Hey hey! It's been a while. A bit too long for my tastes, but I've had many personal things going on, as I have had this whole year. First things first - I have a new son! He was born about four weeks ago and he's been a little bundle of joy, wrapped up in some typical baby antics. But he's finally here and it's a joy to have him be part of this world and my life. So while I've still been able to practice pretty regularly, most of my free time has been devoted to him and not to doing things like writing regular blog posts. But I hope that anyone out there (hello?) that is still reading this can understand.
With that being said, there's something that really struck me last night, as I sat talking with one of my friends and kendo teachers. That being the importance of being a good motodachi. It's always been one of my goals to be the best at kendo that I can personally be, and that includes all aspects of it. One of the roles that we all play, quite frequently, is being a receiver (motodachi) during drills. Being a good motodachi, in my opinion, benefits everyone involved. It has obvious benefits for your partner, because then they are able to practice to the best of their abilities and get the most out of their time with you. I think everyone has experienced the...difficulties of working with a motodachi that just isn't giving their all that night. I will be the first to raise my hand and say that I've been guilty of being lazy, tired, not into it, etc, and that reflects badly on me and takes away from my partner's training. It also has an effect on the group as a whole. If you are a good receiver, you give that spirit and that feeling to your partner, and they take that on to their next partner, thus spreading the spirit and intensity about the room. When everyone is doing this, it brings the feeling in the room to an almost palpable level. I love those practices so much! We could be practicing anything that night, but when the spirit is that high everything is intense and exciting and everyone feeds off each other and adds to the excitement.
One thing that may not be readily apparent is how much benefit one gets for themselves when being a good motodachi. I believe that it is equal to, if not more, benefit to be a good motodachi than to be a good kakarite. As motodachi, you have a chance to really study your partner and find out how they move and react, depending on the drill being done. You can find the nuances in their techniques; figure out what they do right before they launch an attack; find out what they do when they feint versus what they do when they make an actual attack. There's a lot to be gained there alone, but in other drills (oji waza drills, etc) where motodachi is instructed to make an attack during the drill, that is even more opportunity for motodachi to really work on making heartfelt attacks. If I go out and just throw a men strike at someone during a drill, there's nothing behind it. But if I take that drill and turn it into an opportunity for me to blast my partner's men, despite them trying to keep me from doing so, well that's a challenge. And when I have that focus and I'm able to get my men strike in even though they tried to counter my efforts, that's a small victory that I'll take and use again and again. So again, being a good motodachi, in my opinion, has some very obvious benefits, as well as a lot of benefits that we might not think about at first. This is the reason that I try and be the best motodachi that I can, and I put everything that I have into it.
Now, with all that being said, there is a time and a place for going all out as motodachi, or holding back. That's something that has to be determined during each drill that you do, based on the instruction given, and/or figured out with each partner that you have. I'm obviously not going to go flying in at a kyu that's new in bogu the same way that I would one of my peers or seniors in the dojo. Also if one of my peers was actively wanting to work on a specific technique, I would probably tone it down for them, depending on what stage of development they are at with that waza. But when we're instructed to go all out, either by our sensei or by my partner, I will do my best to give them a good challenge by being the best motodachi I can be.