Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Through the Roof!

Last night I had a very intense, very exhausting, and very rewarding practice.  I believe that everyone stepped their spirit and energy level up a notch.  I could feel the abundance of energy coming from each of my partners last night.  What made it even better was that Sensei and Wendy were both gone, so it's very cool to see my fellow kenshi are so focused and so into the practice that we were able to do that without our normal leaders being present.  That doesn't mean that we had no leadership, as we were in the very capable hands of Ando Sensei.  I believe that intensity and Ando Sensei go hand-in-hand, especially after training last night!

The night for me started in intermediate training, as in I was teaching.  With Sensei and Wendy gone, Billy and I took over teaching the beginning and intermediate class.  We had one student show up for intermediate, and I was able to go in depth with Kihon Kata 1-5 with him, as well as directly relate it to shinai practice by going over drills such as Harai Men, Nuki Do, and Hiki Do.  All in all I think things went well, I just hope I didn't confuse him too much!  I can definitely ramble about Kendo if given the chance.

Our advanced class started off with about an hour of Nihon Kata practice, and my partner and I worked on 1 (Ipponme) and 2 (Nihonme) in detail.  Each of us took turns being Uchidachi and Shidachi, formal opening and closing, and just about every combination of these two kata that we could think of.  Along the way Billy and Ando Sensei helped us with some great advice and corrections.  Among the points that I took in last night were:

  • After Uchidachi strikes me in Ipponme, the two steps back can be either two equal steps, or one small step and one big step.  Ando Sensei prefers (as do I) the small step first and then the big step back.  The small step allows Shidachi to bring their kensen down right between the eyes, and being so close makes the kata look better, in his opinion.
  • When I'm Shidachi I should not take too big a step forward when stepping through to left Jodan.  The bokken should be brought up into Jodan position assertively, instead of bringing it up above the head and settling down like when the kata begins.
  • When ending each kata, the kensen of each bokken should be the only thing crossing.
  • When disengaging after each kata, Uchidachi should have a slow but steady pace while lowering the bokken.  Each bokken should stay in contact until being about parallel with the floor, at which point keeping contact is hard to do.  At this point the movement down and at an angle is a bit swifter.  Kensen should be about knee height. (This is the way that our dojo practices, it is not a universal truth for everyone, since there are many acceptable ways of disengaging after kata)
  • On Nihonme I'm still having an issue with flexing my wrists too much and letting my kensen drop too low on my upswing.
 I definitely learned a lot, and had a chance to practice some quality kata with my partner.  Afterward we threw on our Men and Kote and, after a few quick rounds of kirikaeshi to warm up, jumped straight into jigeiko before finishing with kakarigeiko.

During the jigeiko time, I focused on a few pieces of advice that Sensei gave on Saturday during the team training jigeiko (which I'm sure I posted on Saturday).  One of the main points I worked on was seeing the openings, both the obvious ones and the openings behind that.  Kind of like layers, or curtains, that open up to reveal even more than you see at first.  I had a lot of comments on being more aggressive during jigeiko, so for the most part I'm very happy with how I did on that.

The second thing I was working on was to not sit and wait in my hitting distance (Issoku Itto No Maai, or sometimes also referred to as Uchi Maai).  Sensei said that when we come into that distance, something should explode.  Either I take the initiative and strike, or I force my partner to strike.  I shouldn't come in and just wait, or I shouldn't hang out there if I'm trying to pressure my partner into moving and they don't "take the bait."  It's a very dangerous place to be, so I tried to either pressure in and strike, counter-attack, or back out if nothing was working.

After kakarigeiko I was dead, I was ready to fall over, but I cheered on my fellow kenshi to finish strong, and afterward we had one final 30-set of hayasuburi to end the night.  I can't write in words how good I felt last night, and how satisfied I was with the practice we had.  Sometimes I can almost tangibly feel improvement, and last night was one of those nights.  This is a very good feeling to have as I move through this week towards our Winter training this weekend!

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