Saturday's practice was downright awesome, and I feel that I pushed myself and did exceptionally well. Not because I did perfect Kendo (that'll be the day), or because I picked off everyone in jigeiko (I didn't, not even close), but because Sensei gave me a challenge and I rose to it and pushed past my limits. He invited me to practice with the Yudansha group, which usually contains the 1 Kyu and up kenshi (I'm currently 4 Kyu). Yesterday we had a great mix: a lot of Ikkyus and Shodans, a few Nidans, and Ando Sensei (Yondan). It's definitely a different experience there. Everything is faster, with purpose and intent, and I had to be at the top of my game, both physically and mentally, to keep up.
When Sensei asked me to join the group, I was almost at the end of my stamina, physically, but I took up his offer and jumped in with them, knowing that I wouldn't be able to step out at all for the rest of class. I really didn't want to be that guy, the one that has this privilege given to him and then balks it with his actions. I found my second wind and jumped in with their group about halfway through practice, so I had a chance to do some kihon drills with them before diving into waza-geiko (I practice Nuki Do, with varying degrees of success), and jigeiko. I did my best to put up a fight in jigeiko, and ended up fighting almost everyone, including Ando Sensei (which is always a joy, though a humbling experience at the same time). Sensei had us play out a couple of different scenarios, as well, in which he gave us 30 seconds and our goals was either to protect the point that we have, or to try and gain a point on our opponent. Obviously different strategies and styles come through depending on what we were trying to do, with the people a point up being very cautious and mindful of the actions, and the people without a point trying desperately to create openings to strike.
Again, this opportunity to practice with the Yudansha was a great one, and I took full advantage of it. I felt that I had more mental focus, I chose my strikes and opportunities better, and I worked harder to create openings of my own to capitalize on. I also don't think I did too bad at protecting my point in those scenarios.
A few thoughts:
Men: Sensei advised me to not let my hands go too high after I strike. He said that I should try and keep either my left or my right hand at about my partner's face height and no higher. It was an easy correction to take once I started thinking about it, but I'll be sure to think about it throughout the week. I should also be sure to keep my small Men strikes small, and not raise up too high on my swing.
Debana Kote: I had a chance to demonstrate my Debana Kote for the class, so I must be doing something right with it, but after watching Sayaka demonstrate I realized that I need to turn faster after the strike.
Tenouchi: Harvey pointed out that I am still gripping my shinai too tight for too long, and that proper tenouchi should only be for an instant. Squeeze, then relax.
Ashi sabaki: I have been working on being lighter on my feet during ayumi ashi, but I still need a lot of work on it.
Great practice for the weekend, and I'm really excited to see what's in store the rest of this week, all leading up to PNKF on Saturday!