Last night was a great practice. Not that I did all that well, there are still tons of things I can work on. But I pushed myself pretty hard. I had to step out just a couple of times, but I jumped back in and gave it my all, and by the end I was ready to fall over and very, very satisfied with myself.
The past few practices we've really been concentrating on eliminating wasted movement and time from our strikes, and having faster footwork. We continued this focus last night, but the meat of the training was centered around Hiki Waza. And tasty meat, it was! After going through a few Hiki Men drills, first just doing the strike, and then trying to move our partner so we created an opening, Ando Sensei showed us a very effective technique to use to throw our partner's/opponent's shinai out of center, so I tried to incorporate that technique into the rest of my training last night. I felt pretty good with some of my strikes, not so much with others, but I can start to feel what Sensei explained to me. He said that our Hiki Waza, or any strike, should be like dynamite. What he meant is that dynamite doesn't gradually build up to an explosion. It goes from a stand still to exploding instantly, with no down-time or lag in between. This should be the way that I practice Hiki Waza, too. I should go straight from pressuring my opponent in tsubazeriai to attacking and launching myself backwards. I have a nasty habit of having down-time in between pressuring and attacking, and it was my focus last night to work on eliminating that down-time, that extra step, that wasted time. After I got a taste of how it really felt, I wanted more. I want more! I'll be sure to keep working on this whenever I can, including being more aggressive with it in jigeiko (since many other people had luck doing it to me last night in jigeiko).
The other piece, like I mentioned earlier, has been a recurring theme, and a much needed one. I took some video of myself this past weekend, and noticed that I do have a lot of wasted movement, so through the other drills I did (which consisted of mainly Men strikes), I tried to remember to not being my hands back as far. I have a terrible habit of dipping my shinai too far down, which I've mentioned before, so I tried to concentrate on not bringing it back so far, and eliminating wasted time as well by not slowing my swing down at any point. Also, just a small though in the back of my head, was driving the shinai up and back down with my left hand. It seemed to work out pretty well, and my thoughts were reinforced by Sinclair Sensei, who said that in the past few weeks since we started working on faster shinai speed he's noticed my speed change significantly. It's always good to hear encouragement like that on issues that I know about and am working on.
Footwork...where to begin. I still feel pretty slow with my follow-through steps. We went over a previous drill again, one in which we did fumikomi and then follow-through steps (ayumi-ashi), with the purpose of speeding up our steps after the strike, rather than slowing them down. I feel like I can speed up my steps, but not very much, so this is something that I'll definitely have to work on. Plus after trying to do this the whole time my legs starting cramping just a little bit so I had to back down on it during waza-geiko/jigeiko at the very end. When I had run out of steam but was still in, I tried to concentrate on finding openings and making really good hits. Not many hits, but good ones. Trying to put all of my force and spirit behind these few choice hits. It seemed to work pretty well.
All in all, a great training session, and one that I was definitely thankful for. I've wanted to work on Hiki Waza, since I felt mine was pretty lacking, and last night I learned some valuable information and techniques that I'll be able to practice and work on from here on out.
A few thoughts:
Men: Continue working on shortening my strike. Once I can do a really good, fast, big swing, I can start working on making it a smaller strike. Sensei also went over this, saying that after we work on big swings for a while we'll be working on small swings with no wasted time or movement. I'm excited!
Hiki Waza: Keep working on going from a "stand-still" to exploding with my attack. I got a taste so now I know what I'm working towards, and I hope to see more improvement in the weeks to come.
Ashi Sabaki: Try to speed up my follow-through steps as much as I can. It starts in the mind. I have the basics, now I have to think faster and push myself to go faster.
Jigeiko: Think, act, and react faster. I still need to work on seeing openings, or creating them myself. I did pretty well with a few Harai Men last night, and it might be best to concentrate on a few key techniques so I don't try to overwhelm myself with a plethora of techniques that I can only do passably.