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Welcome Back!

I've said it before, but I'd like to say it again - I'm extremely happy to see Ando Sensei back at our dojo!  We got the news that he would be returning to our city for work, but we weren't sure if he'd have the time to come and train with us.  Turns out he does, and he seems to be back in full force!  We were lucky to have him not only for all of our regular practices last week, but also for our Friday night team training (name pending!).  He brought so much to our dojo last time he was here, just over two years ago, and it will be good to have his experience and leadership again. 

These last few weeks for me have been about tightening everything up.  Getting out the screwdriver and making sure all of the nuts and bolts are secured properly, so to speak.  I've been putting a lot of feeling, for lack of better word, into my kata lately, treating each go at it with my partners as if we were at the shinsa and had a panel of judges and spectators watching us.  This has forced me to try and be picture perfect with my moves, or as perfect as I can be at this stage.  Perfection, to me, is relative, and I believe there are multiple levels of perfection you can achieve, in whatever it is that you do.  But that's a subject that could fill a whole other blog, multiple times over.  Being so focused has also brought out some things that I really need to fix, and things that I can definitely continue through without issue.  One thing I want to try and fix before the shinsa is, when I'm uchidachi, to keep my eyes on shidachi.  One spot in particular that it comes into play, and this might be the only spot so I'm not TOO worried about it, is in kata 4, as I step in to tsuki shidachi I sometimes keep my eyes straight ahead instead of following shidachi as they sidestep and counter.  As Ando Sensei pointed out, this changes the target that shidachi strikes.  Instead of striking me dead-center, they strike the side of my head and it looks bad.  So that is one little thing I feel I can fix in the next few weeks.  Other issues that I have, while they feel glaring and obvious to me, aren't noticeable most of the time unless I draw attention to them.  I just need to be confident and perform the kata that I know, that I've done hundreds of times, and have that confidence show through in every movement I make. 

Training has been awesome lately!  It's always so amazing to me the amount of spirit that our dojo is able to produce during training.  It doesn't seem to matter if it's a big class or a small class, or if we have a lot of yudansha and longstanding members or if the majority are newer members, we have an ability to raise the level of spirit and intensity to new levels almost each and every time.  This is so great, especially when I'm physically sore or tired or losing speed.  I get that boost from my dojo mates, and am able to give it back and it actually helps me to be better, stronger, faster.  It's a great feeling and I'm always so glad when we can share that amongst ourselves and with visitors. 

I haven't been focusing on any one thing in particular lately, unless you count my focus on being confident.  Like with my kata, I have started to develop a confidence in my technique during drills and jigeiko that is shining through in everything I do.  I've also tried to be more mindful of the movements I make and the strikes that I do.  This is something I've been working on for a while now, too, and have mentioned in previous posts.  I definitely get hit more during practice, but one of my sempai made the observation this weekend that I'm "fighting smarter" lately.  It's also helped a lot with getting rid of my leaning body and the tells that I have before I strike.  Although not entirely gone, I have reduced them, in some cases dramatically, and I'm feeling pretty good about that.  One thing that Ando Sensei has given me to work on lately is to watch out how high I let my left hand rise up after I strike.  I have a bad habit of letting it fly back after I strike.  Instead, he said I should keep it down, about head or upper chest heigh, and drive through that way.  I remember him mentioning this to me before he left, too, wording it in a way that if I should keep my hand down low, as if I were going to punch my partner in the face with my fist if they didn't move.  I'll be working to correct this, as well.

All in all, training has been really good here, and it's been even better with the return of one of our members.  I hope that we are all able to take advantage and raise up all of our kendo during this time with Ando Sensei.

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