said that, as a Shimpan (referee), they are not always looking for the best hit, so we have to show them that we deserve the point, by using our Kiai, our movement, and Zanshin. He said that we need to give them a reason to raise their flag and give us the point, and if we had a good hit we need to push through and show it.

After class I talked a bit with Wendy. She said that I did a great job, but I should really start focusing on not coming into Taiatari/Tsubazeriai as much, and instead try to hit and go through as much as possible. She said if something tries to stop me to use that to "bounce" off of them and get back into a good position to strike. She said that in the upper ranks I'll hardly ever score with a Hiki Waza (attack going backwards instead of forwards), so most of my points will be scored while moving forward. Very valuable advice, and I'll be sure to work on it more throughout the next few training sessions.

Some thoughts:

Men: Some people pointed out that I'm very straight on my hits, so it's good to hear that I'm not leaning into them anymore. I hope I can continue that. I do need to remember to keep my shoulders square and not lead with the right one.

Do: More practice, lol. very small movements, all in the wrists. With Kote-Do I need to shorten my steps and use my hips for power as well as my left arm.

Ai-Men: Take the center, make a solid hit. Don't be afraid of them hitting me, just put everything I have into it.

Jigeiko: Focus on hitting and following through, and not getting caught up in Tsubazeriai. If I do end up there, get out quickly so I can set up another attack.

It was cool having my brother there, so that he can see first-hand what I do, and to see what he can expect in the future.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No Pain, No Gain

Hello all my dedicated readers! (I'm practicing for later when I have readers =D )

I was surprised to find myself up and ready to go this morning at 6a.m. Usually on days after Kendo practice I'm wiped out and try to squeeze as much sleep in as I can. I was up, I was ready, and it was nice out so I took a short walk. I even jogged a bit! I haven't been able to do that for a while because of my shin splints, and it felt good. I didn't jog very much (slowed back to a walk when I could feel them becoming uncomfortable), but the fact that I was able to do it at all shows a lot of improvement, in my opinion. Even now, a few hours later, there's still no pain. Anyway, onto Kendo!

Last night's practice was wonderful, if a bit hot and tiring, as well. Ando Sensei brought visitors from Mukogawa, where he works at. About a dozen young Japanese females who were heading back to Japan in about two weeks joined us for warmups and kihon keiko. Sensei put them through some basic drills, including Men, Kote, Do, and various Hiki Waza before finishing with Kirikaeshi. It was a lot of fun, they all looked like they enjoyed themselves. Every once in a while I would let out a nice strong Kiai for them (we were all Motodachi to begin with, so we let them hit us). Some Kiai'ed back, some looked very surprised and taken back when they heard it. A couple of them asked if they hurt me when they hit. I told them "No, you can hit me even harder if you wish!"

After the girls stepped out we continued on with Kirikaeshi, Kote-Men, Men-Taiatari-Hiki Men, and Men-Taiatari-Hiki Kote (I feel like I'm missing something in there...oh well). I could tell that the heat was getting to me right off the bat. I'm not sure what I can do about this, except keep walking/jogging and working on my endurance. My energy felt drained from the very beginning, but I pushed on.

With Kote-Men I concentrated on a small step forward for the Kote strike, even sometimes doing fumikomi in place for the strike, and then doing a big swing for Men. Small Kote, big Men. Still I need to concentrating on getting the center on this drill and knocking their Shinai away more than hitting both the Kote and the Men. In this drill, the Men is the most important target, the Kote is used almost as a feint or a tactic to get their shinai out of the center. I've found that I use it a lot during jigeiko to knock my opponent's shinai away, but in this drill I should concentrate on that more.

for both Taiatari drills I concentrated on good hits, good technique. For Men-Taiatari-Hiki Men I was trying to raise my hands up before I hit Hiki Men, and for Men-Taiatari-Hiki Kote I remember to bend my wrists into Taiatari and snap them forward on the Hiki Kote, making my movements as small as possible. For both I need to remember to make an explosive step back as I hit. My step tends to be very soft on the way back.

At this point we broke off into Yudansha/Mudansha groups (Yudansha = above Dan rank, Mudansha = below Dan rank). Sensei had us work on waza geiko, and I took this time to work on my Debana Kote. I'm trying to get it down, at least as much as I can, so that I'm comfortable using it later on. I had a few compliments on it, but I feel like I might be ducking when I hit, and I'd rather have clean Kendo. I want to get to a point where I can make a good fast hit and get out of there before I get hit myself, and keep my posture straight and centered the whole time.

