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