Sunday, September 23, 2012

Efficient Improvement

Lately I've been talking a lot about working on and making improvements, not only in my own conditioning and endurance, but also with techniques such as kaeshi do.  I had a somewhat specific plan of action when I decided to work on kaeshi do, and it's a plan that covers any technique that I want to learn, and it was taught to me by Sinclair Sensei.  Now, granted, I'm sure I took some small shortcuts here and there, but the basic foundation is the same, and it's a way of tearing down each technique and to their core movements and then building them back together to build a strong technique with strong basics.  It really mimics the style of teaching and training that we use, and something that I've been exposed to since day one in the dojo.  It's also been an emphasis in the dojo for the past couple of weeks.  Sensei has been taking time to go over the process with us in detail.  It's something I've heard many times before, but I'm always grateful to go over it again because each time gives me new ideas and new insight, and also strengthens what I already know and practice myself.  I'm excited to put this process to use learning and improving other techniques that I know and use, or even ones that I'm not too familiar with or good at.  I've always been of the mindset that just because I don't use a particular technique that often doesn't mean I should ignore it or not be able to use it effectively when the time comes.  I want to train towards a point where I can be totally clear and focused during practice and just let the movements and the techniques flow out of me as the situations to use them arise, and to be able to do it without necessarily thinking about it.  One of these days...

In addition to our focus on breaking down and building up our techniques, Kuster Sensei has been gracious enough to host a three-part jodan seminar.  Or rather, how to fight against jodan.  We've been going over this for the past two Mondays, with the last part taking place tomorrow, and I have to say that it's been an eye-opener.  I thought I knew quite a bit about how to fight against jodan just from the advice that Billy has given me, but after these first two sessions I've learned so much more that it puts what I did know to shame.  We've gone over everything from the basics of kamae against a jodan player, to how to move in and strike efficiently by using footwork and body carriage and I'm super excited to see what's in store for our last session tomorrow.  I know that next time I face a jodan player in shinsa or taikai I'll definitely be more prepared.

Short post today, for anyone reading, but there's definitely a lot that I was able to take away from all of the teaching that I've had lately, both personally and to the whole dojo, and I am working towards tightening everything up before the next taikai in November.  I might not turn any heads with crazy new waza, but I hope to raise the bar for myself and show some all-around improvement.  If I can do that then I'll be happy no matter what else happens.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


This past week has been pretty good, as far as kendo goes.  I'm finally starting to get all healed up and my foot isn't as fragile as it has been for the past couple weeks.  I am still kinda taking it easy on it but it's nice to be able to somewhat do fumikomi correctly without having pain shoot up through my heel.  Now I just have to get my hips in proper order, which right now they're out of whack due to my sleeping situation recently, but that also got straightened out so it should only be a matter of time for them to start behaving, as well.

What I really need to work on right now, inside and outside of the dojo, is my endurance.  I know that this has always been the one biggest weakness that I have, and so far my willingness to correct it has been sporadic.  I will dive headlong into fixing it for a while (weeks, even months sometimes) but then I let the daily grind get to me.  I get "busy" and I "don't have time" to properly run or work out, and it's perfectly justified to me, even though I know deep down it's just an excuse.  Or I will injure something that will cause me to have to slow down, at which point I kind of fall off the bandwagon again.  This time, though, I want to make a determined effort that won't fade away in a few weeks.  This time I'm serious about improving, more so than I have been before.  I'm writing it all down here to keep myself accountable, so that I can see it every time I look at this page.  I started running again, after a few weeks of not doing so, so I have a good feeling that I'll be able to ramp that up to where I was before fairly quickly.  Also I will be doing more core exercises at home, as well as more hayasuburi.  In practice I will be pushing my limits, as I did yesterday.  During yesterday's training I stepped out once, briefly, to stretch my hips and let them relax for a bit, but I was back in as soon as I felt I was ready.  I want to push myself hard, but I also have to watch out for injuries that I might have or that I'm just getting over so I have to be able to recognize when to keep going and when to step back because I'm not doing my body any good. 

Wednesday I had an interesting experience.  Before class our sensei came and asked if I could lead the advanced class in kaeshi do drills.  This was a big first for me.  First time I've taken control of the advanced class.  I kept things simple, first breaking down the strike the way that I've seen and been taught and I tried to have people focus on making on smooth, quick movement with the shinai from block to strike, and making a very small step.  I built up from there until a few drills later we were doing the full kaeshi do drill, where both sides would hit and go through.  It was pretty fun, and a bit nerve-wracking, to lead the advanced class, but in a lot of ways it was way easier than the beginner or intermediate classes.  The advanced members have all been around long enough that a lot of explanation is not necessary.  I was able to just point out a couple of points that I thought were important and they followed suit.  Still, I enjoyed the experience and look forward to hopefully doing it again in the future.

I've been concentrating a lot on kaeshi do myself, as I've written about recently, but I've also been working on kote.  I seem to do a fine job of using debana kote when the opportunity is present, but when I step in to hit just a straight, simple kote I am not very successful.  I'd like to change this, so I've been working on just stepping in and striking kote.  My main problem seems to be that I don't get in deep enough and I end up hitting the tsuba or the wrist a lot.  Ando Sensei gave me some good advice on this, advice which I will be sure to use the next time I have a chance to practice.

Lately in jigeiko I've had a lot of time and gained a lot of experience fighting against nito.  This is due in part to the return of Jeff, one of our members that had been away from the dojo for a few months due to work.  It is also due in part to Sensei's son, Dan.  He has started using nito in jigeiko, after practicing with it for months and months during our regular drills.  So now we have three consistent nito players at our dojo.  It's interesting to see the similarities in all of their styles, but also the vast differences in the way they all fight, and it keeps me on my toes to try and adapt to all of them while also fighting against two swords.  It's definitely a challenge that I look forward to, though.

So, to wrap things up, I'm hoping that over these next few months, and into the future, I'll be able to make a change and vastly improve my conditioning and my endurance.  Stay tuned to see how I'm doing with it!