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!