After a short break we moved into some jigeiko. I was super tired at this point, so I felt very sluggish with my hits and my movements. We only did a couple rounds of jigeiko before Sensei had us do some blocking/countering drills. He said that a lot of us were too big with our blocks, and that put us into bad positions for striking back after blocking. He had us line up and had one Motodachi at a time that would deflect everyone's Men hit, and then we would switch the Motodachi out for a new one. Then he had us pair up and deflect the Men hit then strike Men as they passed, without moving our body out of place. Finally we would deflect the Men strike while striking Hiki Men immediately after. I felt good with this last one. Against faster opponents I felt I had more room to set up the hit.

Our final drill of the night was Kakarigeiko, followed by Kirikaeshi. Unfortunately I was unable to participate in the final Kirikaeshi. during Kakarigeiko I had someone run into my toe, and pulled up the nail a bit so that it was bleeding. I had to step out at this point to clean it up and to get towels to clean up the floor. I missed part of the closing, and had to remove my bogu afterward, which I felt awkward about doing. I'll have to ask someone about the proper reigi for this so I know in case it happens again.

Some thoughts:

Kote Men: Deflect the opponent's shinai with the Kote strike, don't necessarily hit their Kote every time. Hit and take the center then go for the Men strike.

Hiki Waza: More explosive fumikomi when I step back.

Taiatari: I'm doing better with this, but still against some people (like McNally Sensei), I'm not able to hold my ground very well. This is definitely a big issue if I go up against a strong, pushy opponent. I need to receive the hit solidly and step into it more consistently.

Debana Kote: Be sure that I'm not ducking out of the way while I hit.

Very good class. It was a fun change of pace with the Mukogawa girls there, and I hope that we are able to entertain more guests in the future!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reigi

Just for the record - I've had one cup of coffee today and I'm considering another. VERY tired today!

Last night was a good practice, although for some reason I was more tired than I usually am. I had to step out for a couple of rotations to catch my breath and let my shins rest for a bit. They were throbbing last night, which hasn't happened in a while. I'll still push on, but I hope they're not digressing again. I really, really want to get rid of these shins splints! Anyway, onto the meat of the post, Kendo!

Sinclair Sensei was back and led practice. We started a little differently then we normally do. We did a few footwork drills, including variations of fumikomi and follow-through steps (during this time we held our shinai behind us to help keep our bodies straight while moving). We then moved onto doing suburi drills in place. First Kote-Men, and then Kote-Men-Men. The final part was forming a big circle and we were instructed to hit Kote-Men-Men when Sensei blew the whistle, but we were trying to do the hits faster than the person across from us. I, unfortunately (fortunately?) was across from Wendy (Sinclair Sensei's wife), and she is very fast, but there were a few times where I was faster than her. That's all well and good in a drill, but I'll see if I can be that fast in Jigeiko with her sometime =). The main thing I was focusing on here were good swings and technique, and keeping myself relaxed. It's very hard to do when I try to go fast, as my natural tendency is to tense up when I move that fast.

We then worked on basic kihon waza . Men, Kote, Do, Kote-Men. I'm still working on not letting my right shoulder lean and not turning my body when I hit. I think I'm slowly getting better at it, but it's going to take time. Ando Sensei made a comment earlier to another student, in which he said "There is a saying that goes, 'If you have problems with your hands it takes 3 months to correct. If you have problems with your footwork it takes 5 years to correct.'" Yikes! When I find an issue to correct in my own technique, or when an issue is brought to my attention by someone else, I always try to focus on that and try to correct it as fast as I can. But the beauty of Kendo is that when you fix one thing, you open a door to so many other things to correct. It really is a lifelong pursuit of excellence.

After kihon practice we move onto some rather new drills (at least ones I haven't done in a while). We started on one side of the dojo and had to hit Kote-Men-Men-Men, but we used different variations of footwork to do this (the footwork drills we did at the beginning of practice; suddenly it was all coming together!). The first set we hit Kote-Men, and then a few follow-through steps between the next two hits. Next was Kote-Men, and then a lot of follow-through steps, ending with two quick Men hits. Finally Kote-Men-Men-Men all in a row. I tried to do my best with my footwork, and also while I was Motodachi so that I was always ahead of my partner to allow them to do full, good hits and proper technique. I like doing new drills like this, something different from the normal drills that we do. It's good to keep things fresh and to be able to use our waza in different circumstances like this.

