I believe that this was the theme of last night's practice, which Billy led us through. We didn't do too much in terms of variety, but he made sure to let us know the importance of not being a "lazy receiver" and always putting forth our best effort for our partners, and for ourselves. He said that when we are the Motodachi that we shouldn't be lazy about it but that we should have the mindset of "I'm going to shut this person down each and every time in this drill" and then go out and try to do just that. If I am, as Motodachi, instructed to strike Men and the Kakarite is instructed to counter with Hiki Men then it's my duty to try and hit his/her Men every time that we go. Does it always happen? No, I don't always get my hit in. I don't even think that half of the time I get my hit in, but the point is that I'm giving my all to them and making them work on that drill, just as I am working. He illustrated this point by saying that if we are in a real match we should never expect to run into someone that is going to be lazy about hitting. They usually aren't going to throw nice slow hits and move around sluggishly because they are actively trying to hit you and take a point for themselves. This also applies to people that don't do tournaments. We should always give our best so that we can improve our own Kendo and the Kendo of our partners. If we go through each drill, as both attacker and receiver, with a lazy attitude and approach then how are we ever going to improve?
With that said, we focused on Hiki Waza last night. We were instructed to use nice, big swings as well as body movement so that we not only moved out of the way of the strike but we got our Kote up and out of the way as well. If we try to do this with a smaller strike a lot of times a more experienced partner/opponent will easily pick off our Kote. So we had to get our hands all the way up above our heads, as well as using an angled body movement to strike and move backwards (we were working on using it as Hiki Waza). The advantage of using it like this, as explained to us, is that we can equalize the difference between ourselves and a much faster opponent and it gives us that extra fraction of a second to avoid and counter their incoming strike.
Other than those points we went over some mostly basic strikes and drills. I tried to focus on moving from a standstill and eliminating any kind of "tell" that I have before striking. I've been informed that there are a couple of different things I do that show that I'm about to strike so my focus at the moment is eliminating those issues so that I can strike without warning to my partner. It might take a while but I do plan to conquer this issue.
We also started our kata study that we do twice a year. Our dojo has normally taken about 2 months, twice a year, to study and practice kata. Since we acquired our new dojo, though, we've opened up Friday nights for kata, so I've been enjoying that time to refine my kata lately. I worked with Seth on kata four and five (Yonhonme and Gohonme). Yonhonme, especially, has some interesting kamae that we don't usually see in our daily practice, so learning the small details of these has been a good experience for me. I don't think they're too bad right now, but I know that I'll benefit greatly from smoothing out all the little details.
I am really looking forward to this next year of training. We're starting out with a load of new people in the pre-bogu class, so they'll be joining our class and interacting and training with us starting next week. I'm also looking forward to (hopefully) testing for Shodan sometime next year, and continuing to grow and improve through regular practice taikai participation, and teaching the beginning and intermediate classes when given the opportunity. To anyone out there reading this, I wish you a Happy New Year and I hope that you can also continue to grow and improve, in your lives and in your Kendo!