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I received some really good news last week, which pertains to one of my goals for this year.  I have been recommended to test for nidan at the next regional shinsa, which will be in March.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity and I feel that all of the training and instruction I've received from my sensei and my dojo mates has prepared me for it.  It also made me stop and think about where my kendo was, is, and where it's going.  I started kendo in May of 2009 and four years later I'm here, standing on the edge of nidan.  It's been a wild ride, for sure, and I've put in countless hours of practice, both inside and outside of the dojo.  I don't think I've done anything spectacular, though.  Quite the opposite.  I think most of what I have now is from my sensei and his instruction and encouragement, and from the other dojo members pushing me to do my best, even when I didn't know exactly what my best was.  The one thing I will admit to having a lot of is determination.  I'm very good at pushing myself even when I don't necessarily feel like doing kendo or going to class, and (for good and bad) I'm able to keep telling myself "just one more drill, just one more round, just one more..." even at times when I'm physically drained and exhausted.  I believe that part of me, coupled with the great dojo that I'm a part of, is what has brought me to where I am today, and what will take me to even greater heights in the future.

As far as actual practice goes, we've been working a lot on kodachi kata 1, breaking it down to its basic movements while also getting used to handling the kodachi.  It's a very awkward feeling for me, going from my bokuto down to the kodachi.  The way you hold it, the footwork and kamae all feel weird to me right now, but on the other hand I'll have plenty of time to practice and improve!  This bit of time with the kodachi has been the main focus of our practices lately (for the yudansha, at least).  I love learning new things, especially when they're related to kendo.  The rest of practice has been a mix of kirikaeshi, uchikomi, jigeiko, and endurance drills.  One of the main things we've been told to focus on there is making our practice count.  In other words, make our uchikomi drills feel like our hits in jigeiko, or in shiai-geiko.  They should, ultimately be one in the same, which goes along with our motto of "Train like you fight, fight like you train." 

Ever since I got the news that I can test I've been trying to actively step it up at practice.  I don't know why this would have been the catalyst to start me on my way, but something inside me said "Ok Chris, this is starting to get serious," and since then I've been trying to keep that a focus as I'm out on the floor.  What I want is to bring together what I know at this point so that it all works together, and keep building from there.  This goes along with my goals of refinement and beauty that I set for myself at the beginning of this year.  So far I feel like the quality of my practice has improved and I'm not only doing better with the drills and with jigeiko, but I'm also pushing myself to improve, even if it's just a little bit each practice.  It's definitely an exciting feeling.  I still mess up all the time, but the focus is there, and so is the determination.


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