I suffered yesterday. I still do. I have a pain in my neck and it won't go away, and it made last night a terrible night of sleep. I think it happened at my mom's house, before I left for Kendo practice last night. Must've moved it just the right way, or wrong way I should say. But despite that I went to practice and gave it my all. Billy said that he wanted to "turn up the heat" last night, and I was going to do my best to help!
We are starting to come to a close with our bi-annual kata review. Twice a year, in the summer and winter, we take two months and go over kata. Learning new ones, and finding out details about old ones that we might have not known. Adding layers to our kata and refining it. I thoroughly enjoy the kata practice that I get with my fellow kenshi, so I'm kinda sad to see this kata time winding down, but for this next week or so I'll be squeezing out every last little bit of goodness that I can get. I spend last night going over Sanbonme with Courtney (Haney Sensei - Valley), and I tried to remember Ando Sensei's words to me on Saturday. He said that my kata is very good, but that I'm using too much power, which makes me rush. He said it's ok to go slow, and be relaxed as I step and as I strike. It's not a race. I think I did an ok job with this, but it's hard for me to tell from this particular kata if I was succeeding or not. Still, I concentrated on my partner, following when appropriate and leading when appropriate, and I tried to stay as relaxed as possible. Each movement I tried to do with purpose, and with proper timing so that each movement was an individual part of the puzzle.
During Kirikaeshi practice Wendy really emphasized the importance of a proper Men strike. Too often we forget about it while transitioning to taiatari, and our strike suffers because of it. She wanted everyone to make sure and make a good, strong Men strike with proper follow-through, and only dropping the hands down and bringing the body up to meet the hands in taiatari at the last second. This is something that I've been working on for a while, so it was nice to see it emphasized last night and I had no trouble working on it in my own drills. Seth did mention to me, though, that when I start speeding up I start striking higher on the shinai, insttead of at the proper Men height. He said I had good form and rhythm, but to just watch how high I start hitting. I'll definitely keep that in mind.
We concentrated a lot on Men strikes last night, and on the way that we turn and set ourselves. Billy, freshly back from the Detroit Taikai, helped us go over a new way to turn and set. Instead of turning and settling back on our left foot, he had us turn on the left foot and bring the right foot around and forward into a proper stance. Not only does this physically help us keep ourselves going "forward" but it also mentally helps us think "forward". Kinda tough to explain in words, but if you can visualize stepping forward after turning instead of settling back you get the gist of what we did last night. We emphasized this turn by doing a few drills in which we would strike consecutive Men strikes in a row, mostly on one breath. This is one of those things that I can do when I think about it, but I'm still working everything out with it so it was pretty ugly last night. I felt slow on the turn because I was trying to break my old habit, and also I would turn too soon so I was way to close for a folllow-up hit. Still it was good to be able to go over a new technique, and I can see the value that it holds.
To further emphasize this new technique we broke into two lines, both facing a person in the middle. The first drill we did was Ai-Men, in which the person in the middle would strike with their partner, and then immediately turn and face the one behind them and strike again until the lines were both depleted. I didn't do too shabby on this drill, except that I think my left hand needed to come up more. Also Wendy said to step forward more on the hit to help my left leg from trailing behind me. We also ran through a version of this drill with Debana Kote. After my turn all I could think of was how dizzy I was! Wendy said that I had great form and timing with Debana Kote (my hands were reaching out rather than bunching up against my body while hitting), but again I need to step forward into the hit to keep my left leg from dragging behind me.
We finished out the night with jigeiko, interspersed with the pre-bogu people doing kakarigeiko. I got to do jigeiko with Aika, Marek, Dan, Ando Sensei, and Wendy, and I used my time to look for or create good opportunities and work on seme, maai, and solid strikes. I did notice that a few times my hits were really light, or they wouldn't connect at all because I would pull them if I saw my partner moving to dodge or block. It's a bad habit that I need to fix before it gets to far away from me, because it's affecting my follow-through, as well.
I received some good advice from Ando Sensei after class, regarding our jigeiko session. He said that I back up too much. This is true. He said that when he steps in that I should hold my ground, or step in myself and pressure him. He also told me to trust in my Men strike. He told me that when the opponent steps in, I should step forward, close my eyes, and strike Men. I don't think he meant this literally, but I see what he's saying, all the same.
Wendy commented after practice on how great our spirit was that day and how she appreciated the effort that everyone put forth. I think that everyone did a great job of "turning up the heat."