Oh how I love new ideas. Or going over old ideas again in a new light. Or applying those ideas to techniques that I already know to give them a bit of a different focus. Know what I mean? Last night was all about spirit. Spirit in our kiai. Spirit in our strikes. Spirit in our follow-through and zanshin. Billy led the group and wanted us to focus on this sometimes overlooked but VERY important part of Kendo training.
After warm-ups and Kirikaeshi we jumped into Men strikes, which we focused on for most of the night. Not only just the basic strikes (Hit and go through, repeat), but also on Ai-Men and on Debana Men. Billy brought up a couple of terms that he says are often used when talking about someone's technique (please excuse me if these are misspelled). The terms were Umae and Tsuyo. Umae, as I understood it, was used to refer to someone with a lot of technical prowess; someone who knows lot of different techniques and is very skilled with them. Tsuyo, on the other hand, is someone who is strong; they might not have a dictionary full of techniques, but what they know they use effectively. If they strike Men and continue forward they will go through you if you don't move. He pointed out that both of these types have their advantages, but what happens if two people come up against each other and are evenly matched? If they can go a whole match and neither can get the upper hand because the both know the same techniques and can execute them with equal effectiveness? How does one person triumph then?
The answer was with their spirit. With that little extra "something." That was the focus on all of our drills. To put that extra into our setup, into our strikes, into our follow-through, and into our zanshin. He wanted us to feel as if we were in the final team match of a big tournament and this was the final point and we had to bring home the victory for our team. Would we approach this situation timidly, or would we step up and overwhelm our partner with not only our technique but our spirit, as well? I chose to try and put more into everything I did that night, and I hope that it showed.
After some jigeiko practice, we broke the floor into two courts and had shiai-geiko (practice tournament-style matches). We did this on Monday, as well, and I have to say that I haven't done too bad at all. Monday I faced off against a host of the Yudansha. I lost a few matches, but I won a few, as well, and pulled off a couple of techniques that I have been working on that made my night that night. Last night I also fought a few of the Yudansha, as well as some of the Mudansha, and did fairly well with all of them. I think my favorite match of the night was with Ando Sensei. He beat me, which wasn't a surprise, but I was able to get a good Men strike on him to score my own point. I tried to remember what he said to me on Monday about not letting my attack die after I struck the target, so when I went in for that Men strike against him I struck and pushed through and kept my spirit high. This is how I should strike each and every time, I think.
It's been a fun week, and I'm looking forward to these next couple of weeks leading up to the PNKF Taikai. I'll continue to do my best and work my hardest to refine and improve what I have right now.