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Kata? Yes Please!

In continuing with our focus on Nihon Kata for this month and next month we went over some more of the finer details of Ipponme and Nihonme last night.  We have yet to actually go through any of the kata, but despite that I am thoroughly enjoying the focus and attention to detail, especially the detail of movements that seem insignificant.  Things like bowing in, bowing out, placement of the feet, placement of the hands, etc, etc.  A lot of it is review, but I'm always able to find new info that I didn't know before.

For example, before we started this I didn't know that when you draw the sword while coming into kamae at the beginning that it's done one handed, with a slight angled cut forward as you draw before you bring the sword to the left hand for kamae (did that make sense?).  Also I dd not know that after the third step, when pulling the left leg into position that you should already start sinking your center down into the sonkyo position.  Details like this are what I appreciate.  I eat them up.  

A quick recap of what went on last night in our kata session:
  • For Ipponme, both Shidachi and Uchidachi should bring their Jodan kamae high above their heads and then settle down to the proper position.  This is not a quick movement.
  • When Uchidachi strikes in Ipponme, the sword is brought to the midline and back/up so that the left hand is above the head.  Do not let the tip drop down, the movement is similar to how Shidachi moves their hands back/up when they strike.
  • Don't look down during the strikes.  Always keep your eyes up and on your partner.  Since we didn't have a partner I should have been looking ahead.  I think I might have been watching where my bokken was going, but when I'm not doing that I should always have my eyes forward or on my partner.
  • For Nihonme, Uchidachi's Kote strike should be parallel with the floor.  They are striking through the Kote.
  • Shidachi in Nihonme steps back and VERY slightly to the side.  They also angle their body as they do so, effectively changing the midline.  The bokken should drop straight down and come straight up, not do any weird movement to the side just because the body is moved.  Also they need to step back far enough so that they can have a proper step forward to strike Kote.
 Lately Sensei has been having me concentrate on bringing my left foot up quickly after stepping and striking, and Saturday he gave me a bit of advice on how to visualize that.  He told me to try and imagine that there is something between me knees, like a board, and then to try and bring my left knee up as quickly as possible to break that board.  He said if I think about it this way it might help me a bit more than just thinking "bring the left foot up faster.".  Last night I put most of my focus on trying to bring the foot up faster, and I do think that the visualization helped me out a bit.  I just have to keep working on it, keep beating it into my muscle memory so that it becomes a habit that I don't have to think about.

Since we've been taking time for kata we have had to revise the rest of practice, so we've been combinging warm-ups into the first few rounds of Kirikaeshi and other drills.  This has led to some interesting drills, like one we did last night in which we did Jogeburi with our full bogu on.  Trying to get my shinai back with my Men on is HARD, so I finally gave up on trying to get it all the way back and just went back as far as I could.  Different, and fun!

During Saturday practice Sensei broke the Mudansha into their own group and went over some details with Debana Kote.  I greatly appreciated this time, as it helped me to get a new perspective on it.  Last night I was able to put that into practice a bit with the Debana Kote drills we went over, one of which involved the Kakarite striking Debana Kote and turning and then immediately striking Men when Motodachi would turn around.  This was a nice way to reinforce what we went over on Saturday, which was when we hit and step to the right we should take one step to the right and then one step to turn, no more than that.  If we go more than that then we miss a chance to strike our partner as they turn, which puts them at a natural disadvantage.

I had a lot of fun during jigeiko last night, and I think it's because Jeff was there (he's usually not there on Mondays).  Not only was he there, but he ran me into the ground during jigeiko.  I still find his defense high impenetrable, but I'm starting to get some strikes in here and there.  I just have to keep working at it, keep chipping away at that wall.  I worked on a lot of Suriage Men during jigeiko, and I wasn't even consciously trying to do it.  It's like my body latched onto this new (well, old) technique and is now trying to refine it on its own. 

All in all, a great practice last night.  I really pushed myself.  I remember thinking at one point that I needed to take a break, but then I thought "come on, just one more," and I actually ended up going the entire time.  There was one incident where I had to step out for a quick second to check an injury, but I was back in before that rotation ended.  I'm looking forward to more Kendo on Wednesday!

A few thoughts:

Wrists:  My wrists are feeling pretty flexible these days, so I hope that it's improving my swing and strike, as well.  I've been thinking about how some of my fellow kenshi strike and I've been trying to emulate that.  Also the "Throwing the ball" analogy that was given to me by another fellow web kenshi has been helping.

Fumikomi:  I'll continue to work on snapping my left leg up fast after I step.  Sensei said that I don't necessarily have to have super fast follow-through footwork afterward, just that initial step is what needs to be quicker.

Debana:  I need more accuracy with my strike.  If I can read my partner and strike as they start their movement I can usually catch them with their Kote wide open, but if I can't read my opponent and instead I react to their movement I usually maybe what I need to do is learn to read my partner better, instead....

Suriage:  I'm still too deep on most of my hits.  I think I either need to start my swing sooner or not step in as far.  I'll continue to work on it.

Men:  I've noticed that some of the Yudansha have been pressuring my shinai and moving my kensen out of the way before the strike Men.  I tried this a few times last night and found that it was VERY effective.  It doesn't even need to be a big movement, just a subtle movement that pushes their kensen out of the way by a few inches.  A few inches is all you need to create an opening.


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