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Best of The Best

Photo courtesy of J. O'Donnell
Sinclair Sensei and Wendy have been out of town all week for the women's seminar being held all this week in Seattle, WA, so we've been left in charge at the dojo.  My buddy Aaron and I have been running the intermediate classes and Kuster Sensei has been taking our advanced class.  The intermediates have been doing an awesome job and we've been laying out some refinements with distancing, footwork and sword work/final sword positions.  I explained to them last night that when they think about and focus on certain parts they do really well with those parts and that we're going to be combining everything together so that they feet and swords and hands and everything start working simultaneously.  There's a lot of promise there, and if they keep improving like they are right now they'll be joining our advanced class in no time!

Kuster Sensei brought up a good point last night, and one that I tried to hang onto throughout the remainder of class.  He told us to imagine the best strike we'd ever done (his example called for us to think about the best kote strike we'd ever made).  Once we had a good visual in our heads, and the memory of how that felt, he asked why we wouldn't try to strike like that every time we are at practice.  We have many MANY opportunities to make a strike like that and to try and do even better, so why would we not make the best of them?  Each time we strike is a unique, individual opportunity and one that we'll only have once in our lifetimes, so we should strive to always make it the best strike we can.  I kept this on my mind the rest of practice and worked to try and make everything the best I could.  Another, similar idea that I've heard and I teach myself is that when we do drills we should think about each and every strike individually, not just as a group of strikes for that particular drill.  Instead of doing five men strikes we should do one men strike, five times over.  There's definitely a big difference.  The former is just a set of strikes within the drill, not indistinguishable from each other.  The latter gives each strike personality and character and makes you think about each one from setup to strike to finish.

We've also been working on carrying our kiai through each strike and even through our turn and back in kamae.  We've been doing the "awkwardly long" kiai drill where we basically hit and kiai until we can't anymore, even after we've turned and are ready to go again.  It's tough and I never realized how much I let my kiai drop off and stop until I had to keep it going for so long.  Also I've found out just how lazy my lung capacity and/or breath control really is.  Sinclair Sensei has given me some exercises to help with this but I've been slow at picking them up on working with them.

Even though we didn't work on anything crazy as far as physical technique, the mindset that was introduced to us yesterday and on Monday helped put a different spin on things.  I'd always heard to try and do my best on each strike during practice and while doing drills, but the "best strike ever" image really helped drive that home for me.  I'll continue working on it and trying to push past all of my mental and physical blocks to hit the best kote/men/do I can, over and over again.

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