After our kata practice I led warm-ups, and I did so with that mentality. The mentality that said, "Time to step it up, Chris." I felt more assertive, like there was a little more authority in my voice. These were MY warm-ups, and I was going to lead them with confidence. Big thinking for a such a somewhat small task, but I believe in giving my all in whatever aspect of Kendo I'm currently doing.
Afterward we jumped into Kirikaeshi for a bit. I've always thought about my breathing and rhythm during this drill, but again I need to step it up. I'm pretty good at doing the whole drill on five breaths. Now I need to dig down and work on doing it in three breaths.
We did a couple of different Men strikes. One the basic strike, in which I focused on pressuring forward towards Tsuki and then raising up at the last moment for Men. I've also been working on making the Men strike smaller, with less wasted movement. We did a variation in which we stepped into position and then did fumikomi Men. I did this with a (medium) swing, and honestly it felt better than it has before. Usually when I do a medium swing while doing fumikomi at the same time it feels funny, but it felt more comfortable today than I remember. Maybe I'm getting better?
We moved into Kote and Debana Kote. Lately Sensei has been having us hit Kote and then "close the distance," instead of hitting and passing by. This feels more advanced and more aggressive, and I try to remember to strike and then keep my left hand in place and use the right hand to bring the shinai back over my shoulder. Sensei also pointed out that I need to snap the shinai tip up after I strike, just like I snap it down when I strike. I'm hitting and not bringing it back far enough, or with enough speed, so I'll remember this and be sure to work on it. With my Debana Kote I should have this feeling as well, except that after I strike (going forward) I turn to the side and continue my kiai and zanshin. Also Billy pointed out that my Kote strike against Jodan needs to be at an angle, like Sayu-Men. Right now I'm striking down and that just causes my shinai to slide off of his Kote. So much to work on...
Hiki waza was next, either Men or Kote, and both sides were looking for an opening. My goodness... My hiki waza definitely needs work, and I'm going to talk to Sensei again to see if he has some good advice for me to improve this aspect. I'm very much a "go forward" type of kenshi, but I take it a bit too far because my hiki waza is pretty weak. I definitely want to continue the forward mindset, but I also want to have effective hiki waza when the need arises.
We split into groups at this point, with me being thrown in with the Yudansha, and did a few Ai-Men drills before finishing out the night with jigeiko. I was told that I tend to crouch down before I spring forward, so I should work on getting rid of this habit. I know I have noticed it when I see videos of myself, so I need to work on exploding forward from a good kamae position, instead of crouching into it and then springing forward.
Jigeiko was good but I did have to step out before the end so that I didn't overdo myself again. Monday night I pushed hard, a little too hard, and ended up in a very weakened and immobile state by the end of the night. But tonight I pushed up to my edge, maybe a little further when I had my last jigeiko with Seth, and then said "Yeah, that's enough for tonight," before stepping out. It was a great night of training, everyone gave it their all despite the heat, and I think we all accomplished a lot. And hopefully if all goes well we'll return on Monday with some new ranks and a lot of energy to go out and improve even more!