This weekend we had a special "guest" with us. Takado Sensei returned to train with us after being gone for a few months. I say "guest" because a lot of us still consider her part of our dojo, myself included. Having her back, even for a short time, was like filling a hole that was left in our training and I think that a lot of people felt it, judging by the level of Kendo and the high spirit that we all had on Saturday.
The main focus continued to be pressing in with our shinai before we strike, and we went over a lot of kihon drills to emphasize this. First in place, with no Men or Kote on, and we continued from from there into our normal practice. I, myself, also worked on keeping a straight posture and bending my wrists back and making them more flexible as I began my swing. I've been too stiff, and I would like to eliminate it from my strikes as soon as possible. It will add some much needed speed and (less needed) power. I've also been working on trying to keep my swing rather uniform with the way I hold my Kamae, as Billy showed me a couple weeks ago. Not straightening my arms out when I raise up to swing, and instead letting them stay "naturally straight" like in Kamae. It seems to be going well, so maybe soon I will ask Billy to watch my swing again and see.
I didn't actually get to practice with Takado Sensei, since we were split into Yudansha/Mudansha groups, but still the energy was there. Everyone as at the top of their game on Saturday, giving their all, with very high spirits. I would have loved to just sit back and watch it and take it all in (I did step back momentarily but was quick to jump back in after a round or two). It seemed like we were all feeding off each other and the overall spirit of the training that day to keep going, to keep pushing. I know personally after I stepped back in I was fresh and ready to go and stayed in for the rest of the practice time.
Jigeiko was really fun for me on Saturday, and I worked on (among other things) striking first. With a lot of people I experimented with striking immediately after bowing in, and for the most part I was successful with it. One of my friends commented that he did not see me coming that fast, because a lot of people get into a pattern of bowing in and then taking time to settle in and get into the match (or the practice). I do this myself, but I was trying to eliminate the wasted time, as Sensei has been advising us to do recently. It proved to be a good strategy, but like all things I'll try not to do it too often so that people don't expect it from me. I also tried using a bit more oji waza, including Nuki Men and Debana Kote. I can do Debana Kote in drills, but in jigeiko it's way harder to get the timing down because you have to anticipate what your partner is going to do, or entice them into doing what you want (which is also something I'm trying to work on). Also I've been trying to develop seme in my practice, putting that unseen pressure on my partners during jigeiko. Since I'm farily new to this, it's a hard concept to grasp and try and implement, but as I practice and study it I'm sure things will become clearer for me.
After practice I had a chance to talk to Takado Sensei. I'm hoping that we will be able to do jigeiko and practice together next time she visits. She did tell me that I have beautiful Kendo, and she said to not lose that. Don't worry about points in matches or anything like that, just keep my beautiful Kendo. I was very honored to hear this from her, considering she has an enormous amount of experience, and I will definitely take her words to heart and continue to develop my beauitful Kendo.
Ai-Men: I'm think I'm starting to get the hang of it. There were a lot of times when I would go against people and we would end up knocking each other out of center and neither of us would hit our mark. Other times I was able to hit Men fairly easily and straight. I'll continue to work on this technique, as I can see a lot of potential with it.
Debana Kote: In order to use it more effectively in jigeiko I think I need to create the opening myself instead of waiting for one to happen. That way I can be in total control of when the moment arrives. I'll work on opening my Men for people to try and force their movement.
Nuki Men: It's looking a lot better than it did at PNKF, and I'm able to hit while going forward with most people. I'll continue to develop this technique, as well.