Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kendo, Straight Up

 I have a problem.  It's not a huge problem anymore, as I've worked to improve it, but it is a lasting problem that I've had since about the time I started kendo.  I lean.  I'm not talking about the Fat Joe kind; I'm talking about leaning my upper body into my strikes. 

Since I'm a firm believer in proper technique over getting points or strikes, I want to fix this in myself as soon as I can.  I can go back and watch videos of old matches and see just how bad it used to be.  It was terrible!  Especially in my kote strikes.  I can say that it's gotten a lot better and I'm usually able to carry myself fairly properly, but in the heat of a match or jigeiko I still tend to lean in just a bit.  Luckily Monday night this was the focus of our training, and Billy presented some points that I'd never thought about and ways to fix it.  The main idea that came up was that people tend to lean when they try to strike from too far away.  When we come up short from our body movement, we (guilt as charged) break posture and try to lean the upper body forward to get that extra distance.  How do we fix it?  By striking from a distance that is comfortable for us, of course!  The idea was so simple, but one that I hadn't thought about.  I'd fallen into the thought that if I just kept trying it, it would eventually get better.  This was all wrong and I'm glad it was brought to my attention.  I'll definitely be looking at that as I practice from now on, and focusing on it here for the next few weeks to see what other improvements I can make.

Since I started the new year, I've been doing some super secret (or not so super secret) training at lunch.  I mentioned in the last post that I was going to be doing this more, and I've stayed true to my word.  I've been going three times a week for the past three weeks, and I can already see improvements.  My hips no longer feel like they're sore and ready to give out at any moment.  My legs feel stronger and are able to move me into position a lot quicker and solidly, and they don't feel tired as soon.  Also my men strikes are feeling a lot better these days.  This might be due to the extra time I've been putting in, or it might be due to some words of encouragement that Sinclair Sensei gave me.  I'm guessing it's a little of both.  No longer do I feel so hesitant to use it, and even when I get hit I've been trying my best to finish my cut and push through, as though I did land a good strike.  These little changes in my physical ability and mental state are definitely helping me, and I'm hoping that I'm building good habits through the continued practice that I've been putting in.

So, to anyone out there that's struggling with "the lean,"  I would say the simplest, and most effective, advice is to move in a bit and shorten your distance.  I tried it and even for the one class it helped a lot, and I'm confident I'll see some good improvements and changes as I work on it myself.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spokane Kendo 2014 - Refinement In Motion

Ok, I'll be the first to say it.  A month and a half is WAY too long between posts.  One of my first goals for this new year is to be more consistent with writing.  This blog is an excellent tool for myself, and hopefully a source of entertainment and/or inspiration for anyone that has come along to read an article or two.  I've seen far too many blogs fall to the wayside and die out prematurely and I don't want to be one of those.  I still have a whole lifetime of training and experience to gain.

That being said, I've entered into the new year of 2014 and have some great kendo goals in mind.  First and foremost, I want to tighten up everything that I have right now.  I think I can say comfortably that I have pretty good technique for where I'm at.  Maybe it's nothing stellar in the grand scheme of things, or if I was measured up against all of the other nidans in the world, but for how long I've been training (coming up on five years!), my age, my health and fitness (current and former), and everything else I think I'm doing ok.  I love training and pushing myself to the edge, and a little over each time, and I want to continue to do so in this new year.  But I also want to take what I know and elevate it to the next level.  I am at a point where I'm realistically facing moving forward to sandan and when the time comes I want to walk out in the front of the judges and show them that, yes, I am more than ready for that rank.

I just had a conversation with Sinclair Sensei today, and he gave me a lot of good ideas and advice on what to do to make that a reality.  He gave me some health and fitness ideas and goals, and also talked to me about some ways to sharpen my techniques.  Without going into too much detail, I will say that I'll be using our dojo a lot more this year.  It's a block away from my work right now, so I really have no excuse not to go a bit during my lunch break or even after work.  While there I'll be focusing on some footwork drills that were given to me so I can work on my footwork and my endurance, as well as going over some hitting drills with the dummies that we set up last year.  Those dummies and I are going to become best friends, methinks.

During practice, when I have others to work with, I want to work on seme, and what it really means to create openings.  I'll be doing this with a few key pieces of advice that Sinclair Sensei gave me.  Hopefully my dojo mates will be able to see this change in me, even if it's a small and subtle change at first.  One of the things I will share is that I need to work on my hesitation.  It's a big weakness that I have, and I think it comes from a combination of me not being confident in myself and either not creating proper openings or not taking advantage of the ones that are presented to me.  I'll be doing my best to eliminate these issues so that I can strike without fear of consequence, each and every time.  Will I get hit?  Yes, a lot.  I'm expecting that.  But in the same way that a piece of metal can be tempered into a beautiful sword, so shall the ups and downs of practice transform my techniques into finely tuned attacks.

I will strive to achieve these goals in the new year, and bring my kendo up like I know I can.  Winning or losing at taikai doesn't matter.  Getting beat up each and every practice doesn't matter.  If those things happen and I am able to improve my technique through them, then I'll consider it a success.