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Pushing the Limit...Over and Over...

Sometimes I wonder why I do Kendo.  I mean, I've never questioned whether I should quit or not, that thought hasn't even crossed my mind.  I just wonder sometimes.  From a neutral standpoint, it seems that I push and push and push to the edge of exhaustion, and then come back and do it again.  Over and over.  Multiple times a week.  I end up tired, sore, sometimes injured, but still I come back to do it again.  This can probably explain a lot of sports and martial arts that people decide to take up.  But then I remember the feeling I get from hitting a really good Men-uchi, or pushing just that little more beyond what I think I can do and getting that much more satisfaction from training.  Or the fact that it helps to make me a better person by applying lessons I learn in Kendo to other areas of my life.  So many good points to think about.  What was the point of this?  Not sure, just some good ol' fashioned pearls of wisdom from a very humble person.

Last night was one of those nights.  THOSE nights.  That leave me exhausted and sore all over the next day.  But it was a great class, and I feel like I kept up a bit of the "advanced" feeling I gained from training last week.  But I also found out that the harder I push myself, the faster I get exhausted.  I had to sit out a couple of times last night, but each time I jumped back in when I felt I could handle it again.  I felt like I pushed myself to the edge, stepped back a bit, and then rushed back at the edge again a few times last night.  Even though I felt like passing out last night, looking back on it I think I did a great job, personally, even though I had to step out a few times.

We started off the night with Men drills without our bogu on.  Just hitting each other's shinais.  The focus was, as it has been, on no wasted movement and fast shinai speed.  I've been working on keeping my shinai up so that it doesn't drop below parallel, and I think that my "muscle memory" is beginning to change and remember this.  I feel that each training session I have to think about it a little less.  When we moved onto hitting Men and pushing through, I tried to remember to do my follow-through steps as fast as possible, while pushing forward with my shinai for that "second cut" that Sinclair Sensei talks about.  It feels like my footwork is improving, but I still have to actively think about it.  My biggest thought last night was, "GO FASTER," and it helped a lot.  I also tried to focus on pushing straight through instead of stepping to the side, as Ando Sensei showed me a few weeks ago.  This led to a few run-ins with other people, but he said that it's ok to do that.

After grabbing our Men and Kote we went into Kirikaeshi, as is our normal routine.  Sensei pointed out after class that I am doing a great job of hitting and stopping the shinai, but that I should start to focus on speed.  He mentioned that I need to have faster shinai movement and that will help my footwork become faster.  I've tried this a few times at home and it's definitely hard to do.  Be accurate, move faster, and not stop the shinai like I'm used to doing.  I'll continue to work on this, in and outside of the dojo.

The next few drills were Men, Kote-Men, and Do, and we were supposed to try and keep the same fast shinai speed that we were working on earlier.  While I think I did this, I was also told that A) I drop my shinai tip right before I strike, and B) this happened when I started getting tired, but I bned my knees before I launch forward.  Both of these are bad habits to pick up, as they telegraph my intentions.  I need to work on striking from a fairly fixed point (relative to what I'm doing). 

Debana Kote.  Sensei went over this a bit last night, outlining four different techniques for striking them, and telling us that we should experiment with each one to see what feels best for us, or if we already know what feels best to work on that.  The ways that he noted were:
  1. Fumikomi with right foot and strike while moving to the right side of the opponent's body.  This works just like regular Kote would, but with a much shorter fumikomi since the opponent will be charging in at us.
  2. Bring the left foot forward and fumikomi with it while moving to the opponent's right side.  Some people find this to be faster.  It's not one that I've worked on too much, but I want to start working on it a bit more when I have the chance.
  3. Fumikomi with the right foot, but move to the right side of the opponenet as you strike. The key point here is to turn your hips and body as the opponent moves through, and continue to display zanshin back while facing the opponent.  I felt really comfortable with this move, but it seems to require a bit faster shinai speed since it feels, to me, like I have to move across the opponent's body instead of to the side.
  4. Perform Hiki Kote, and display zanshin while moving backwards.  This one works well with opponents that are significantly faster than you, as it gives you a few extra moments to set up and strike.
I mainly focused on the first and third examples, with the third being my preferred method of striking Debana Kote.  I do want to be at a point where I can use any of them, though, so I don't become predictable in my movements.

After a short break I jumped into Jigeiko.  Since I was the lowest ranked person at training last night, I was able to train with the higher kyus and the Yudansha, which felt awesome.  I was SO SO tired by this point, but I tried to push on so that I could soak up as much time and training with them as I could.  I've been working on my Hiki Waza a lot lately, and actually used it a few times in Jigeiko, even a few times that I think were rather successful.  I feel that the weird pause I have is starting to disappear, and there were a few times I struck Hiki Men and moved back so fast I even surprised myself.  This is all, of course, from my point-of-view and very well could have seemed faster because I was tired, but it's encouraging to me nonetheless. 

After practice, I spoke with Ando Sensei and Sinclair Sensei.  Ando Sensei said that my Men strike is very fast, and that I should continue to work on not hesitating during jigeiko.  This is definitely a problem for me, especially when going up again the higher Yudansha in our club.  It brings to mind a term I've read about a few times.  Shikai, the four sicknesses of the mind. They are: Surprise, Fear, Hesitation, and Doubt.  I definitely feel Hesitation and Doubt while fighting some of them, and I need to work to clear my mind of such negative thoughts and feelings.  Sinclair Sensei said that I have improved my shinai speed and footwork, and to continue working on it, and that I need to start working on making my strikes in Kirikaeshi faster.

A great practice last night, and I'm definitely still feeling the drain it put on me, but I look forward to going back for more this weekend.

A few thoughts:

Men:  Don't drop my tip down before I strike, and don't bend my knees down before I strike, either.  I need to be able to hit from a static spot, or while moving in jigeiko.  I'll work on this, on exploding from a standstill, so to speak.

Kirikaeshi:  Again, work on faster shinai speed and faster footwork during jigeiko.

Ashi Sabaki:  Continue with my mindset of "Be Faster."  It's helping a lot, and helping me push myself even harder than before, which is helping to have a faster shinai and faster footwork.


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