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Gearing Up for Shinsa, pt. 2

So....I might have pushed myself just a little too much last night. My foot pain was little much, and it's still kinda sore this morning. I think after the shinsa I'll have to take it a lot easier until it's back to normal. Also my thumb still hurts a bit, but luckily last night I didn't injure it any further. It should be ok for this weekend.

I had my last full practice last night, before this weekend's upcoming shinsa. I'm pretty sure I'm ready. I just have to go out, relax, and do the techniques that I know and try not to think about it too much. I know I can do it, I just need to not be nervous.

We started out advanced class with Nihon Kata practice again, and I used the time to go over 1, 2, and 3 again. I am still swinging too big on Nihonme, but I think that I was able to help fix the distance on Ipponme and slow down the pace just a bit on Sanbonme. I went over Nihonme with my partner many, many times, on both Uchidachi and Shidachi side, and Ando Sensei still pointed out that my swing was too big. I believe that I need to take a much shorter swing than I think I need to, and not snap my wrists back as much. this is causing my bokken to drop behind me way too much. Something I'll try to remember at the shinsa.

I started joining the line while putting on my Men and Kote. For the longest time I held back, thinking that I wasn't fast enough with it and would hold people up, but I realize that I am pretty fast at tying everything, so about a week or so ago I started jumping into line with everyone else. It's something I've been meaning to do, but I finally just did it. Just like my decision to come back to Kendo in the first place; one day I just did it.

We started off, as usual, with some slow Kirikaeshi to help warm up, and then did a few rounds of Kirikaeshi at normal speed. Next up were some kihon drills with Men, Kote, and Do. Jeff pointed out to me that on my Men strike I was leaning my right shoulder into it a bit too much, which turned my body to the side. I have heard this before, and will try to focus on correcting it in the future. Kote and Do felt pretty good, except that one of my Do strikes was a bit high. I'll have to remember to keep my hands down around my center.

Next up was Kote-Men. Again, Jeff let me know that when I went to hit Kote, my hands were coming up and bringing around from the let, and he said it was too obvious what I was about to do. The rest of the rotations with this drill I focused on bringing my shinai straight up and straight down, to not telegraph my moves so much. It seemed to work well, but it's something I'll have to be mindful of later on, as well. The speed of my strikes felt pretty good, since I've been working on moving as fast as my kiai. It's definitely not an easy task, but with a lot of practice I am a lot faster at it now than I was even a month ago.

McNally Sensei had us do waza-geiko at this point, and I used that time to go over a few different waza (techniques). I worked on Kote-Men a bit more, and then on Hiki Men, and finally on Debana Kote. Hiki Men felt pretty good, as far as the strike, but I don't think my footwork was solid enough, I could push off backwards pretty quickly, but it didn't feel any different than my regular follow-up steps. There has to be a distinction there. For Debana Kote I worked on accuracy, and checked with my partner after a few strikes to see where I was hitting. He indicated that a few landed around his knuckles, so I adjusted my strike accordingly and was able to hit a couple of solid Debana Kote strikes at the end. I also tried to act instead of react. I've spoken a bit about this before, and Sensei has brought it up before, too. We should be performing an action when he strike Debana Kote, instead of a reaction to what our partner/opponent is doing. In doing this, you appear to move before your opponent does, and sometimes you even do physically move before your opponent.

After a short break, the rest of our time was used for jigeiko. Again, we focused on doing straight, smooth, clean Kendo. No blocking, not a lot of taiatari, but good form and technique. I tried to remember to push through my opponent on each of my strikes, whether I was able to hit them or not. One of my partners, Justin, told me to keep going through despite what he does. If he blocks, moves, counters, whatever, I should still keep going.

I stepped out after a few rounds because my foot started feeling uncomfortable, but I stepped back in when I saw that Ando Sensei had no partner to do jigeiko with. One thing that is emphasized at our club is to never keep a sensei waiting for a partner, so I sucked it up and jumped back in with him, and then ended up finishing out our rounds of jigeiko and our final Kirikaeshi. I tried to not move too much, so that I didn't aggravate the pain anymore, but in doing so I got hit a lot. I don't think that I even came close to hitting Ando Sensei or McNally Sensei last night, but the more important thing for me at that point was not putting too much stress on my foot. There will be other days, when I'm back to 100%.

All in all it was a great practice, but I need to not be so...determined to go on. I didn't do anything too bad, except that my foot is a little sore today, but still I need to be able to firmly say when I have to take a break for my own good.

A few thoughts:

Men: Work on not leading with my right shoulder. Keep my shoulders square during the strike.

Kote: During jigeiko I missed Kote a lot, most of it because I wasn't bringing my shinai up over my opponent's shinai or because I was trying to strike from too far out (or both). I need to remember these two things in the future. Gauge my distance correctly and make sure that I'm clear of their shinai before trying to strike.

Do: As much as I'm working on my footwork for this strike, I still need to be accurate with the strike itself.

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