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A Time To Reflect

Recently I had a short hiatus from Kendo practice.  I had real-world things to take care of (errands, etc) that needed to get done, but during that time I was able to take a step back to reflect on my current standing with Kendo.  One thing I realized is that sometimes I push myself too far.  I try to do too much too often and it wears me out.  Not only physically but mentally, as well, and when I'm in that kind of position it's impossible to practice at full spirit and energy.  I started practicing Kendo, and continue to do so, because I love Kendo.  I love the physical and mental aspects.  I love the people, both at my home dojo and the friends that I've made abroad.  I love the culture and heritage and I love that the more I practice the more those qualities from Kendo that I learn start to reflect in my everyday life.  I need to remember these points and keep them at the forefront of my mind, and I think sometimes a break is good for me, maybe even necessary, so that I can step back, take a breather and collect myself again and return stronger and better.  So we'll see.  I'll continue to work on this aspect and find out what works best for me.

On that thought I returned to practice last night.  Our last one before we leave this weekend for the Kent Taikai.  It felt good to be back in the dojo, kind of like coming home from a vacation, and it was great to see all my friends again.  I felt good during warm-ups and the first few drills, but I did feel a hint of rust in my technique.  Maybe it was in my head.  Most likely it was in my head.  Although on the upside my Men strikes felt good.  They felt fast, powerful, and I felt like I was carrying my upper body straight and not leaning into the strike. 

We worked on Nuki Do a lot last night.  On the timing and movement.  I tried to not just be a static attacker.  What I mean by this is I tried to not just stand there and react to the Motodachi trying to hit.  I tried to actively press in a bit and cause the Motodachi to start his attack.  This is the kind of Kendo I need to be practicing, being active instead of reactive.  Even though we were just doing drills there are still things I can change to help develop this.  As far as my Do strike itself it does feel more accurate the more I use it, and I feel like I can reach the target a lot faster nowadays.  I guess that makes sense with the amount of practice that I do, but Do has never been a big strong point for me so it's not a technique that I devote a lot of time to.  One of these days when I feel like my Men and Kote are at least adequate for the time being I'll dive into the mechanics of Do a little more.

We also worked a bit on Kote-Men, specifically using it to neutralize and counter our partner when they step in for Kote.  Sensei's advice on this technique was to not necessarily strike at our partner's Kote itself, but rather to strike for the tsuba of their shinai so that we disrupt them and knock them out of center, and then bring our shinai up quickly to strike Men.  This can be done as either a forward movement or a backward movement, depending on how fast our partner moves in, but the Kote strike itself we would do in place.  About 90% of the time I was able to strike going forward, but when paired with some of the younger, faster guys I was forced to do a Hiki Men strike and move backwards after neutralizing their Kote strike.  My personal belief is that it's important to be able to do both so that I can use one or the other to match the situation I'm in.

Jigeiko was a lot of fun and we continued our scenarios in which Sensei would give us one minute.  One side had a point and needed to focus on keeping their point, and the other side had to try and get a point themselves before time ran out.  Playing out both sides of this type of jigeiko is great for me since I tend to have a problem holding a point if I have one.  I always think to myself, "I think I can get that last point and finish this match," and a few times it's gotten me in trouble.  But recently I've been a little better at it.  I've had more patience when I'm up a point and have been better about trying to find a good opening to strike instead of moving in and not thinking.  I hope to continue and improve on this.

So, all in all it was a great practice.  I was thoroughly worn out by the end but that's to be expected.  And it was a great way to lead into this weekend where I will do my absolute best at the tournament!

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