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Gearing Up for Shinsa, pt. 1

On Monday Sinclair Sensei sent out his recommendations for who should test, and the dates for the local and PNKF shinsa. I am testing for 5 kyu, which means I'll be skipping a rank (I am currently 7 kyu). This is very good news for me, and I appreciate the fact that Sensei thinks I have enough skill and understanding to skip a rank. Another big surprise is that the shinsa is this Saturday. I believe that I'm ready, but I also ended up injuring myself, twice, this week. I have a foot injury from Saturday which I'm hoping will be ok by this Saturday, and I jammed my thumb on Monday night at practice. What a time to injure myself. After being injury-free for months, this happens right before shinsa....Murphy's Law gets me every time.

Since we had a shortage of Yudansha on Monday, Marek and I ended up tag-teaming and leading the intermediate class. Marek did the bulk of the speaking and explaining, and I interjected advice and more explanations here and there for the students. We went over Kihon Kata 1 and 2, and then Hiki-Men and Kirikaeshi. Overall I think we did a good job, but we tried to keep it simple and stick to techniques that they already knew and were working on.

Our advanced class started with an extended Nihon Kata session, and my partner and I practiced Kata 1, 2, and 3. Ando Sensei and McNally Sensei had advice for me on each of these. for Ipponme Ando pointed out that we were too far apart. He said one of the most important things about that kata is the distance, and that we should be close enough that if the Shidachi doesn't move they will get hit. This builds up a little more tension between the two kenshi. For Nihonme he said my swing was too big, both on Uchidachi and Shidachi side. McNally Sensei said that the reason it was too big is because my swing is too smooth, and when I bring my hands back my wrists continue to pull back and this causes the tip to drop way behind me, instead of stopping. He said to try to imagine stabbing something behind me with the kensen (tip of the bokken), and to not bend my wrists as much. Once I get that down I can work on making it smoother. Finally, for Sanbonme, he said that our actions once we meet up in the center should be a lot slower. If you've seen this kata, you can imagine what I mean. All of it is valuable information for me, and I'll work to integrate it into my own kata technique.

The rest of class went pretty smoothly, with no new techniques or drills. We went through a few rounds of Kirikaeshi, slowly since we skipped warm-ups, and then moved onto Men, Kote, and Do. As is my usual practice, I started each drill by making medium swings (shinai above my head, about parallel to the floor), and then working down to doing small strikes at the end. One of my biggest focuses of the night was my foot, and to be super light and not injure it further. Which meant that I had to step out for a few rounds while the rest of the class moved onto waza-geiko.

McNally Sensei gave everyone a short break, and we used the rest of the time after we'd all geared up again to do jigeiko. He emphasized not blocking and trying to do nice, straight Kendo,s since this is the kind of jigeiko we'll want to do at the shinsa. I was able to jump back in at this point and do a few rounds, but ended up jamming my thumb when I ran my Kote into my opponent's Kote during one of the rounds. This pretty much put me out for the rest of the class, since I didn't want to be too handicapped during shinsa.

A few thoughts:

Nihon Kata: As McNally and Ando Sensei pointed out, be aware of the distance between my partner and myself, work on not making such a big swing during my strikes, and slow down a bit when necessary.

Kihon Kata: A point I slip on sometimes is to make sure I'm close enough when I strike. My kensen should be above my partner's head, wrist, or to the side of their abdomen on each strike, and I should stay out of that dangerous area right in front of them. I do this most of the time, but every once in a while I feel that I'm too far back when I start. It is ok to take a step in for distance.

Jigeiko: I did a pretty good job of not blocking while in jigeiko, but there were still a few times I went for a block without actually having it part of my waza. It's a bad habit, and one I need to break.

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