Last night marked the return of our members that competed at the AUSKF National Championships, which are held every three years. This year we had five guys from Spokane that went and competed. Results can be found here, butt they definitely don't tell the whole story. I heard that our guys, and PNKF as a whole, fought with a lot of energy and courage, and definitely turned some heads and made people take notice. I'm proud to be a part of such a strong area and I plan on doing everything I can to make it to the next championship tournament, in 2014.
The energy was high in the dojo, and I think everyone could tell. The team guys were on fire and were getting everyone else pumped up during practice, and I really felt the Kendo bar raise last night. After warm-ups we worked a bit on Kote, specifically on striking on different "planes." Instead of striking Kote by coming straight up and down and moving our bodies into position, we worked on stepping straight forward and striking on a diagonal plane. Sensei warned us to be careful with practicing this technique as most of us aren't used to moving our wrists like that, so he advised us to start out slow so that we get the correct movement and muscle memory going and then after a while (when we're used to it and our wrists are used to it) striking with the speed and snap needed for a good strike. After just a few drills with it I can tell that I'm going to like it...
We moved on into full bogu and set out with Kirikaeshi and then Men strikes. On my Men drills I practiced coming up only high enough so that I could get a good down/forward motion and snap to the hit and then pushing forward with the cut. Next up was Kote, and we practiced striking on that diagonal plane we had done earlier and then closing the distance (not following all the way past). I did an ok job with it after I stopped hit all of my partner's tsuba, but with Billy I wasn't able to close the distance fast enough and he would end up doing Hiki Men on me to show me that I need to be faster.
Sensei had us do a few Do drills next, which was a welcome change. I haven't done much with Do lately, and I've been trying to get the wrist movement down so I can really strike with speed after bringing my shinai around. I've also been striking to strike going forward, with the shinai in front of me before stepping to the side. Hard to explain in words, but it's coming along.
Our practice was a bit short tonight, as we finished out the night with some extended jigeiko. I had a chance to fight a couple of the team guys, as well as some other Yudansh and Mudansha, since we kept the group mixed. I had a great time fighting both Seth and Dan (both of whom fought at nationals last weekend). Even though they beat me up pretty well I felt like I was able to somewhat keep up with them, as well as pick out and strike at openings easier than I ever have. I carried this into my other matches and really felt like I was able to see those openings better. Ever since I got back from the shinsa I have felt different. Better. I feel like I improved a bit over that weekend and instead of relaxing in my new rank I'm pushing even harder to get ready for the next rank, as well as to get myself ready and into a position where I can put up a good fight for the PNKF team in a few years.
I had some very encouraging words from Sensei and Billy after class, and I feel so good, so inspired, with my Kendo at this point in time. I feel like I'm on the right track, and the possibilities for the future are wide open for me to improve.