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This past week I was in Boise for work.  It was a nice trip, made many times better by the fact that I was able to train with Stroud Sensei and the local members of the kendo club there.  For anyone that doesn't know, Stroud Sensei is Kyoshi 7 dan in kendo and Renshi 6 dan in iaido.  Since I don't practice iaido it was the kendo instruction I was most interested in.  And instruction I got...

Wednesday night was practice at BSU and there were about 6 of us there that night, ranging from brand new beginner up to 4 dan.  After warm-ups, we worked a lot on footwork, doing various drills up and down the dojo floor while adding in lots of kiai.  Afterward we went into basic striking drills, building on each one with lots of spirit, emphasis on good footwork and striking with our body, not just our hands (one of my weaknesses, as I found out).  We then suited up in full bogu and continued our drills, doing a drill that involved striking various targets in order, and adding more and more complexity as we rotated around.  By the end we were striking about a dozen different targets on each pass.  Kakarigeiko was next, with us being motodachi (receivers) for the kyus and then being motodachi and kakarite (attacker) with each other.  I pushed hard to make it through all of the rotations, even though by the end I was only able to step in and strike men over and over.  After a brief pause to catch our breath we partnered up again and finished out the night with jigeiko.  I think the highlight of my practice was being able to do jigeiko with one of the Atagi brothers, Rhett.  I'd never fought with him before so it was a great opportunity for me, and even though he blasted my men and kote over and over I tried keeping the pressure up and striking when I was ready.  I was able to get one or two strikes in, but that's all.  Still, it was a good practice and one I was thankful for.

Friday night I was able to practice with the group again, this time at a different location and with a lot more people.  The class was about half beginners and half of us in bogu.  I saw a couple of the same faces as I did on Wednesday, but also a few more kyus and yudansha came out, including the other Atagi brother (who is also 4 dan).  The format was very similar to class on Wednesday, with some kata thrown in for good measure.  I received some advice and corrections to take with me to work on, including my kamae in kata 5, and my kodachi position in kodachi kata 2.  I also received some interesting insight into kata 3 that I hadn't heard before, about where the shidachi's tip goes during the movements.  Again, something I will be adding into my own kata practice from now on.

It was a joy to practice with both Atagi brothers.  Both of them are very good, and struck me left and right, but I still persisted and tried to show good spirit and good movement of my own.  Even though I hardly got any strikes in of my own, it was a great experience.  I also got to do jigeiko with some new people that night, one of which was a 3 kyu with a pretty amazing debana kote.

All in all I had a great experience training with the Idaho group, and I'm very much looking forward to training with them all again, whether it be at their dojo, here at my own dojo, or somewhere else on a taikai or shinsa trip.  Some of the advice that I received from Stroud Sensei that I will be working on, as well:

-Use my hips and legs more for striking, not just my arms and upper body.
-Don't let my shinai fly up after I strike.  Instead it should move forward.  This could also be tied into using my hips and legs more, per Stroud Sensei.
-Be careful of my feet when I am doing footwork.  I have a tendency to narrow my stance as I move.
-During hayasuburi, kick forward more with the back leg.  Movement should be forward and back, not bouncing up and down, and I should be using the back leg to drive my body forward.
-I had a lot more advice, as well, but I think this is a good starting point.  Plus I can't give away all of my secrets quite yet.

Again, thank you to the Boise/Idaho members for having me at their trainings, and I am looking forward to meeting them all again in the future!


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