I was a little divided on what I should write, because I have a few ideas going through my head. A lot has been going on lately, much of which has involved me running the main class. It's been fun, exciting, and kinda challenging on my part, but I think I did well. I definitely talk a lot. What little knowledge of kendo and techniques that I possess, I try to pass on when I teach. It's not much, but I do my best and I think all of the people that were in on my classes had fun and I hope they learned a bit in the process.
Recently, I have been focusing a lot on my "secret lunch training." These are times when I go to the dojo, during my lunch break from work, and work on things by myself. I do fully understand that kendo requires tutelage in a dojo setting, but I also believe that time spent practicing on your own is very valuable. Since my home dynamics have changed and my time in the dojo has been cut down a little bit, I'm finding other ways to try and compensate for that, and that involves taking advice from my sensei and my senpai and putting it to good use, and practice, during my lunch breaks. I mainly focus on footwork, with suburi thrown in at the end. It's my goal to improve my footwork and my joint and body health through this, as well as refine what I already know.
I've found that practicing by myself is very relaxing, and can be very rewarding. I'm free of any distractions that come, and I'm able to go at my own pace and work on whatever I would like, although I've been keeping it in the realm of movements and techniques that blend together, and things that we work on during regular training times. We have a few dummies, as well, and they provide a nice target for men and do (unfortunately no kote yet, as they don't have forearms). In particular, with them I've been working on pressuring in and hitting men. Small men, big men, anything, as well as doing some basic strikes to try and work the proper muscles a bit more.
One of the big things that I ran across lately, almost by accident, was that my grip was too tight. I don't know if it was because I was focusing on my footwork and body posture at the time, but a couple of weeks ago I looked down at my hands and noticed that they were holding a very tight grip on the shinai, which was causing my arms and shoulders to tense up. I played around with the idea of "no sword," in which I put the shinai down and went through all of the motions of striking without it. I then picked my shinai back up, made sure I was nice and relaxed and had a nice relaxed grip, and then tried to mimic the feeling of striking that I had without the shinai. I found that when I would strike with that relaxed feeling, as if the shinai weren't there, and then used proper tenouchi at the end, my strikes were more crisp and had a better feel to them than I was doing previously. Go figure, proper tenouchi helps!
I'm definitely a proponent of at-home training, and training on your own. As long as it's done in a way that is best for you. I would never tell a beginner to go home and practice for thirty minutes, but instead to focus on one piece of class that we went over that day and maybe try it out for five minutes or so, in a slow and controlled manner. At-home training can consist of whatever is good and proper for the level of experience that you are currently at. For me, it means heading to the dojo and refining what I already know and what I've been taught and advised to do, and it's definitely beginning to show improvement in my overall kendo. I can move better, I believe I have a better posture, and I'm more confident with my techniques. I hope to open the door to even more improvement as time goes on.