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Going the Distance

Hello All! I am a tired person right now. Friday night practice in Portland, taikai on Saturday, hiking up and down a mountain on Sunday, and then practice at home last night. I'm looking forward to resting a bit today, that's for sure!

We didn't have too many people last night, but it was a great practice nonetheless. Takado Sensei is leaving us very soon, so I want to get the most out of her teaching that I can before she's gone! She will surely be missed.

We started with warm-ups, suburi, and Kirikaeshi. First slow Kirikaeshi, and then faster with three breaths. I'm still working on this part. We moved onto a few rounds of Do Kirikaeshi. Instead of hitting Sayu-Men (Men strikes to the left/right of the head), we strike to the left and right sides of the Do (abdomen area). I'm still very unsure about my Do strikes, so I was going pretty slow on this part, and trying to focus on my opponent instead of looking down at where I was hitting. We finished out Kirikaeshi with one pass as fast as we could go. Given that I was exhausted from the weekend I wasn't fast at all, but I gave it my best shot.

Instead of doing our normal drills, we worked a lot on distance (maai). Hitting big and small strikes from different distances. We did Men, Kote, Do, and Kote-Men strikes. First big, and then small, from a couple steps away (To-ma), from one step away (Issoku-Itto No Ma), and finally from a very close distance that required no steps to hit the opponent (Chika-ma). This forced us to play with our steps, our timing, our speed, pretty much everything. It was very refreshing and I learned that I have a large striking range. Many times I would step in a bit too close and have to take a small fumikomi, or just fumikomi in place to hit correctly, or I was able to hit from a lot further out than I first thought. Distance is VERY important, as I came to find out during this tournament. Stepping in too close for a strike can be just as bad as trying to start too far away, so playing with distance in our drills is a great thing for me. Although hitting stationary targets is way easier than hitting an opponent that is not only moving but also trying to hit you!

After a short break we jumped into jigeiko, and I did my very, very best to stay in until I was able to fight Takado Sensei. I gave my all to all of my opponents, considering I was over the exhaustion limit at this point. I remember when I fought with Jeronimo, we were both dead on our feet so it turned into very much a Kendo-version of a slugfest =). We would each get a burst of energy here and there and land some good hits, and then die out again. I had a lot of fun, though, and I was able to do jigeiko with many many people, including Ando Sensei and Takado Sensei. I felt more confident in myself, after this past weekend, and was able to throw caution to the wind and attack without thinking about being hit by the higher ranked people. I've mentioned it before, but this was Sutemi at work. throwing away all regard for winning or losing, life or death, and focusing on and committing to the attack. I especially felt it when fighting Ando Sensei. He is fast, powerful, and has a lifetime more experience than I do, but even though he beat me up in our match I still gave it everything and attacked when I could, when I felt I had an opening, when I saw an opportunity. I felt really good knowing that I gave it my all. I also played with some different timing, and hitting different (Sayu-Men, instead of just straight Men every time). For the most part I saw some good results, such as doing Kote-Men with a Sayu-Men strike and using a bit of off-timing. I'll continue to work on some of this and see if I can find some new techniques to use.

Practice ended with one last round of Kirikaeshi. Unfortunately I had to step out with one round of jigeiko to go (headache and exhaustion finally got me). After closing ceremonies I thanked Takado Sensei for the training, and spoke with Wendy for a few minutes. She said that she could see the confidence in me as I was doing jigeiko. She said that when I am able to successfully strike an opponent it builds that confidence in me, and from there I can grow and cultivate my Kendo. She also mentioned Sutemi and spoke for a minute about it.

Some things to remember:

Men: Wendy pointed out that on the big Men strikes I need to be all the way over my head with my hands. She said that it looked like I was rotation my hand, and that might be causing me to feel like the shinai is all the way up when it's really not.

Do: Before class I had a chance to do some Do drills with Jeronimo, and I really focused on feeling the left hand pushing the sword up and driving it down. I need to work more with this, and start using it in jigeiko.

Kote: Caught another opponent's shinai with mine today, so I might be falling back into not stepping to my side enough. Also when we do big Kote strikes I need to make sure I give myself plenty of room to extend my arms out while still striking the proper area of the Kote.

A great practice, and I'm definitely looking forward to Wednesday!

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