I had Kendo practice yesterday. That's no surprise. Anyone who knows me knows the passion I have for it. What was a surprise, at least to me, was the fact that I felt like I hadn't practiced in a LONG time. Tuesday was my last practice, in the valley. Recently I wrote about changing up my practice schedule, so that I could give myself body more time to rest and give myself more time to work on my own weaknesses at home. This was the first week I was able to implement my new training schedule, which involves not having class on Wednesday nights now. But just missing that one practice made me feel, mentally, like I hadn't practiced in weeks. Physically, though, I felt good. I felt really good. My body felt great, I wasn't sore or harboring any injuries, so I was definitely ready to get back to the dojo.
Billy led our class again on Saturday, and we had a pretty good turnout, including a few people I haven't seen in a while. After warm-ups we worked on footwork again, with the fumikomi/ayumi-ashi drills/races that we've been doing recently. On one of the last attempts I had the unfortunate luck of pulling a muscles in my leg, near my hip, so the rest of class I was struggling with that. It wasn't too bad, but made that area really sore and hindered my ability to launch easily off my left leg for the rest of practice. Despite that, though, I still did my best to give 110%, and I was still going with the mindset of "Be Faster." I honestly can't say enough good things about this new mindset I have, and I feel like I have a renewed vigor for Kendo. I'm hungry, always hungry for more.
The main lesson of today's practice was Debana Men. Billy had a short question session in which he asked us to define Debana. A lot of us knew, physically, what it was, but putting that into words was a bit tricky. He explained that Debana literally translates into "the moment," and is defined as striking your opponent at the exact moment that they move to execute their own strike. It should ideally be done when their tip and hands make the slightest movement; any later and it's not technically Debana waza. We practiced this with a few drills, designed to help us build up to striking before our opponent strikes. I was so-so with the drills, as I usually am. Better with some opponents, worse with others. I think the worst I did was with Ando Sensei's daughter, who seemed to always be able to hit me before I was able to do anything, both when she was attacking and receiving. Still it was a great lesson and gave me a lot to think about and work on.
The second half of class was devoted to waza-geiko, jigeiko, and one last drill for anyone that wanted to participate. We split into Mudansha/Yudansha groups, as well. I used my time to practice Kote. I read an article over at kendoinfo.net that reinforced some realizations that I was coming to on my own about Kote, namely about the mechanics of making a small Kote strike, so it was good to have an opportunity to put those thoughts into practice.
The final drill we did was one that we've done a couple times before. We form two lines of people, with kakarite in the middle. Kakarite then tells each line what target to try and hit, and the turns from one line to the next executing an Oji waza (counter attack) of his/her choosing. It's meant to be a very fast drill, when done correctly. On my round I chose to work on Debana Kote. Since you don't want to make a very big movement after striking, I tried to focus on moving just enough to the side to let the other person go by, and turning my body quickly to face the next person. A fun drill, but I got a little dizzy from all the turning practically in place.
All in all, another great practice. Like I said before, I have a lot to think about with Debana waza now.
A few things to note:
Men: Continue with the faster shinai speed, in drills and in Kirikaeshi.
Kote: with small Kote, I only need to raise my shinai tip high enough to clear my partner's shinai. Angle my fumikomi toward their right foot, and when striking try to think of throwing the left hand forward and down, instead of just straight down. This will help extend my hands out. Also I don't need to take a huge fumikomi step, either, since Kote is a lot closer than Men is to strike.
Debana Waza: Work on striking AT THE MOMENT that my partner/opponent starts to move. Their hands shouldn't be able to get very high before I strike, and I definitely shouldn't wait until they are bringing their hands back down to strike before I hit, as this is not Debana.