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A Little Bit Of Everything

Seems like a while since I've posted on here, even though it really hasn't been that long.  But there's been quite a bit going on in the world of Spokane Kendo.  First off, we had our annual Spokane Kendo Camp last weekend (yay!).  This year we had about twice as many people come out for the weekend, or just for training, and even a few people from the Seattle, WA and Moscow, ID areas.  Good times were had by all and our game of War this year turned into a 3-round battle of battles.  Unfortunately I was only able to make it out for Saturday but I spent the whole day with my Kendo family and had a wonderful time.  Also in Spokane news, on a sad note, our Valley dojo is closing.  Word is that it may resume in the future, but for now the doors will be closed indefinitely.  We had a good run, and learned a lot, but unfortunately life happens and it doesn't always happen the way we want it to, so we're forced to do the best we can with what we have.  It sounds like most of the Valley members will start attending regular practice at our main dojo, though, so we might have gained a few more promising kenshi.

Last night was quite the variety show of drills.  We didn't focus on any one thing for too long; instead Wendy took us through many different waza, including different techniques for striking Men and Kote, and Suriage, Harai, Nuki and Kaeshi Waza.  My night started earlier, though, as I took over the intermediate class and led them through a pretty basic practice, but one with LOTS of hitting.  hitting, hitting, hitting, and refining what they already knew was my focus last night, and I think overall they did pretty well.  I had two students there, so it was easy to focus on each of them and their strengths and weaknesses.  I definitely appreciate the opportunity to teach, as it forces me to really think about what I understand about basics and techniques and the various details that Sensei has taught me through the years.  It's a good reflection of where I'm at as a student when I am put in a position of teaching others what I know and what they need to learn at that time.

Our practice began with warm-ups and Kirikaeshi, and then moved into various Men strikes.  First just straight Men, where I worked on small Men strikes and not only eliminating my wasted movement but also trying to push forward after the cut.  Next up we worked with smother our partner's shinai before striking Men, and then Harai Men.  My Harai movement feels a lot better now, and I try to concentrate on using my wrists and making a small motion but a lot of power as I knock my partner's shinai out of the way.  And also trying to do this all in one step, although sometimes I opt for two steps, like Ando Sensei has taught us, just to get a feel for it and give myself options for striking.

Next up we worked on Suriage Kote, and bringing our shinai down under our partner's shinai and then sweeping their shinai up and to the side to expose their Kote.  We accomplish this by moving our shinai from our partner's right hip up toward their left shoulder.  I was taking this one fairly slow, trying to find the timing and movement that worked for me.  I felt like I didn't have enough movement from my partner, but I guess when I think about it I don't need a drastic change in movement to take the center and create an opportunity.  I'll definitely keep working on this technique as I would love to be able to use it more effectively.

We jumped into some Oji-Waza drills next, going over Nuki Men, Nuki Do and Kaeshi Do.  I did ok with Nuki Men, since I've hammered away on it since last year (right after PNKF when I kept missing Nuki Men because it was too slow).  Nuki Do felt good, but I really had to read and anticipate my partner's movements or else I ended up getting nailed the head over and over.  Doesn't sound like much but it was a tough task because I was dead tired by that point.  Kaeshi Do....yeah.  Let's just say I need more work with it.  I could get the block and movement to strike Do in one motion, but the timing was way off and my Do strike was always way too close.  At least that's how it felt to me.  Oh well, that's what practice is for, right?

After a short break we went into jigeiko to end the night, and I ended up facing a host of people, most of them the Yudansha.  I was exhausted, but I did my best and hung in there until the last couple of drills when I had to call it quits for my own good.  But I think I hung in with the juniors pretty well.  Either that or they were letting me get some hits in there.  Either way I did my best.  Lately I've noticed I've really been playing with distance.  Not only my own but my distance in relation to others.  I can sometime gauge it correctly and take just the slightest step back to make them miss, but this isn't enough.  I need to be able to spring forward afterward with my own attack.  I do this sometimes, but not nearly enough.  I eventually want to be at a point where I have very little wasted movement or opportunities to strike.  So each block is followed up with a counter, each miss by my partner is followed up with my own attack.  It's going to be a grueling task, one that will span many MANY years, but I'm up for it.

A few thoughts:

Ando Sensei - He noticed that my left hand is too weak sometimes during Men strikes, and it causes my shinai and hands to fly up too far after striking.  He advised me to have more strength in that left hand when I strike, and to strike down to right between his eyes.  I will practice this more in the future.

Billy - I am still striking with too much vertical movement when I hit Kote on Billy (who does Jodan).  He has advised me to hit on a more diagonal axis, almost as if I were to bring the shinai tip back over my shoulder.  Even though it's a small strike I should have this image in my head and my shinai tip should follow that path.  Because I'm not doing this very well I end up hitting tsuba or fist, not the actual Kote.


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