First of all, let me talk about the weather for a minute. It was crazy yesterday! Little rain in the morning, clouds and sunshine throughout the day, but the main event yesterday was the wind. Huge gusts were blowing through here all day, knocking over tree and signs and people and pretty much anything else that got in its way. Luckily the only thing that happened to my car is that it got dirty, because I saw some other cars that had been hit by flying branches. Not fun!
Anyway, back to the subject at hand: Kendo! Last night's practice was very good, but I was abnormally tired by the end of it. Yoshi (Tsumekawa Sensei) joined us last night. He doesn't speak much, but he is very good, and it's always a pleasure to have him at practice.
Sinclair Sensei was not present last night, so Ando Sensei led class, and we worked a lot on maai (distance between opponents), including hitting from To-ma (a distance of a whole step or more away from your normal hitting distance), and hitting from just inside the normal hitting distance (not sure what the term for this is, I'm thinking Chika-ma, but that might be too close). We also did a few drills with Kote and Men that I haven't seen in a while.
We started, as usual, with warmups and Kirikaeshi, then jumped into various Men drills. First straight Men, then Men from To-ma, and then a couple of drills where we would push the opponent's shinai out of the way and hit Men (first from the right side, and then the left side). This was not Harai, in which you move the kensen away and then snap it back to hit the opponent's shinai away. We had to keep in constant contact with their shinai, and kind of smother/push the shinai tip away before striking. It was a very odd movement, and I'll definitely have to work on it. I wasn't doing too bad, but I think I needed more force in the push. I noticed that some people were also very gentle with the push part, and some people were more explosive and violent. At one point I almost lost my shinai because I wasn't quite ready for the amount of force my opponent had.
The next drill consisted of us circling under the opponent's shinai and then hitting Men. Ando Sensei pointed out that this should be done as one movement, not two, and should be very fluid. I felt pretty good with the movement itself, as it feels a lot like the Kote hits I've been working on, just bigger, but I do need more speed. Speed....something I need a lot of in my Kendo, but it will come with experience.
We moved onto Kote, Kote-Men, and Do drills, both normal distance and then from To-ma. During the Kote from To-ma, I really focused on good Tenouchi (grip, being able to stop the shinai without cutting all the way through the opponent). Ando also had us focusing on big hits, bringing the shinai up so that we could see underneath our left hand before hitting. I think I did pretty good for the most part (no complaints from my opponents, at least). During Kote-Men I tried focusing less on each hit, but more on getting the opponent's shinai to move with the Kote hit and then going in for the Men hit. Again, more speed!
Do definitely felt a lot better after Saturday's Do practice, and I felt that I was snapping the sword around a lot better. I'll still have to work on it but I feel a bit better about it. I even tried it in Jigeiko! Although I don't think it would've counted, at least I was willing to try it.
Speaking of Jigeiko, I don't think I did too terribly bad last night, although the last two rounds with Mark B and Jeronimo I was so tired I could hardly do anything really so I was a bit of a punching bag there for a while. Mark gave me a lesson in boundaries, as I kept stepping out of them, and also showed me a nifty little trick while in Taiatari that I might have to try out at the next practice. I'm still working on finding openings and taking advantage of them. This one is definitely going to be a life-long goal, but it's one that I can also continue to improve on and reach new levels at.
Just when I was ready to hit the floor, we had one last Kakarigeiko and Kirikaeshi. Oy. That took a lot of strength to get out there and finish, but I did, and I felt really good, although exhausted afterward. Half the battle each time, for me, is getting out there and pushing myself to go a little further, little further. When I think I'm tired and ready to turn in the towel for the night I try to push myself a little bit more. Very tiring, but I'm glad I've been doing that to myself.
After class I spoke with Ando Sensei for a bit and he said that my Men strike in the drills is very good, and that I should hit like that in Jigeiko and elsewhere. This was very good to hear, since I've been working on my posture, especially with my Men strikes. A few other thoughts:
Men: Mark says that I'm still leading with my right shoulder. I need to work on squaring up and hitting with my body straight ahead towards the opponent. I need to catch it now, so that it doesn't create other problems later.
Do: Again, I felt a lot better with my Do strikes. Now I need to work on speeding them up. Also (this just hit me today), I still need to extend my hits out. Just like with Kote and Men. I feel like I keep my hands to close to my body when I hit Do...
Kote: Kote felt good last night, as well. We did a drill last night where we kept in contact with our opponent's shinai and brought our shinai up just enough to go over theirs, and then down to hit. This is a technique that I'd like to be very good at, as I can imagine it being very strong and fast if I'm able to develop it. Also, always in the back of my head, is that I need to step across toward my opponent's right foot when I strike. Keep on that, make it second nature.
Hiki Waza: I think I was doing better at this last night, as I got in a few good Hiki Kote and Men, but something is a bit off. Maybe I need to push off of my opponent more. There seems to be a point where I go back, and then pause, and then hit Hiki and move away. Maybe something to ask Sean about later on...
One more thing to throw in. During one of my jigeiko matches I threw out a Men-Kaeshi Men. I don't even know where it came from. I just anticipated his hit coming and then threw up my Kaeshi counter, then whipped around to hit Men. I don't think it would've counted in a match, but I was actually pretty surprised in myself for trying it. It was almost like an involuntary reaction, the way it happened...
Looking forward to more practice tomorrow. In the meantime (tonight) walking, suburi, and core training!