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Small Class, Big Spirit

Wednesday night an odd thing happened.  Due to various circumstances (injuries, plans, etc) I found myself as the only yudansha at training, among a class of about 10 people.  Wendy Sinclair Sensei was there, but she was busy teaching class and making sure we were all doing what we were supposed to so she didn't have an opportunity to jump in with us.  Even though we didn't have that many people, we more than made up for it with the amount of spirit and energy we had.  I felt a duty to lead by example, and so with each and every person I gave 100%, even while nursing a couple of injuries of my own.  That didn't slow me down or stop me, although at one point at the end of class it did make me do fumikomi in place when I would strike.

We took a bit of time during class to work on how to properly perform taiatari.  "Taiatari" translates to "body crash" and is a technique that is usually performed after a strike.  The two kenshi will literally crash into each other, usually in the hopes of unsettling the other person to create an opening for a follow-up attack.  Wendy emphasized using the whole body to crash, not just the arms, and I tried to reinforce this with each of my partners.  I always imagine bringing my hands and arms down to my center and curving them to create a circle between my arms and my body, and using this "circle" as a kind of spring or shock absorber depending on if I'm performing or receiving taiatari.  Also, I try to imagine all the energy from my center moving through that circle and into my hands when I crash into someone.  A lot of imagination going on!

The class size really made me think, and I realized that we don't need a huge class to have a successful practice.  Even though we were short on numbers, the spirit and intensity of everyone and the hunger to improve really made the difference.  I would definitely prefer a small class of really dedicated and energetic people than a whole room full of people that were just going through the motions, if given the choice.

Lately I've been working a lot on seme and pressure, and trying to have a purpose to my attacks.  I don't like blindly throwing attacks at my opponents and hoping that something lands.  Instead I want to create openings, or take advantage of an opening that is presented.  I had a good talk with my sensei about this today, actually, and will be putting some of his advice and suggestions to use for me over the next couple of weeks.  The lack of mobility, due to some injuries, has also helped me focus on this aspect of my kendo.  When I can't move myself effectively I'm left to the mercy of their movements in some cases, but that doesn't mean that I can't still control the engagement with pressure and timing.  I'll continue to work on this and incorporate it more and more into my practices.

I'm looking forward to more practices like Wednesday night, and I hope that the others that were present felt the intensity and will use that for their own gain in the future!

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