Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Red Line

This week of training has had its ups and downs.  Monday I got to the dojo and felt ok, albeit a little tired.  Once training started, though, I realized that my legs were sore.  Super sore.  It made for a very tough practice, as we worked on footwork quite a bit at the beginning before going into the rest of our class.  Since we only had six people, myself included, practicing that night we had a little different format and took things a bit slower.  It definitely helped me make it all the way through, but even then at the end of class I felt like my legs were going to fall off.  I can't imagine how I would have fared if we had done a more intense practice.  During jigeiko I really focused on not backing up and not crumbling when facing my partners.  I tried to keep an "always forward" attitude and feel to my technique that night.

Last night we didn't have an extremely large class.  I think there were ten of us altogether, but seven of us were yudansha so we kicked it up a notch for training.  We all warmed up and did suburi and kirikaeshi together and then we broke into smaller groups for uchikomi practice.  We've done this a few times lately and it gives me a different perspective on the drills.  Instead of being part of a big, rotating line of people, I'm able to do my practice and then step back more frequently to watch the rest of my group go through their strikes and techniques before jumping back in for my turn.  I appreciate the new information or outlook that I get by doing these kinds of practices, and it's really good to be able to see my dojo mates and how they move and strike.  How does Seth strike kote so well?  How is Billy so fast with that men strike?  What small tells do they have, or don't have, when they are moving to strike?  There's a lot of benefit to watching and learning through watching, and I've heard before that this is called mitori-geiko.  We worked on a lot of oji-waza last night.  My strongest ones were debana kote and nuki men, which I do use quite often in jigeiko and in matches.  My kaeshi dou still leaves much to be desired.  I think it's gotten progressively worse, actually, since I hardly ever use it.  I can definitely use it and it's effective, to a point, but the setup and timing are lost on me sometimes when faced with faster partners and opponents.  It's definitely something I'll have to work on more if I want to make it a viable technique to use.

Sinclair Sensei brought up a good point on Monday, and it's one that Wendy reinforced with us last night.  He said to think of a canvas.  A blank canvas, ready for you to create a masterpiece.  Every day you see the canvas and draw a red line on it.  At first the line is faint, light, but it's there.  Each day you add another layer of paint on the line, and the color becomes deeper, richer, and more pronounced.  This is what happens when we show up and push ourselves at practice.  Each time we come and work on improving ourselves we are making that line darker and richer.  But when we show up and just go through the motions, or we don't show up at all, we can actually end up taking layers off of that paint, so that it starts to become lighter and faded again. What this means to me is that each day I show up I should work to improve myself.  If I can't improve myself physically, because of an injury of some issue I'm having that day, I should work on improving my spirit, or my form, or any other number of things that don't require much physical effort, or that will isolate those parts that I can't quite work on at the moment.  There's always a way to improve and to push myself, and I should be hungry to make that line as deep and dark and rich with color as I can.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Return To Form

Ok, I will be the first to admit that I've been slacking on my posting.  Two months is WAY too long to go without a post of some sort.  I will be working on carving out my time better to keep up on this.  This blog is an invaluable tool to myself, and being that's publicly available for anyone in the world I have a feeling that it's at least entertaining others out there that like to read about my kendo happenings.

For the past few months I've been plagued with physical issues.  Some of them were oldies that just won't go away (my hip pain) but some of them were new.  I had quite a sore muscle in my right leg that held on for about a month and caused me to have to slow down and miss some practices.  Sinclair Sensei was kind enough to offer some help and gave me some stretches and exercises to do, which seemed to do the trick.  For about a week now I haven't had any pain in that muscle, and I pray that it doesn't return.  I'm finding that even though I consider myself fairly young, at 31, I am already beginning the fight against my own body.  My mind wants to go and go and go, and I have to find ways to get my body to agree to go and go without running it into the ground.  Throughout all of it, though, I've tried to keep my spirit up so that I am at least giving 100% of that to every partner that I train with.  Also, slowing down has taught me quite a bit about other areas of my kendo that were lacking before.  I love being able to cut loose and just fly around the dojo when I'm at practice, but I also equally appreciate the times where I choose to (or am forced to) slow down and take it easy.  It's at these times where speed and physical movements are almost thrown out the windows, and instead I have to focus on areas such as seme, creating/exploiting openings, timing, distance, and reading my opponents, among other things.  I have a chance to work more on the "mental" side of kendo as the physical side takes a backseat to heal up.

Since I've been feeling better this past week, I've been working on melding the physical and the mental side of my training.  I'm back to flying around the dojo (as best I can), but I'm starting to combine that with the skills that I had been working on prior.  Last night, in particular, I felt like it was all clicking together very nicely. I was able to move about freely, but also felt that I was reading my opponents and creating openings better, or just pressuring them in a better way than I used to.  I also felt like I was attacking with more commitment than before.  Even when I was getting blocked or countered I felt like most of my attacks were true, and that I didn't hesitate in using them.

Our annual PNKF Taikai is just around the corner and I'm going to be doing my best to sharpen up what I already know.  I'm at the point where trying to add new tricks to my bag is futile and will only be detrimental to my performance at the taikai, but I can definitely work on the things that I already know and make sure that they are the absolute best that I can make them, for myself and for my teammates.