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The Ups and Downs of Kendo

Photo courtesy of Kendo Photography
Anyone that knows me knows that I love kendo.  I don't think I could do as much as I do with it if I didn't.  But loving kendo doesn't mean that it's easy.  Far from it, in fact!  If anyone says otherwise I would honestly question if they're doing it right.  From the first day where everything is brand new, to years down the road where you're trying to figure out the mental side of things, it's a challenge.

I've often had times when I just wasn't getting something.  Whether it was a new waza, or a new timing for an existing waza, or any other number of things that came up during training, sometimes things didn't click with me, and I would have many, many practices that felt fruitless.  It seems that every time that happened, though, If I kept at it and practiced, it would eventually click with me.  I'd wake up one day and "get it".  Not to say I'd be perfect at it, but the overall shape or timing would suddenly be there.  It reminds me of a time from when I was a kid and used to skate a lot.  There was this certain trick I was trying to learn, and I practiced it for months and couldn't do it.  Then one day I went down to my usual haunt and tried it again and suddenly I could do it.  It made sense to me, and ever since then I was able to do that specific trick really well.  This is the same feeling I have with kendo here and there.

Let's take harai men, for example.  I used to always have to do it on two steps - one step to perform the harai movement and one step to actually strike.  Even during kihon kata three, which requires the whole movement and strike be done as one fluid technique, I had trouble and always felt rushed to try and fit all the sword movement into that one step.  I practiced every time, though, and one day I figured out how to do the entire technique in one movement without feeling strained or rushed.  Just the other day I felt like I took it to another level, still, as I was able to do the harai movement, the strike, and add in a lot of speed while still maintaining good posture and footwork.

Everything that I've struggled with in the past, and will struggle with in the future, is part of the process.  It gives me a bit of comfort to think that everyone I know and look up to has been through this same process, and they came out stronger and better for it.  It really does feel like we're being tempered in fire during practice sometimes, and I'm sure a lot of others would agree with me on that (especially during the summer!).

I consider myself pretty optimistic when faced with issues on the dojo floor, but I know I could very easily take that in another, more negative direction, and I've had times where that has happened.  I'd get to the dojo and feel good before practice, but after we'd start sometimes I would feel like nothing was working and I did't know why or what to do about it.  I've had a lot of moments like that and every once in a while the pressure breaks me a bit and I end up leaving in a bad mood.  It happens to everyone, and when it does I try not beat myself up over it, but look back at it after I've calmed down and see what went wrong and what I can do better next time.  This constant check and review helps me to stay on track and continue to try and improve.  I also use this process when I lose matches, which happens often!  As long as I can look back and find something to work on, it's worth it and helps to enrich and improve my own kendo.


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