Sensei talked a bit about the Tacoma taikai before class started, and the fact that everyone that went over did so well. I'm sure that if you look around you can find results, and most of the people from our dojo that read this already know the results, but we did pretty well, to put it lightly. In light of that fact, he wanted to remind everyone that we shouldn't relax at all because we won. We should strive to work even harder, and those that competed should have a mindset as if they had lost each and every match. He mentioned a saying that goes, "When you win, tighten your men himo." So we should all be pushing even harder after a victory, not relaxing, and putting everything that we can into our practice. On the flip side of that, though, he also wanted to advise us about pacing ourselves throughout practice. We should always work hard and put everything we have into our training, but we should also be able to stretch ourselves out over the entire time, instead of having to step out midway through because we pushed too hard and ran out of energy for the last half. Pacing is something I've been working on, with some measure of success, and it was nice to hear it re-iterated for everyone's benefit.
We jumped into things fairly quickly last night, grabbing our Men and Kote right after warm-ups, and proceeded into some extended Kirikaeshi drills. We worked on going slow, then fast, then we threw in some Do and Kote versions for good measure. Considering I haven't done these two in a while it was a welcome addition to our line-up. Sensei pointed out to me again today that when I try to do faster Kirikaeshi I am still stopping while going forward, which is breaking my rhythm. He says that I have the right rhythm going backwards, but I definitely need to work on it going forward. I've been practicing this at home and I seem to cover a HUGE distance while trying to go faster, so this might also be part of my problem. I'll continue to work on it.
I began noticing a rather odd issue lately, and my suspicions were reinforced last night. Courtney pointed out that sometimes during Kote, and especially during Men drills, my right foot would sneak forward a bit before I did fumikomi. I noticed it about a week ago, so it's nice (and not nice) to hear that is what's really happening. I'll definitely have to work on that. She said that when I was more tired it wasn't happening, and the reason that I can think of for this is because it's wasted movement....something I've been trying to get rid of. But at least I was able to catch it early so hopefully I'll be able to take steps to get rid of it before long. While I'm getting into some of my faults last night, let me mention that Billy let me know that on Men, while trying to go faster I was hitting harder, which was actually causing me to slow down. Sensei went over this a bit last night, as well. He said that when you want to hit harder, you don't necessarily have to put more force into the strike. You just have to cut deeper. Instead of stopping at the top of the head, he said to try and cut down to the eyes. This will make your cuts harder, more firm, and not sacrifice speed or technique. I'll work to incorporate this into my own technique.
We moved into a few Kote-Men drills, and then onto many variations of Do. I'd like to point out a couple of issues I had with Kote-Men, as well. Sensei noticed that I was striking a little from the left and not bringing my shinai straight down. He said that I should bring the shinai straight up and straight down, and that my body should be moving. It seems to happen on Kote-Men more than anywhere else I use Kote, though. Wendy also pointed out that I should not raise my kensen up too high, because it's wasted movement. She said that my strikes are really good and firm, but that I just need to shorten them up a bit. On the plus side, I played around with striking in place. What I mean by that is my initial Kote strike is done with fumikomi in place, and then launching forward (short fumikomi) to strike Men. I feel a little better with it, and feel it's something that will serve me well when I polish it. I would say that if I had a strong technique, it would be Kote-Men, so I'd like to refine it as much as possible.
We spent quite a bit of time working on Do drills last night. In the recent months I've been getting a lot better with Do. I've been placing my hands in the center, striking more accurately, and getting over the mental block that comes with Do, so it was nice to focus on it for an extended amount of time. after kihon Do drills we went over a couple of oji waza (counter techniques) involving Do. The first was Nuki Do, the second Kaeshi Do. Two techniques that are very similar and connected, as Sensei showed us. Nuki Do is performed by stepping out of the way and striking Do as your opponent tries to strike, the point being that you are not physically at the place that they strike. Kaeshi Do is performed by blocking the opponent's strike and using that energy to strike Do. In both cases it's good to remember that fumikomi needs to be shortened up, or to the side (as is the case with Kaeshi Do). Since the opponent is moving in at a high rate of speed it's very easy to bury your shinai into their side if you try to step forward, as well. Sensei had a couple of the juniors perform Kaeshi Do for us, one of which had a lightning fast strike. He said that the key to having a fast Kaeshi Do is to have a fast Nuki Do, and the hardest part of Kaeshi Do is the timing. Each individual piece is fairly easy to perform, but putting them all together with the right timing is the trick. I think, for my part, I was a tad more successful than not with both techniques, although I did notice the soft thud that accompanies a missed Do here and there. I need to remember to bring my left hand back to center after I block, though. I'm not sure if I was doing that last night, as I was concentrating on other things, but in the future I'll try to be mindful of it to see if it's an issue or not.
We had some time for waza-geiko before we jumped into jigeiko, and I used the time to continue to work on Nuki Do. A few months ago Sensei told me that if I developed that technique he thought it would be a great technique for me, so I've always kept that rolling around in the back of my mind. Again, I think I'm getting better at it, at least little by little each time, except next time I'll remember to not try to perform Nuki Do against Billy (who fights in Jodan). I'm definitely not fast enough to make it connect before he hits me, so maybe I can work on Kaeshi Do with him if I ever run into that situation again.
During jigeiko I really felt like I saw a few openings and capitalized on them. Not all of them, not even close to all of them, but there were a handful of times when I saw my opponent's guard drop, or saw their shinai wander away and I took the opportunity to strike. It felt great when I was actually able to get a good hit in after seeing the opportunity. I'll keep working on that, and also on creating openings. I'm horrible at that. I have been getting more aggressive with my strikes and attacking first, but I need to figure out good ways to create openings. I have been trying to not hang out in tsubazeriai as much, as well, but when I'm there I should remember to work on hiki waza. I'm still kind of terrible at that, so any practice I can sneak in is beneficial. But overall I felt great with jigeiko last night. Everyone got some really good hits on me, but I was able to give out quite a few myself. Kote, Men, and I even had some good Do strikes in there.
A few thoughts:
Men: This one goes for all of them, but don't hit as hard. Don't put so much force into the hit. As Billy told me, it slows me down. Instead work on cutting deeper, like Sensei talked about.
Kote-Men: Make sure that my shinai is coming straight down on the Kote strike, instead of from the side. Also shorten up my Kote, if I am doing a small Kote strike.
Kaeshi Do: Sensei broke down Kaeshi Do for a us a bit, and said that the block should be performed with our bodies facing forward, and then turning at an angle to fumikomi and for the strike. The fumikomi can be a short step forward or to the side, if our opponent is really fast. Afterward pull the shinai through and follow-through.
Fumikomi: Get rid of that small step forward that I take with my left foot during Men and Kote. I'll have to keep my focus on this for a while.
I'm looking forward to more training on Wednesday!