You would think that after having a weekend full of Kendo I would be tired of it and want a break. I don't. I thoroughly enjoyed our practice last night, even though I had to step out a few times due to coughing. It appears that my throat is not 100% healthy yet, and I forgot my water bottle, so each time I stepped out I had to take my Men off to get some water to try and calm down my coughing fits. Still I did all I could and knew when to push and when to back off a bit.
I actually started my night by teaching the intermediate class. Not only that, but my brother is now in the intermediate class so he was able to participate in one of my classes. I kept things simple, going over kihon drills, kirikaeshi, and then getting into a bit of hiki waza at the end, which was new for him and the other new intermediate student. I tried to break it down and explain as best I could, and I think I did a decent job since everyone was looking really good with their footwork and form. With teaching, I take baby steps.
Before we started class we were each given a chance to give our own report of the taikai and to talk a bit about our favorite match of the day. I said that my favorite match was the one in which I lost. Sounds odd, I know, but I learned so much from that match that I am itching to apply to my own Kendo. I'm hoping that when I go back for the Kent taikai in a couple of weeks that I will have improved, even just a bit, because of that match I had and the areas it gave me to work on. Ando Sensei also talked a bit about our Kendo, and how proud he was of all of us for doing "beautiful" Kendo. He said that a lot of people get into doing tournament Kendo, and even can win matches it's very ugly, in his words. He said that he, and everyone else, notices our dojo for its good, clean Kendo. I'm very proud to be a part of that.
Ando Sensei actually led class last night, and put us through a lot of endurance drills, having us do kirikaeshi at the end of almost every drill. Also he had us move in and strike from to maai a lot, as well. This is a distance outside of the ideal striking distance (issoku itto no maai), which forced us to take a big step in before striking. I tried to concentrate on swift movement, small strikes, and good follow-through while keeping my kiai going all throughout. I think I did ok, but I was a bit hindered by the constant coughing and dry throat. Hopefully next week I'll be better.
Ando Sensei had us go through some drills afterward in which he would blow a whistle and have us either strike a target given by our partner once, twice, or perform ai-men with our partner. Very interesting drills, and I could see in some others the speed that they possess to see an opening, process it in their mind, and strike (Dan in particular). Ai-Men was also fun, and I think I'm getting faster with my strike, although I need to watch out for how far up I raise my shinai.
Our jigeiko session lasted for quite a while last night, and I really worked on being more aggressive overall. It definitely felt that way to me, and from some of the others I asked later on it seemed that a few of them noticed, as well. I tried to stay on my partners a bit more, watch their movements, follow them, and try to strike as I saw opportunities. I also tried to create more opportunities by using some off-timing and other techniques. I have one technique in particular I would really like to work on, although I didn't get a chance to do so last night. Sadly I had to step out of the kakari-geiko we did to finish the night, but I definitely cheered my heart (and voice) out for everyone else that went.
After class Ando Sensei told me that my Men strike was very beautiful and fast, and that if I keep practicing it will be my specialty. I was very glad to hear this from him, who has been beating me senseless in jigeiko for the past few months with Ai-Men. I'll take his advice and continue to work on my Men strikes.
A few thoughts:
Jigeiko: I should definitely keep trying to turn my dial up a bit on jigeiko. I know I have a little bit of skill, and I think I can handle working a bit harder and keeping on people like I did last night. One of the reasons the guy at the taikai beat me was because he kept the pressure on me, so I want to be able to develop that in my own Kendo. Seme.
Nuki Men: I have to work on my accuracy with this technique. I have the speed and timing, I just need the accuracy.
Fumikomi: I think I need to work on a little longer fumikomi. I saw some of the pictures and the video of myself and realized that I have a good fumikomi, but it could be longer in some cases. I should be able to do short, medium, and long fumikomi, so I can have versatility with my strikes and movement.
All in all, a great practice to have after coming back from a weekend of Kendo. I look forward to tomorrow night!