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Your Feet Are On The Ground

The past couple of weeks have been full of Kendo goodness, with the shinsa and the taikai on back-to-back weekends.  I posted a couple of different times about it recently, but in short they both went extremely well.  I passed my Nikyu test, going from Yonkyu straight to Nikyu, and I also took third place at the taikai.  Right now I'm riding pretty high on my Kendo!  But, I also know that I have a lot to work on, and I was able to see a few of those points very clearly over the last couple of weeks.  I've already begun taking steps to fix them, but I know it'll be a while before I can build those improvements into new habits.

Last night Wendy took the reins of the advanced class (after I helped her out with the beginning class).  We did a lot of kihon drills, and also continued our work on Kote, specifically Debana Kote.  This has been tremendously useful to me, since my Kote strike is one of the points I'm working on at the moment.  I have a tendency to lean into the strike, letting my upper body travel in front of my hips, which gives me a bad habit, bad posture, and an unstable position when striking.  I've been trying to make my footwork quicker on this one, snapping the left foot up faster, trying to use my fumikomi step to move me further, and stretching out instead of leaning for the distance.

We've been working on a two-step footwork for the strike.  First step and strike Debana Kote, and then turn your body on the next step to face your partner again.  I'm getting more and more used to this footwork, but Sensei (on Saturday) suggested that I push my center forward more, or even slightly down, while doing fumikomi.  This will make me a lot faster and keep me from raising up and then down like I have been known to do.  So much to work on!!  At least my timing is getting better with catching my partner's Kote as they begin their swing, sometimes even just as their arms starts to raise slightly.  It helps that I've been working to get rid of the wasted movement in my Kote swing, as well.

One of my favorite drills from last night was Men-Taiatari-Hiki Do-Men.  Sounds complicated?  It kinda was.  There were any numbers of timings done last night, depending on who was doing them.  What I focused on was hitting a good Men strike on the way in and on the way through.  I tried to use the Do strike as more of a way to get my partner to move out of center, at which point I would launch forward again at their unguarded head.  I feel in the past few months I've been a lot better about changing direction quickly, and shifting my weight from going backward to going forward again. This was a big problem for me when I first got into the advanced class, but now I can do it with some semblance of ease.

After a short break, we jumped into Motodachi-geiko with the Nidan+ kenshi.  There were five of them, but I was only able to get in matches with three of them last night; Ando Sensei, Harvey, and Wendy.  Harvey fights in Nito, so I had to fight him with a little different mindset.  I tried to work on being aggressive, staying on top of him, keeping my kensen pointed at his left Kote, and trying to utilize my Suriage Waza effectively.  He beat me up, by I got in a few good strikes on him, and I think I did a good job of staying on him.

My match with Ando Sensei was probably my favorite of that night, and he gave me some really good advice after practice.  He said that his sensei, a Hachidan in Japan, told him one day something that was very mysterious and didn't make much sense.  He told Ando Sensei, "Your kamae is bad."  When Ando Sensei asked him why, his sensei replied, "Because both of your feet are on the ground."  What?  Ando Sensei gave me this same advice, and he said what it means is that I should "float" over the ground.  Keep my weight on the balls of my feet and slide, glide, and float along as I move, and he said when I strike I should try to slide my right foot forward, and then fumikomi at the last second.  He says that I have a very strong Men strike, and that if I can try this footwork he's sure my Kendo will become much, much faster.  Sounds good to me!

Courtney also pointed out that I looked really good when I was up against Ando Sensei, but that I was still doing the "hopping" fumikomi (which is what Ando Sensei pointed out, too).  She thinks that I might have just been tired, because she hadn't noticed me doing it until that time, and I admit I was pretty tired by the end of class when I fought Ando Sensei.  But sitll, that is no excuse for poor fumikomi, and I'll work to improve it, even when I'm dying of exhaustion.  In fact, that should be the point where I do it the best, since I should be working out all of my wasted movement at that point in the practice.

We ended the night by breaking back into Mudansha/Yudansha groups and having some more jigeiko before one final kirikaeshi.  I was able to put the pre-bogu people through some kakarigeiko, and also have a few jigeiko matches with my friend Billy Joe.  He is improving, a lot, and I'm definitely going to have to watch out for him once he gets into my category at any future taikai.  It was a lot of fun, though, and I tried to work on Hiki Waza, since I need some work in that department.

All in all, a great practice last night, and I'm looking forward to more on Wednesday!

A few thoughts:

Fumikomi:  As mentioned earlier, try sliding my right foot forward and then doing fumikomi at the last second.  I think this will also help keep my center from bouncing up and down, and also make my strikes faster.  And remember to snap the left foot up afterward.

Debana Kote:  Keep doing what I'm doing with it.  I have a few pieces of this puzzle that I'm trying to put together at the moment, but I think I'm on the right track, so I'll keep working on those pieces.

Hiki Waza:  While I didn't specifically work on this last night, it did come up recently.  I think the reason I feel a lag between my tsubazeriai and striking hiki waza is because Haney Sensei pointed out that I might be taking too big a step back before I strike.  This causes me to have to shift my weight from forward in tsubazeriai to back for the strike and fumikomi.  If I keep my feet closer together, that's less distance I have to shift my weight.  Kinda hard to explain in words, but it makes sense in my mind.


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