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Photo by W. Sinclair

Last night we had a few visitors.  A class of girls from the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute came to visit and see what Kendo is all about, and also to participate with us.  There were just over a dozen girls that came and they mixed in with our group for warm-ups and some kihon drills which consisted of Men, Kote, and Do strikes.  At first we had them strike just our shinai, and then later we put on our full bogu and came back out to let them strike us again.  They were all great, really energetic, and made an awesome effort to do their best, despite never having done Kendo before.  We had a lot of fun and laughs with them during the drills, and I hope it was as good an experience for them as it was for us.

Afterwards the girls all took a seat and we went into the rest of our practice.  we briefly covered a few kihon drills, including Men, Kote, Do, Kote-Men, and Hiki-Men.  I tried to keep a mindset of going faster the entire time.  Mental work and concentration is almost as tiring or even more so than physical work!  But I did my best and I hope that as I continue to train in this mindset I'll see some good improvements.

We got into a few more complicated drills, including Hiki-Men, Kote from tsubazeriai.  Sensei explained that there should be no pause between the Men strike and the Kote.  The Men strike is being used here as a diversion, a way to pull your partner out of the center so they open up for the Kote strike, and the Kote strike should be the main emphasis of the drill.  I think I had the shinai speed there, striking Men and then immediately dropping down to strike Kote, but I don't think my feet were keeping up with me.  It felt like as I struck Kote, my right foot was still in the air and not landing my fumikomi step.  I'll definitely work on this as I develop that technique, trying to make sure everything lands at the same time.

During our waza-geiko session I worked on Kote and Debana Kote.  Sensei pointed out that I'm still bringing both of my hands over to my left side after I strike Debana Kote and turn, and this is not a habit I want to develop.  I concentrated on leaving my left hand in the center and only bringing my right hand up and back to direct the shinai over my shoulder.  Just like anything else I'm working on, when I think about it I can do it just fine, but once I stop thinking about it I forget about it.  For now.  I'll continue to work to make it a habit.

Jigeiko was fun, but I had to step out during the very last rotation because my leg was feeling a bit sore and fatigued.  I'm still dealing with my leg injury, but I am going to be talking with Sensei about some exercises I can do to help get it back up to normal.  It feels ok for most of the practice, as long as I don't strain it too much.  Despite that, though, I was able to get in about seven rounds of jigeiko with the Yudansha.  I've been trying to pick my strikes a bit more.  Stop throwing just anything out there and actually try and make meaningful strikes.  Sensei also talked a bit about sutemi, and fully committing to the attack.  This is something I've touched briefly on before, but he really made it a point tonight.  Don't hesitate, don't doubt, if you go in for an attack see it through to the end, no matter what.  He said that even if you miss, as long as you have the mindset of "Go!" it will help immensely with your overall spirit while attacking.  This is one of my issues, especially again people with more experience.  I tend to hesitate a lot, but I'm slowly trying to get rid of that.  Jigeiko with Ando Sensei helps a lot, because I know that he can destroy me at any minute if he wants, and I usually don't land a single hit on him.  I try, though, and that's what important.

We ended class a bit early to leave some time for pictures with our new friends and to chat with them a bit.  It was a great practice, and made even better by our guests that came to see our Kendo and train with us!

A few thoughts:

Sinclair Sensei:  I need to relax more during kirikaeshi, especially when going faster.  I tense up too much and it makes some of my movements really jerky.  Relax and just let myself go.

Billy:  He noticed that I'm still leaning into my strikes, and says that I seem to be leading with my shoulders and not my hips.  I should try to lead with my hips and my center more.  Also when fighting Jodan, go for what's open, and don't fall into a pattern of strikes.


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