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Recently our dojo has been focusing a lot on shiai-geiko (practice matches), mainly to get the juniors ready for the AUSKF Junior Nationals taking place this weekend in Seattle, WA.  This isn't something that we usually focus on, so the change of pace at practice has been both interesting and welcome.  While treating these matches as "real" matches, I've also tried to focus on a few things throughout.

First off, I tried to make a connection with each of my partners.  Mirroring their movements and keeping that connection through the beginning and end of each match.  I believe this is to be an integral part of kendo and one that I constantly strive to improve.  If I'm able to make and keep that connection then I tend to notice when they lose focus and am in a position to take advantage of that opening.  This is still being developed in me, and I look forward to improving on it in the future.

Each time a match started I would rise from sonkyo, step forward, and immediately kiai with full spirit.  This not only set the pace for the match, but seems that a few times it helped set the pace for others.  It also showed that I was there for business, and not to be taken lightly.  Something that I do, personally, is try to imagine projecting my spirit and energy at my opponent as I kiai.  it might sound silly, but it works for me.

I also tried to be as aggressive as possible, and not let up on my opponents.  This is something that I'm always working to improve, just like keeping a connection, but a valuable skill that has served me well through the years.  In one of my earliest matches I was beat by an opponent that was more or less on the same level as me as far as technique goes, but he was way more aggressive and it was that skill that led him to victory and led me to develop that in myself.  What I mean by this is I tried to not block without a counter, and I was constantly pressuring in and looking for an opening, both physically and mentally.  When someone backed up, I would follow and attack.  When I backed up I tried to find an opening for hiki waza as I did.  Things like that.

Lastly I tried to perform the best kendo and techniques that I could.  I felt that I kept my posture straighter than I ever have before, and I was snapping my left foot up more consistently, instead of letting it fly up behind me.  A few times I felt it happen, but for the most part it felt like my left foot and leg snapped into place fairly quickly.  I also worked on not leaning into my strikes, and instead trying to move from my center.  Again this is something that I've been working on for a while, and will continue to work on all through my kendo life, but it's good to feel change and improvement after so much practice on it.

So, not a lot to comment on over the past few weeks, but it's these little changes and improvements that really help me along.  It seems, for me, that climbing the kendo mountain is a series of small steps that build up over time, instead of huge steps with major, immediate improvements.  I don't think I'd have it any other way, though!


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