After a short break we moved onto waza geiko. I chose to focus on different Oji Waza, such as Men-Debana Kote, and Kote-Nuki Men, as well as Do. I'm still working very hard on Do, and hope to have a nice, fluid, fast Do strike one of these days. My Nuki Men and Debana Kote felt good (even though I was super tired by this point), but I need to remember proper Zanshin and to push through when I strike. A good strike will mean nothing if I don't have the spirit behind it and to show that I'm prepared to strike again afterward. Also with Nuki Men I've been trying to eliminate the wasted movement, which for me means not stepping back as far, and keeping my weight fairly forward so that after I step back I can immediately spring forward. For the most part it worked (Marek gave me a thumbs-up, so I must've done something right).

Finally we moved onto jigeiko, and during this time I really focused on ippon-shobu (first strike/first point). I read somewhere that when you first start a jigeiko match it's good and proper to try for ippon-shobu. I also worked on taking the center, controlling the center, or having the center before I would strike. With some opponents this was a lot easier than with others, which helped me to understand a little more about taking the center during a match and while attacking. It definitely kept me on my toes. I also was able to practice with some fairly new people in armor, so that was fun. Every has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it's interesting to explore those while doing jigeiko.

After we did our formal closing, Sinclair Sensei had a few words for us about reigi and the Yudansha, especially the Kodansha (referring to the 3/4 Dans). He went over the proper way to practice with them during drills and in jigeiko, dos and don'ts of Kamae while practicing and in shiai, and proper form and respect concerning Shomen and the center of the dojo (Chu-shin, if I remember right). I will definitely try to remember these, and I know I've done a few no-no's by accident, especially with my Kamae. He talked about not dropping your Kamae during jigeiko or practice or a shiai match, as this is considered very rude to do. I know that I've done this in jigeiko without even thinking about it, so I'll have to be more mindful of it in the future. I definitely don't want to be "that guy."

A few thoughts from last night:

Men: Don't turn the right shoulder inward, I'll continue to work on this. I need to square up my shoulders when I hit. Not only will this create other bad habits, but a good opponent can see my hit coming from a mile away like this.

Do: Still trying to get my hit and my follow-through to be one fluid motion. It's getting a little better, but it's slow going for me on this technique.

Hiki Waza: Use it more during Taiatari! I'm still not utilizing it enough.

Zanshin: Be sure to show proper spirit after each hit. I should just do it after everything, whether it was a good hit or not. This also goes along with Sutemi (commitment to the hit; putting everything into it and not holding back).

A side note, since I didn't know where to put this. I need to be more mindful of the boundaries during jigeiko, especially since I'm getting ready for my first taikai. I seem to step out a lot during jigeiko, which many people have started to point out to me (which I am grateful for!). It's something I need to be able to keep in the back of my head, and always be mindful of exactly where I am on the floor.

All in all, great practice. I'm a little disappointed in myself that I was so tired, but I was able to stay in for most of the drills. Looking forward to more practice and team training on Saturday.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Windy, with a chance of Kendo

First of all, let me talk about the weather for a minute. It was crazy yesterday! Little rain in the morning, clouds and sunshine throughout the day, but the main event yesterday was the wind. Huge gusts were blowing through here all day, knocking over tree and signs and people and pretty much anything else that got in its way. Luckily the only thing that happened to my car is that it got dirty, because I saw some other cars that had been hit by flying branches. Not fun!

Anyway, back to the subject at hand: Kendo! Last night's practice was very good, but I was abnormally tired by the end of it. Yoshi (Tsumekawa Sensei) joined us last night. He doesn't speak much, but he is very good, and it's always a pleasure to have him at practice.

Sinclair Sensei was not present last night, so Ando Sensei led class, and we worked a lot on maai (distance between opponents), including hitting from To-ma (a distance of a whole step or more away from your normal hitting distance), and hitting from just inside the normal hitting distance (not sure what the term for this is, I'm thinking Chika-ma, but that might be too close). We also did a few drills with Kote and Men that I haven't seen in a while.

