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A Pinch Of Do, And A Dash Of Shiai

What a night last night was!  We had a great practice, which revolved around Do strikes.  After warm-ups we jumped straight into a few drills that concentrated on small Do strikes, with emphasis on:
  • Cut forward with the shinai after you strike, don't let the shinai strike and bounce back off the target.  It should end up striking and sliding forward and/or a bit downward.
  • The kensen should stay in front of the body at all times during the strike, it shouldn't go back behind the head/body.  
  • The small loop/half-heart shape you make with the shinai when you strike Do should all be on the same side as the strike (i.e. Don't let the shinai cross the center line when you move to strike Do.  Bring the kensen straight up and then loop around to the partner's right side to strike).
  • Don't have a lazy strike, don't let the shinai slow down once you move to strike.  The whole thing should be quick and without wasted time.  Think speed!
  • This one is for me - Make a slightly bigger swing, and strike harder.  My strike starting out was a bit too small.
After grabbing our Men and Kote and after a few rounds of kirikaeshi we went into using Do as oji-waza (counter-attacks).  We started with Nuki Do, and were instructed to try and anticipate when our partner was moving in to strike so that we could effectively move to the side, out of the way of the incoming Men strike, and counter with Do. I love this technique, but I need to be able to anticipate my partner a bit better.  When I can do that I can start learning to control my partner and force them into striking Men so I can counter them.

Kaeshi Do was next, and this is a technique that I still need work on.  Sensei said that we should let our partner do most of the work. Since they are coming straight at us with their attacks there's no reason for us to make a big step forward to try and hit.  Also we should anticipate and try to hit the side of the Do, in the correct spot, but for Kaeshi Do it's ok if we catch the front a little and also if the shinai hits a little deeper than normal.  This isn't acceptable for Kote or Men, but for Do you can do it in certain situations.  I definitely need to work on the deflection part of this technique.  I feel like I start my strike too late, so that by the time I strike Do I've hit them as they are almost past me.  I do think it's better than the last time we worked on this, even if only marginally.

We broke out into Kyu/Yudansha groups at this point for waza-geiko.  I was put in with the Yudansha and concentrated on Kote strikes.  Sensei gave me a bit of advice on waza-geiko.  He said that we should practice techniques there in a practical setting, so I don't necessarily have to go from line-to-line when I strike.  We use a gym that has lines painted on the floor for various things, and in kihon drills a lot of times I'll strike and follow-through from one far line to the other, as will a lot of the team training people.  But in waza-geiko I should try to perform the techniques I'm working on in a more practical way.  I'll remember this for next time.

We finished out the night with shiai-geiko, something we haven't done in a while.  We split up into two courts, and I was able to get in four rounds.  I actually surprised myself and did really well, despite fighting a couple Yudansha and an Ikkyu.  I tried to concentrate on looking for openings and taking advantage of them, and for the most part it worked.  I also tried to focus on zanshin and follow-through after my strikes, like Ando Sensei pointed out last time we did shiai-geiko.  All in all, I won two of my matches 2-0, lost one match 0-2, but then tied my last match 1-1 (tied with the guy I fought that beat me 0-2).

When I think of myself and my own Kendo, I'd honestly say that I'm confident, yet lacking.  Lacking in the sense that sometimes I don't feel up to the level I'm at, if that makes sense.  But every once in a while, like tonight, I get a little boost during practice that says to me, "Yeah, I guess I can hang at the level of my fellow kenshi around me."  I feel like I have a solid foundation with my basics, which is something that many other people have pointed out to me, but my techniques are lacking, overall.  I'm working to improve those techniques, and nights like this give me hope that I'm on the right track with my training.

A few thoughts:

Ando Sensei - I should use my Men strike more in shiai situations.  He says that I have a beautiful Men, and it is very quick.  Even if it doesn't land I should use it and make my opponent afraid of it.  That will help open them up for Kote and/or Do, as well.  Also he says I improved my zanshin a lot since last time, but I should try to not show my back to my opponent for too long.  I should strike, follow-through a little bit, and then turn to face them again while keeping my kiai and that feeling of readiness going.

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