We started out with kata, as we have been doing for the past couple of months. I paired up with Andy, my fellow Ikkyu buddy, and we went over Nihon Kata 1-5. We are both testing for Shodan next weekend at the PNKF Shinsa so we were both just getting everything "dialed in." I felt really relaxed during each kata. Usually I am pretty tense in the shoulders but last night I felt like I moved through each kata with ease and without that tension that I usually have. I know a lot of that comes from knowing the proper steps in each kata. I've gone over them a lot so now I'm at a point where I barely even consciously think about the steps themselves, which frees up my mind to focus on the details. The slight variations in movements with each kata. The feeling of pressure and connection between my partner and myself. Breathing. And on and on. I was given some pointers here and there to improve my kata, but for the most part I think I'm good and ready. I do love kata, though, and I'm glad that we implemented a weekly kata practice so that I can continue to improve upon them.
After warm-ups we suited up and jumped into our regular practice, which seemed short but oh-so-sweet. During Kirikaeshi I tried to incorporate what Ando Sensei and Sinclair Sensei told us recently; that is to have a faster downswing. The upswing can be fairly relaxed, though not slow, but the downswing should be quick, relaxed, and explosive (especially the last few inches of the strike). It's not an easy thing to do, but I did my best. I tend to either go all relaxed and "slow" or all tensed up and fast. It's hard to get that good medium and stay relaxed the entire time. But I'm learning, slowly.
Next up we went through some uchikomi drills, focusing on Men, Kote, and Do. I've been working on eliminating the wasted movement in my Men strike, as well as moving from my center and snapping my left foot up afterward fumikomi, and last night it felt like it was all coming together. Not perfectly, but I felt comfortable with my strikes. There's always room for improvement but I was fairly pleased with how I did. Sinclair Sensei noted last week that I've had a noticeable improvement in snapping my left foot up, which is always good to hear. It's something I'll continue to work on because later on I want to be able to do multiple strikes smoothly and quickly, and having the foundation of good footwork and body carriage will help immensely with that.
We did a little waza-geiko, where I focused on Men and Kote-Men, before going into a few rounds of jigeiko to finish out the night. I felt good while practicing with everyone and only had to step out for about a round to stretch my legs and hips a bit. I think the highlight, though, was my final jigeiko round, which was with Ando Sensei. I haven't had a chance to do jigeiko with him since he returned from Japan (about a month ago) so being able to practice with him was great. As always, he beat me up, but I received some valuable experience and advice. He told me after class to keep working on my Men strike because it's coming along nicely and to continue to be confident with it.
On another note last night I really tried to not only keep my spirit high but I also worked on encouraging others. I have a very quiet, introverted personality by nature so I tend to keep to myself a lot. I will talk with people I know but I don't usually branch out outside of that because it's "uncomfortable" to me. But I want to try to break out of that a bit. I want to be able to encourage others to keep on going and to want to improve, so last night I tried to be a little more outgoing during practice. Sinclair Sensei advised me that this not only helps raise my own spirit, but helps others, and can benefit the whole dojo. And anything that can benefit the whole dojo is ok in my book.
Just a couple more practices for me until the shinsa...