We started, as usual, with warmups and Kirikaeshi, then jumped into various Men drills. First straight Men, then Men from To-ma, and then a couple of drills where we would push the opponent's shinai out of the way and hit Men (first from the right side, and then the left side). This was not Harai, in which you move the kensen away and then snap it back to hit the opponent's shinai away. We had to keep in constant contact with their shinai, and kind of smother/push the shinai tip away before striking. It was a very odd movement, and I'll definitely have to work on it. I wasn't doing too bad, but I think I needed more force in the push. I noticed that some people were also very gentle with the push part, and some people were more explosive and violent. At one point I almost lost my shinai because I wasn't quite ready for the amount of force my opponent had.

The next drill consisted of us circling under the opponent's shinai and then hitting Men. Ando Sensei pointed out that this should be done as one movement, not two, and should be very fluid. I felt pretty good with the movement itself, as it feels a lot like the Kote hits I've been working on, just bigger, but I do need more speed. Speed....something I need a lot of in my Kendo, but it will come with experience.

We moved onto Kote, Kote-Men, and Do drills, both normal distance and then from To-ma. During the Kote from To-ma, I really focused on good Tenouchi (grip, being able to stop the shinai without cutting all the way through the opponent). Ando also had us focusing on big hits, bringing the shinai up so that we could see underneath our left hand before hitting. I think I did pretty good for the most part (no complaints from my opponents, at least). During Kote-Men I tried focusing less on each hit, but more on getting the opponent's shinai to move with the Kote hit and then going in for the Men hit. Again, more speed!

Do definitely felt a lot better after Saturday's Do practice, and I felt that I was snapping the sword around a lot better. I'll still have to work on it but I feel a bit better about it. I even tried it in Jigeiko! Although I don't think it would've counted, at least I was willing to try it.

Speaking of Jigeiko, I don't think I did too terribly bad last night, although the last two rounds with Mark B and Jeronimo I was so tired I could hardly do anything really so I was a bit of a punching bag there for a while. Mark gave me a lesson in boundaries, as I kept stepping out of them, and also showed me a nifty little trick while in Taiatari that I might have to try out at the next practice. I'm still working on finding openings and taking advantage of them. This one is definitely going to be a life-long goal, but it's one that I can also continue to improve on and reach new levels at.

Just when I was ready to hit the floor, we had one last Kakarigeiko and Kirikaeshi. Oy. That took a lot of strength to get out there and finish, but I did, and I felt really good, although exhausted afterward. Half the battle each time, for me, is getting out there and pushing myself to go a little further, little further. When I think I'm tired and ready to turn in the towel for the night I try to push myself a little bit more. Very tiring, but I'm glad I've been doing that to myself.

After class I spoke with Ando Sensei for a bit and he said that my Men strike in the drills is very good, and that I should hit like that in Jigeiko and elsewhere. This was very good to hear, since I've been working on my posture, especially with my Men strikes. A few other thoughts:

Men: Mark says that I'm still leading with my right shoulder. I need to work on squaring up and hitting with my body straight ahead towards the opponent. I need to catch it now, so that it doesn't create other problems later.

Do: Again, I felt a lot better with my Do strikes. Now I need to work on speeding them up. Also (this just hit me today), I still need to extend my hits out. Just like with Kote and Men. I feel like I keep my hands to close to my body when I hit Do...

Kote: Kote felt good last night, as well. We did a drill last night where we kept in contact with our opponent's shinai and brought our shinai up just enough to go over theirs, and then down to hit. This is a technique that I'd like to be very good at, as I can imagine it being very strong and fast if I'm able to develop it. Also, always in the back of my head, is that I need to step across toward my opponent's right foot when I strike. Keep on that, make it second nature.

Hiki Waza: I think I was doing better at this last night, as I got in a few good Hiki Kote and Men, but something is a bit off. Maybe I need to push off of my opponent more. There seems to be a point where I go back, and then pause, and then hit Hiki and move away. Maybe something to ask Sean about later on...

One more thing to throw in. During one of my jigeiko matches I threw out a Men-Kaeshi Men. I don't even know where it came from. I just anticipated his hit coming and then threw up my Kaeshi counter, then whipped around to hit Men. I don't think it would've counted in a match, but I was actually pretty surprised in myself for trying it. It was almost like an involuntary reaction, the way it happened...

