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The Four Mental Sicknesses - Hesitation

In my ever-changing and growing kendo life, I come across various ideas and theories and techniques that are all over the spectrum of understanding for me.  A lot of things seem relatively easy to grasp on the surface, only to reveal their complexity later on down the road.  Some things completely pass me by the first time I hear them, and then, as I grow and mature and revisit those ideas, they suddenly begin to open up and share their knowledge with me.  The idea of shikai - the four mental sicknesses - was one of those ideas that was way over my head the first time I heard about it, but recently I've had a chance to take another look at it and I'm beginning to understand what it has to teach me.

Shikai, as the meaning implies, are detrimental to our kendo and can hold us back from performing to the best of our abilities.  The sicknesses are kyo-ku-gi-waku, or astonishment (surprise), fear, doubt, and hesitation.  Each one of these I've experienced in varying degrees throughout my training, whether it was at the dojo during jigeiko or in the middle of a taikai match.  I'm definitely no expert in all of their meanings or ways that they can hinder us, but it's good to know I'm starting down the path of understanding.

Kuster Sensei led practice last Saturday, while our juniors were away at Jr. Nationals, and we concentrated on one of the four sicknesses - hesitation.  I won't try to transcribe everything that was taught that day, because I would fail horribly, but I do know what I took away from it and what I'm working on.  One of the things that I realized, or rather, that came to the front of my mind during that training session, was that I hesitate a lot.  I second guess myself a lot, which leads to holding back and "false starts"  where I will begin an attack and then just stop in the middle of it.  It's a very bad habit of mine and one of my biggest weaknesses, and now that I'm aware of it I can work to overcome it.  That day we worked a lot on making sure that we had our feet set in a proper stance, we had our weight distributed properly, and that we had a proper kamae.  Not only with our swords but also mentally.  We worked on our drills by striking on the whistle, but were instructed that if we started to go prematurely that we should strike without stopping.  It was VERY hard to get myself to stop and wait, or to just go if I started early, but after a while I was able to kind of calm myself down, for lack of a better term, and it helped to greatly minimize the number of false starts that I had.

This is something that I will be working hard to eliminate in my own kendo.  to not second guess myself when I start a technique, and to blast through when I do start a technique.  As Kuster Sensei told us, we shouldn't be concerned with being countered or blocked, our only concern should be getting to the target so fast that our partner/opponent has no chance to do anything.  I know it's going to be a long road to fully clean this up and overcome it, so I'm not expecting anything drastic anytime soon, but even after that lesson last week I've noticed less hesitation during jigeiko all this week.  I've been making a lot of small changes and improvements like this for a while now, and I'm hoping all the small things can add up to big improvements and cleaner, more precise, and beautiful kendo down the road.

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