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Kote-Men

So I ended up taking an unintentional hiatus this week. I felt like I was very, very busy with work and Kendo and everything else that goes on in my life. It's a real shock to go from unemployment straight back into full-time work, so I've been trying to adjust to that again and get myself back into a rhythm. Hopefully soon things will settle down, and I'll at least feel like everything is in order again. With that said, let's continue!

Both Monday and Wednesday night we went over Kote-Men. The main lesson that I learned on Monday can be summarized with "Think fast, be fast." Speed comes from proper technique and training, but we have to have the right mindset, as well. If we think that we're slow, we will be. If we think that we're fast, everything will soon follow.

Wednesday night we opened with a lengthy discussion about the proper way to handle our uniforms, bogu, and equipment (chakuso, I believe is the correct term). This includes not only the care that you give to your equipment, but also the care and attention you put into putting on and taking off your uniform and bogu. He mentioned that there are many lessons that we can learn by doing this correctly, including safety, respect, courtesy, and it can indirectly help us to have better technique. The way this is done is that chakuso helps us to pay attention to detail. Details in the way that we tie our keikogi, hakama, and bogu himo. Details in where and how we set our equipment down, how we carry it, and how we store it. If we are so detail-oriented with our equipment, how much of a leap is it to be that detail-oriented about our partners and opponents? Sensei did make another good point, and one that I need to work on. I feel like I'm pretty good at paying attention to my own equipment, and I take instruction well and work to incorporate that instruction for my own use. But I need to be looking out for those that are less experienced than myself, and helping them to learn the proper way to tie their uniforms, to tie their bogu, to hold their shinai, etc. I need to be thinking like a higher rank, even if I'm not quite there yet, and it's never too early to pass on what I know if it can help others.

We mixed up our Kirikaeshi with some kihon drills, which added a bit of variety to our normal routine. We did Kirikaeshi, Men, Kirikeashi Do, Kote, and finally Kirikaeshi Kote. I worked on good movement, "snappy" strikes, and tenouchi (especially with Kirikaeshi Kote).

After Kirikaeshi, we worked on what I considered the "meat" of the training that night, Kote-Men. Sensei took some time to explain to us to value of these strikes, both separately and together, and also the proper way that we should be striking. We practiced doing small Kote and small Men strikes down and back across the dojo floor. With Kote we were supposed to bring our wrists back, and lift our left hands up to about chest high. The power, as always, came from our left hand, with our right hand adding stability and tenouchi when we struck. Men was done in a similar way, but with the left hand coming up to about face high, so that we could see our partner underneath our left hand before we struck.

After working on both of those strikes pretty thoroughly, we put them together for the last few drills. The first was Kote-Men (both small strikes). We did the drills slow, but with rhythm, with one strike flowing into the next. Afterward we performed Kote-Men again, but this time with emphasis on speed. As I pointed out above, the beginning of that was thinking faster, then having a faster kiai, and the feet and hands should follow suit, sooner or later. I felt pretty good with my strikes, but I would still like to work on hitting the Kote strike from an in-place fumikomi. It seems that each time I try to do this, I step forward, even if it's just an inch or so, which makes me pull my left foot up ever-so-slightly before launching for the Men strike.

The next drill we did was Men, but we were to hit from as far back as possible (while still only doing one fumikomi step). I played with my distance a bit, sometimes hitting too close, sometimes barely missing my partner, until I found a distance that seemed to be right at the edge of my striking range. I was performing medium Men strikes, as well, since I didn't feel comfortable launching that far and doing a small Men, for some reason. It was a bit slower, but with practice I know I can add a lot more speed to that strike.

We split into Mudansh and Yudansha groups at this point, and went over waza-geiko. I worked on Nuki Do and Hiki Kote, since I haven't practiced those drills in a while, and also on Men, with my emphasis on bringing my left foot up as fast as I could after I struck. Sensei mentioned to me earlier that my strike and my timing were really good, but that I was still letting my left foot lag behind me. It reminds me of some advice that Nishimori Sensei gave us on his visit, and an exercise he told us to try to help bring the left foot up faster. Basically he would do a fumikomi with the right foot, and then kick his left foot up and forward as fast as possible. Might be a good one for me to try in my spare time...

We ended our training that night with a few rounds of jigeiko, and a final Kirikaeshi. I have that say that during this training I really felt like I was....more intense, for lack of a better word. I felt that I stepped up my Kendo a level, and I hope that I keep that feeling with me as long as I can. I stayed in for more rotations (not taking a single break), I was able to do more of each drill (five as opposed to three that I sometimes do), I kept my spirit really high throughout the whole time, and I pushed myself as much as I could. By the end I was pretty tired and had to cut back a few of the drills, but overall I felt that I had a lot more energy and a lot more authority with each of my strikes and drills. I heard some advice one time that I feel applies to how I felt that night. It stated, basically, that we should do keiko (practice) with each of our partners as if it were the only time in our lives that we would do keiko with them. Very true words, and ones that I hope to reflect on more throughout my training.

A few thoughts:

Men: I still have a habit of rotating my right shoulder forward while striking Men. I need to work on eliminating this, and having my hips square and going straight forward while striking.

Kote-Men: Work on having a faster kiai, and thinking even faster than that. With enough practice with this mindset, I can become a lot faster with this technique.

Jigeiko: Don't hesitate! I know that I'm a lot better at this than I was before, but there are still plenty of moments where I see an opening and I don't take it. I need to learn to strike immediately when I see an opening.

Fumikomi: I really need to work on bringing my left foot up as fast as I can after I do a fumikomi step and strike. Stroud Sensei demonstrated this when he visited, and he was able to bring his left foot up almost at the same time that his right foot landed from fumikomi. An impressive feat, and one that I can attain, too, with proper practice.

Next stop is Kendo camp at Deer Lake this weekend!

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