Looking forward to more practice tomorrow. In the meantime (tonight) walking, suburi, and core training!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

To Do or Not To Do

Practice yesterday was intense, and very, very good. McNally Sensei led us, and we focused a lot on the finer points of hitting Do. He broke it down to the most basic pieces, and had us build from there. I genuinely appreciated this, as I have been having trouble with my Do strikes, but through this I feel like I picked up a lot of good pointers and advice to help me fix my issues.

We had quite a few people show up yesterday, which is always good. Around 20+, including some people I haven't seen in a while due to one reason or another. Always good to see our fellow Kenshi back in practice!

We started out with the normal routine of warmup exercises, stretches, and suburi, then moved straight into Kirikaeshi and then a few rounds of Do Kirikaeshi. I've been trying to be able to do Kirikaeshi on three breaths lately, but I fail at it. I usually end up having to do at least 5, but it's something I'll continue to work on.

Next we did a few rotations of Men and Kote before moving into the meat of the day: Do. McNally Sensei had us start with taking one step forward (Fumikomi) while doing Do. That's it. He emphasized what we should be concentrating on is getting the Do to hit a split second before our Fumikomi step lands.

We then moved onto another drill where we still took one step to hit Do, but this time we stepped slightly to the side. The point was to hit Do and move out of the opponent's "silhouette". Also with all of these a big emphasis was put on making small Do cuts. Not bringing the shinai tip over your head at all but always out in front. Using a lot of wrist action and guiding the sword with the right hand for a half-heart movement while the left hand drives up and then back down to center. It's very important that the shinai comes straight up when you begin, so the opponent has no indication of what you are going to do. If the shinai comes straight up then the opponent thinks that you may go for Men, Kote, or Do and will have a harder time blocking/countering.

The next drill we did was an interesting one. We had to start one step from the opponent and when McNally Sensei blew the whistle we had to step in and hit Do as fast as we could. It was very much a race between all of us to hit Do first. McNally paired me up for a moment against my friend Matt and had us do it while people watched. On the first whistle I was way slower, but McNally Sensei pointed out how I sped up a lot after that first time, so that by the last whistle I was actually hitting before Matt was. This was used to teach us that Do, like any other hit, should be very quick and explosive when executed.

One of the last drills we did (and the last one I remember) was Kaeshi Do. First in place and then with the opponent and us going through. Again, a technique I'll have to work on since this is the first time I've actually done it. A few points to remember on this include blocking. Block as if in Kirikaeshi, or you can bring the shinai out and block further out in front of you. When stepping, depending on how fast the opponent is, you can either step forward at an angle, step to the side and turn the hips to follow-through, or even step while blocking and then snap the back leg up while hitting Do. McNally Sensei pointed out that all are acceptable. Also when hitting we can choke up on the shinai to change the pivot point, and he said that we should play with this and hitting the normal way to see what feels better for us, but ultimately we'll want to be able to do it both ways. I didn't do any of the choking up, but I might try that later on down the road.

Jigeiko was very good today. I fought with Aaron and Matt, both of whom are 2 kyu and very, very good. While they both got a lot of hits in on me, I feel that I was able to hold my own for the most part and I had some very nice hits of my own, including a couple of really good Hiki Do on both of them. Looks like the Do drills paid off =). I still need to remember Zanshin on my hits, though. There were a lot of points where I would get a good hit but then immediately go for another hit or go into Taiatari with them. If I get the hit I need to emphasize that, push through, and keep pressure on them.

All in all, a very good practice. Very tiring, but that's always a good thing! A lot of good points to remember about Do, as well, which I'm very thankful for.

Men: Don't lean! Again, not sure if this is happening but I feel like it is. I know it's been mentioned to me before, so I need to be conscious of it and make sure to have a good straight posture while hitting Men and pushing through.

Do: A lot! Most of is is talked about above. After we went through the different Do drills, I definitely felt a change in my hits, and I hope to continue to build on that in the future. Do is a powerful, but difficult, technique which I hope to utilize more.

Tsubazeriai: I was a little more aggressive but still spending too much time here. I seem to have a mental block at the moment that says I need to be nice to people while in jigeiko. I need to be at a point where I can still be nice to people (as in using good clean Kendo), but also utilizing the strength that I have to my advantage to create openings.

Also, as a general mindset, always be ready. I can do this when I'm the receiver, but I need to remember to do it when I'm the attacker, even when I'm dead tired!!