It hasn't been that long since I've had training, less than a week, but for some reason last night felt like my first time back in a while. Probably due to the fact that we didn't have training on Saturday downtown, or at all last week in the valley. Instead we had a demonstration for the opening ceremony of Japan Week here in Spokane. I will hopefully have pictures to post later, but for now onto last night's practice!
Sensei had us start out with a few interesting drills. We stood in a big circle after our normal warm-ups, and we would begin a clap. At first he would clap once and then the next person over would clap as fast as they could after him, and so on, until we made it around the circle. The next version involved Sensei clapping twice, in rhythm, and the next person over would begin their first clap on his second clap, and we would keep that rhythm going all the way around the circle. After a few failed attempts and some laughs we finally were able to get through both of these drills relatively successfully. This would serve to help us later with our connection to our partner and our ability to read our partner's intentions and actions.
After warm-ups and suburi, we did another interesting drill. It was a Men strike, just stepping in and striking our partner's shinai as our back foot pulled into place, but we did it a number of different ways. First, we tried to perform a full swing and full speed and stop the shinai as close to the target as possible without actually hitting it. I was only able to get to within a couple inches of the target; when I tried to get closer I ended up smacking my partner's shinai. Next we would perform another full swing at full speed, but our goal was to barely touch their shinai. I failed horribly at this, making a very noticeable clacking sound as I hit the target a bit too hard each time. After that we performed a swing at full speed with normal power, as if we were hitting and going through, and finally a Men strike with way too much power. All very interesting, and it helped showcase the proper use of tenouchi and shinai control (or lack thereof).
After suiting up, Sensei had us go over three different styles of kirikaeshi. We have gone over them before, and performed each one at various times, but our kirikaeshi time was focused on each one separately. The first is to perform kirikaeshi with slow, precise movements and strikes, making sure to pause between each strike. This style emphasizes good technique. The second style is to keep that good technique but move continuously, without pausing. It can still be performed relatively slow, and emphasis is kept on good technique, but there are no pauses between strikes or steps. The third style we performed was to go as fast as possibly, throwing every other thought out of our minds. Seth demonstrated to us, and he was very fast, but his basics held up throughout. Sensei said that if we practice good basics, even when we're not consciously thinking about them, we should be able to fall back on them while focusing on other aspects of our Kendo.
We moved into some Men drills, and the theme of the night was "Think Faster." This is a point that I've mentioned before, and it has worked for me. I have lately been not only trying to physically train, but also to mentally train in a better way, and this falls right in-line with that thought process. I want to have a reason behind what I do, and be able to push myself physically and mentally in every practice. If I can do this, I can improve my Kendo dramatically.
During the rest of the drills that night, I tried to keep a focus in my mind of "strike faster," or "my opponent is fast, but I'm faster." Even if I wasn't physically moving faster in the drills (which I was trying to do), I mentally felt better, more active, and faster. I think the place where I noticed it the most was in my jigeiko match with Jordan. He is a very fast, very strong Shodan at our dojo, and he's very intimidating to fight. With just my change of mentality during our match I felt that I was able to give him a bit better fight, and I was able to show a bit more of what I have and what I've learned and I felt as though I didn't back down as much as I normally do with him.
All in all it was a great night, and I'm glad I was able to make it. I'll be sure to continue working on the physical and mental aspects of training, no matter how hard they are.
A few thoughts:
Ando Sensei: I tend to hesitate sometimes when I'm in jigeiko. He says that I should not hesitate. When I resolve to make an attack I should follow-through, despite the consequences. I felt this at one point during the night. I was doing jigeiko with Wendy, and I stepped in and went to strike Men. I knew that she was going for Kaeshi-Do, but I struck anyway. I was countered, but it was the one moment last night where I can say that I made a resolution to strike and went through with it, despite the consequences. I want to be able to do this more, to throw myself whole-heartedly into my attacks.
Sinclair Sensei: I attended the beginner's class last night, to work on my basics, and Sinclair Sensei noted that my left foot is a bit "over-corrected." I turn my heel a bit too far out, and when I do fumikomi I'm pushing with the outside edge of my foot, instead of having it straight and pushing with my whole foot. I tried to take a moment and find the feeling of pushing off with my entire foot, and I tried to concentrate on that the rest of the night. He said it could be the reason why my leg is sore, so I'll definitely take this to heart and work on correcting it as soon as I can.