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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.


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