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.
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!