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To Do or Not To Do

Practice yesterday was intense, and very, very good. McNally Sensei led us, and we focused a lot on the finer points of hitting Do. He broke it down to the most basic pieces, and had us build from there. I genuinely appreciated this, as I have been having trouble with my Do strikes, but through this I feel like I picked up a lot of good pointers and advice to help me fix my issues.

We had quite a few people show up yesterday, which is always good. Around 20+, including some people I haven't seen in a while due to one reason or another. Always good to see our fellow Kenshi back in practice!

We started out with the normal routine of warmup exercises, stretches, and suburi, then moved straight into Kirikaeshi and then a few rounds of Do Kirikaeshi. I've been trying to be able to do Kirikaeshi on three breaths lately, but I fail at it. I usually end up having to do at least 5, but it's something I'll continue to work on.

Next we did a few rotations of Men and Kote before moving into the meat of the day: Do. McNally Sensei had us start with taking one step forward (Fumikomi) while doing Do. That's it. He emphasized what we should be concentrating on is getting the Do to hit a split second before our Fumikomi step lands.

We then moved onto another drill where we still took one step to hit Do, but this time we stepped slightly to the side. The point was to hit Do and move out of the opponent's "silhouette". Also with all of these a big emphasis was put on making small Do cuts. Not bringing the shinai tip over your head at all but always out in front. Using a lot of wrist action and guiding the sword with the right hand for a half-heart movement while the left hand drives up and then back down to center. It's very important that the shinai comes straight up when you begin, so the opponent has no indication of what you are going to do. If the shinai comes straight up then the opponent thinks that you may go for Men, Kote, or Do and will have a harder time blocking/countering.

The next drill we did was an interesting one. We had to start one step from the opponent and when McNally Sensei blew the whistle we had to step in and hit Do as fast as we could. It was very much a race between all of us to hit Do first. McNally paired me up for a moment against my friend Matt and had us do it while people watched. On the first whistle I was way slower, but McNally Sensei pointed out how I sped up a lot after that first time, so that by the last whistle I was actually hitting before Matt was. This was used to teach us that Do, like any other hit, should be very quick and explosive when executed.

One of the last drills we did (and the last one I remember) was Kaeshi Do. First in place and then with the opponent and us going through. Again, a technique I'll have to work on since this is the first time I've actually done it. A few points to remember on this include blocking. Block as if in Kirikaeshi, or you can bring the shinai out and block further out in front of you. When stepping, depending on how fast the opponent is, you can either step forward at an angle, step to the side and turn the hips to follow-through, or even step while blocking and then snap the back leg up while hitting Do. McNally Sensei pointed out that all are acceptable. Also when hitting we can choke up on the shinai to change the pivot point, and he said that we should play with this and hitting the normal way to see what feels better for us, but ultimately we'll want to be able to do it both ways. I didn't do any of the choking up, but I might try that later on down the road.

Jigeiko was very good today. I fought with Aaron and Matt, both of whom are 2 kyu and very, very good. While they both got a lot of hits in on me, I feel that I was able to hold my own for the most part and I had some very nice hits of my own, including a couple of really good Hiki Do on both of them. Looks like the Do drills paid off =). I still need to remember Zanshin on my hits, though. There were a lot of points where I would get a good hit but then immediately go for another hit or go into Taiatari with them. If I get the hit I need to emphasize that, push through, and keep pressure on them.

All in all, a very good practice. Very tiring, but that's always a good thing! A lot of good points to remember about Do, as well, which I'm very thankful for.

Men: Don't lean! Again, not sure if this is happening but I feel like it is. I know it's been mentioned to me before, so I need to be conscious of it and make sure to have a good straight posture while hitting Men and pushing through.

Do: A lot! Most of is is talked about above. After we went through the different Do drills, I definitely felt a change in my hits, and I hope to continue to build on that in the future. Do is a powerful, but difficult, technique which I hope to utilize more.

Tsubazeriai: I was a little more aggressive but still spending too much time here. I seem to have a mental block at the moment that says I need to be nice to people while in jigeiko. I need to be at a point where I can still be nice to people (as in using good clean Kendo), but also utilizing the strength that I have to my advantage to create openings.

Also, as a general mindset, always be ready. I can do this when I'm the receiver, but I need to remember to do it when I'm the attacker, even when I'm dead tired!!


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