It felt like a lifetime since I had been to practice. I was sick last Wednesday, and Saturday and Monday there were no classes due to the Memorial Day holiday. I think, for being out of normal practice, that it went pretty well. I have been doing suburi on my own a lot in the past week, but it's definitely not the same as getting together with my fellow kenshi and having real practice together.
I arrived a bit early, as I usually do, to get dressed and ready for the evening. Sensei called me in to be a target and help with the intermediate class a bit, so I got to do some Kirikaeshi and other hitting drills before advanced class. I was also used for some of the beginners. I'm pretty sure they haven't hit people in armor yet, so it was interesting to see how they all reacted to a real person and a real target after a few weeks of bokken training.
Our class started off with the Hollywood treatment! One of our members, Harvey, is a photographer by trade, and he brought in his equipment to take some pictures of Takado Sensei and McNally Sensei doing some Men Nuki Do strikes. It was very fun to watch, as he had all his lights and flashes and a big white backdrop and everything set up for a while. I'm interested to see what they will be using the pictures for!
After opening mokuso and rei, warmup exercises, and suburi we jumped straight into Kirikaeshi, and then to Men, Kote, and Do drills. I could tell I hadn't hit anyone in a while, as I felt a bit uneven on the ground and took a little bit more time setting up my hits. My Do hits still feel very inaccurate and slow. One of these days I hope I start seeing some progress there, as I seem to be on a see-saw with them. One day they'll feel great, and then the next day they'll feel worse than before. Sean reminded me that with Do I should be hitting just before my fumikomi step lands, as well. Oy, so much to think about on Do! I'll be grateful when I start feeling a bit better with it, as it's definitely the weakest of my strikes right now (except for maybe some of the advanced Oji Waza).
Next we did a lot of Tsubazeriai and Hiki Waza drills. First Hiki Men and Hiki Kote, and then a few drills where we picked what to hit as the attacker (Kakarite), and when we were the receiver (Motodachi) we were supposed to do our best to not let them have an opening to attack. I wasn't too successful with this drill. Some people I could hit pretty well with Men or Kote, but others I couldn't hit to save my life! Also a lot of times on Hiki Men I would step too far back and actually not even be able to reach them with my strike. It was like I was backing up faster than I could hit. I think maybe I'll stay away from that as much as I can this weekend at the tournament...
Sensei had us split up into Mudansha/Yudansha groups and do some Waza geiko. I took this time to focus on Kote, Men, and Debana Kote drills. After a few rounds of Kote I felt pretty good with it, and with Men I played around with hitting from different areas (such as Harai Men from left and right side of the shinai, etc). I tried to keep myself as upright as possible, so much so that I almost felt like I was leaning back a few times. Debana Kote felt pretty good, although a couple of times I struck a bit too fast, and didn't judge where my opponent's Kote would be very well so I ended up striking at the air right in front of them....grrrr......
We took a short break to watch the Yudansha group do jigeiko before doing our own jigeiko. our Yudansha are all very, very good in my opinion, and I hope that someday I can be that good and fast, and even excel from there. It's good motivation to see where I could be in a few years time if I stick with it, and I definitely intend to stick with Kendo for as long as I possibly can.
I felt a bit sloppy in Jigeiko today, probably because I'd been out for a while. I only fought a few people, but everyone felt way faster than me, so I ended up doing a lot of fumikomi steps right in place and then pushing forward. One person, Ellen, definitely keeps me on my toes. She is one that will attack you at any chance that you give her, so I always have to remember when I turn around to expect her to be there, or when I try to back out of Tsubazeriai that she is going to try and hit me. It's very good on her part to be looking for those openings and exploiting them, and it's good for me, too, because I have to constantly be alert while fighting her.
One last round of Kirikaeshi brought our night to a close, and after our closing ceremony Sensei had a very special announcement for us. He announced that there will be a new dojo location opening up in the Valley, run by our very own Mark and Courtney. Times will be on Tuesdays and Fridays, 6pm-7pm, and once they add in advanced classes, another session from 7pm-9pm. I was so excited to hear this! I'll definitely have to check it out when it starts, to see how it goes and see if I can help in any way, since it'll be just a few minutes away from me.
Some points to remember:
Hiki Waza: It is ok to do things such as Sayu Men (hitting to the left or right side of the head). Ando Sensei did this to me A LOT during our Hiki drills. I don't always have to hit straight in the center, and I don't have to go straight back after hitting. I can go off to the left or right side, as well.
Men: I should start doing Men from different positions, and incorporating some Harai movements in there, as well. Remember my Sayu Men, just like in the Hiki Drills!
Kote: Kote felt good, I didn't catch anyone's shinai this time, so I think I'm starting to remember to step to the side a bit more. Just remember not to make it too big.
Do: The question might be what am I doing right, instead of what am I doing wrong. Well....I feel like I'm more accurate with my Do these days. I don't think that I've hit anyone too high or low in a while, so that's good. Also I'm trying to remember to make the hit small, just like with Kote. I think that's about it for now. Everything else I need to work on, which is a lot!
One more day and then I leave for Obukan. Training on Friday night, and the taikai on Saturday. I'm so excited! It's finally here!