Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Beginner's Point of View 116-117

Day 116:

Today, we just practiced some basics. Kiri-kaeshi, one-step men, and one-step kote. We did mix in a little doh and tai-atari, but it was just men and kiri-kaeshi the whole time.

There was a visitor today, although he did not have a zekken. He had to be a dan from the way he moved and struck crisply.

I learned that my doh strike does not start right. My left fist should raise up center and come down center. I have been waving both fists to the right . Maybe this will make my doh strike easier.

Day 117:

Today was a day of hard work. We did seemingly endless bouts of kiri-kaeshi and one-step men. There was only Sensei and three of us, so we rotated quickly.

I was shown over and over that I tend to lose focus as thus do not always take center. This is why I often miss when trying to strike kote. We also did a lot of doh practice. I think my doh strike is okay, but getting a better maai will improve it.

One of the beginner students was with us and I wound up spending a lot of time coaching her in striking me as well as a one-sided keiko. I would say a target and she would strike it. I noticed that she also tended to not take center very often, and I commented on it. She was grateful and did as I asked. When she did, she struck much better.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Beginner's Point of View 114-115

Day 114:

I am going back to class again even though my wrists bothered me all weekend. I’m trying to not push myself too hard but I’m also trying to not let them grow stiff. I took some medicine to help with the pain and then I just went to beginner class.

It actually happened! I always like to be prepared, so I often think ‘what would happen if…’ and then plan it out. However, I really wasn’t expecting to be the highest-ranking student present. Sensei had some things to take care of and then put bogu on, so he asked me to lead the class in warm-ups.

I stood in the place that is customarily taken by Sempai (whoever is leading) and I gave the orders to warm up. I led the class in the simple opening ceremony, I warmed up the class with stretches, and then I led them in practice swinging. I nearly forgot more stretches and swinging but I powered through. The routine that I had tucked away in my mind for just this occasion failed to be pulled up from my mind. So, I did the best I could and it was good enough.

After warm-ups, I led the class in a formal rei-hou. With the way we do things now, I’m not sure if I did it perfectly, but I did it with respect. I did it seiretsu, seiza, moksuo, shomen, and sensei. It seemed to be good enough for Sensei.

After we finished, Sensei led us in some exercises about striking kote. He told us to keep looking him in the eyes and we will hit the target. Then he had us practice doh, still looking in the eyes. He altered the drill a little so that we strike kote and doh just as he moves his shinai just a little. I was slow, but I kept practicing.

At the end of class, I decided to go home. No sense in pushing my luck with my wrists. I have plenty of time to heal before the next tournament.

Day 115:

Sensei was not here tonight as he had private business to attend to that could not be put off for another time. Instead, he asked Sempai to teach the class. We started with warm-ups and then had a very standard class full of basic strikes. He was teaching the beginners to work up to a proper one-step strike for men, kote, and doh. It was good practice for me to sharpen my skills.

I was gratified when Sempai would use me as a target dummy to illustrate his examples. It makes me feel useful when I help out, even in small ways. After the end of class, I had to leave to prepare for an early shift at work the next morning.

My wrists seem mostly healed now. Maybe I should go back to advanced class to prepare for the next tournament next month.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Beginner's Point of View 112-113

Day 112:

No class since I am injured. Sprained wrists again.

Day 113:

Today I am back to class. I decided to go to the beginner class to work my wrists back into shape before going back to the advanced class. While the advanced students were putting on bogu, Sensei had us practice kote strikes. We would kiai, strike, pass through, and repeat for a total of three times. I felt good doing such a simple drill. I really flew in my movement and I was very loud in my kiai. Sensei even made a point of using me as an example of kiai.

After that drill, he asked me to put kote on. He used me as a partner in explaining kote strikes and debana strikes. I was glad to help, even though the speed of Sensei’s shinai made me look very slow. After that, the advanced students came out and we did kiri-kaeshi for the rest of class. I was trying to catch my breath but I was not completely out of breath. During the drill, Sempai instructed me that during kiri-kaeshi, I should move my opponent not with my arms but with my body. My arms should be loose and ready to strike.

I continued to use the wide swings that the visiting Sensei instructed me to use. It looks flashier and it really does work well in striking sayu-men. I just need to keep practicing and get my targeting down well. I also need to keep flexing my wrists slowly but surely to get back into shape. It was good that I rested, but now I should be exercising them and not let them get stiff.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Beginner's Point of View 110-111

Day 110:

No class since I am injured. Sprained wrists again.

Day 111:

No class since I am injured. Sprained wrists again.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Beginner's Point of View 108-109

Day 108:

Today Head Sensei was here and did he ever work us hard. We seemed to do endless iterations of kiri-kaeshi to get it right. After that, it was a series of drills that were variations on the theme of menouchi. We would do five men strikes and then let our partner do five men strikes. We would sometimes have it where the lesser-ranking partner would do five men strikes and then both would do five times aiouchi-men. Over and over we did this.

Eventually, Head Sensei would teach us “attacking kote” strikes. A “defensive kote” strike would be hiki-kote. Here, we would learn the forward-motion kote. We learned to make a smaller up-and-down motion to clear our opponent’s shinai and then we keep a forward motion while striking kote. We then step into our opponent to close the distance and keep them from counter-attacking us. We pull our shinai and arms to the left and back a little when we come in to stand face-to-face with our opponent.

I finally lost the last of my breath and had to sit down. I drank some water from my water bottle and relaxed for a bit. After a few minutes, I put my men and kote back on and got back into line. Then we would mix up what we did in line. Sometimes we would strike men and pass through. Sometimes we would strike kote. Sometimes we would strike kote-debana-men. When I got back to sensei in line, he told me that I was not flexing my right wrist as much as I should. If my right wrist is too stiff then I rob myself of reach. I started flexing it and got a little more reach for men strike. He had me do multiple kote strikes and men strikes to practice flexing and one-step charging into my opponent.

After that, I was exhausted again with no breath. I had to stop. I took off men and kote and just sat out the rest of class. My endurance must be improving because my heart does not hurt when I push myself. Still, having no breath makes my kendo sloppy and my shinai drift off-center. The class did keiko for a while and then Head Sensei showed us something new. It was called “kakari-geiko”. The teacher would give a slight opening and the student would immediately attack the opening with no counterattacking from the teacher. Once the student attacked, he either passed by or charged into the teacher and retreated. Immediately the teacher gives another opening and the student immediately attacks again. This goes on over and over very fast until the student is completely exhausted. This is meant to teach the student to strike any suki he sees without thinking and push the limits of his endurance. It looks like fun, but I’d want to be rested before I would try it.

Day 109:

Today was a lot of men strikes. We were practicing our one-step men hits for most of the class. Head Sensei reminded us that we attack with our spirits first by doing kiai. Second, we attack with our bodies by stepping forward. Finally, we attack with our swords by swinging.

We did a lot of drills where the dans would line up on one side of the dojo and the kyus would go from line to line, forming a two-person deep waiting line if need be and just keep going. Very efficient.

Today a few students from another dojo came to practice with us, including my former sempai. During a kiri-kaeshi drill, she reminded me that when performing kiri-kaeshi, each men strike should be “pretty” like it was the only men strike you should do. I think she was telling me to slow down and get the strikes right first before speeding up.

Also, my current sempai (who just got promoted to nidan this past weekend) did a trick where he would offensively flinch multiple ways to throw me off guard. It worked. My brain locked up and I went defensive. He explained to me that if someone does that, I should just attack because they are wide open.