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."