This past weekend I was sick. Missed work on Friday, and carried on fighting it all through the weekend. I hate being sick. If I could eliminate one thing from my life it would be that. I feel like it wastes so much time when I have to recover. Time I could be using to do other things, like exercise, or Kendo...
Last night I was fighting off the last of my sickness. Everything felt better, except for my throat and lungs. I was still coughing and dealing with a dry/scratchy/sore throat and some other issues there, and I could tell my energy level wasn't up to where it usually is. I took it easy, though. Stepped out as needed, and made sure to not over-extend myself on the drills, and I was able to stay in the entire time. Go me! We also had another "guest" last night. McNally Sensei, who left our dojo in September for college, is visiting his family right now and came to practice last night. He will also be with us tomorrow night. Having him there felt like old times, times when he would push everyone to try and match his level. It's something I strive for. To be at that level, and then to finally exceed that level.
Sensei talked about some concepts of training with the intermediate class last night, and his advice and insight was something that I carried into my training. He talked about different ways to train, and the way that most people train is to take a handful of issues that they have and try to correct them all at once. So over a course of a couple months they touch on everything a little bit and are only able to fix a few of the issues that they have, if they are able to fix any during that time. On the other hand, one can take one issue and concentrate on it, focus on it solidly for a couple weeks and be able to fix that issue, and then move onto another issue and fix it in a couple more weeks. This method of training will see greater results over time than trying to fix everything at once. Do you still have other issues and receive advice on them during this time? Of course you do! But you take that information and store it for later, until after you are able to correct the initial flaw that you have with your technique, your movement, your spirit, etc.
This is actually a very elementary suggestion for us, as I remember Sensei going over it with us when we were in the beginning class. He says to pick three things about our techniques and work on them. One issue about our shinai work, one issue about our footwork, and one issue about our spirit/kiai, and work on only those issues at one time. After I heard Sensei's talk last night I couldn't believe that I had let that piece of information slip my mind. Coupled with the primary basics concept that he presented me with a couple of weeks ago and the way to change my own training slapped me in the face with its obviousness. I had fallen into the trap of trying to correct too many things at once, and I'm glad to have heard this information at a time when I really needed it.
Practice itself went by pretty smoothly. No real big issues, other than me pacing myself. My Kirikaeshi is still coming along. I had a dreadful time trying to keep the right breathing rhythm last night due to my throat, but I do feel like I'm slowly getting faster with it. Sensei talked about how each cut should be not only with downforce but with a forward-cutting motion, even the Sayu-Men. As we advance we are presented with more advanced thoughts and techniques, this being one of them.
Men drills were done with an emphasis on explosive speed. Going from zero to one hundred percent in a second, and we practiced from uchi ma and from to ma. I feel that my timing while at to ma is pretty good. I take into account the advice that Sensei gives us about not stopping our feet when we start to move forward, and to press the shinai forward before striking. But I feel that I hit too deep a lot of times, so I either have to take smaller steps or I have to start from further out. Again I feel like I can cover a huge distance with my steps and with my fumikomi, so I have to start further out than even I think I can reach. Hopefully I'm not breaking posture while doing this.
We broke into Mudansha/Yudansha groups about halfway through practice and did a extended period of waza geiko. I was able to work entirely on Men (with one Kote drill thrown in for variety). I went over the drills we did earlier, where I attacked from uchi ma and to ma, and kept the emphasis on snapping my wrists (shinai work), keeping my posture upright and naturally straight (body/footwork), and keeping my kiai going until I turned back to kamae(spirit). I'll continue to work on these for a couple more weeks, and hopefully by then my concentration on these areas will make them into habits.
Jigeiko felt pretty good last night, even though I only really got to go with two people because our rotation kept getting messed up, and because there were only four of us in the Mudansha group (myself included) with bogu. Again, I concentrated on mostly Men strikes, even in jigeiko, and I was able to get in a few really good strikes. I also practiced taking the center, and I tried to throw in some Ai-Men when I was able to see the opportunity. This is a technique that I'm slowly developing, and I know that if I keep at it I'll be able to turn it into a very powerful technique. One last thing. Seme. I used it, and it was actually quite effective a few times when I was trying. Now if only I can get into the mindset of following that up with an attack.
A few thoughts:
Men: Explode more on the strikes. I'm doing ok now, but I need to be able to go from relatively stand-still to striking and pushing through in an instant. I notice sometimes I "fidget" before I strike.
Wrists: They are feeling a lot better and more flexible, but now I have to watch out and make sure I'm not dropping my kensen too far behind me again.
Posture: Haven't heard any issues with me leaning into the hits these days, so hopefully this issue is almost gone. Luckily I can practice this one anywhere I go, not just at the dojo or when I'm at home doing suburi.
Kiai: When I get tired my kiai starts to suffer, and I need to still be able to continue it all the way through with my follow-through and after I turn to face my opponent again. Get into a good habit now so it stays with me later on.