Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Beginner's Guide to Kendo 176-177

Day 176:

Today was ever hotter than usual. Sensei decided that everyone sweating their brains out wasn’t a good idea. So, for the first half of class we wore our bogu without men. He asked a couple of the ni-dan students to wear men to receive and then we did endless bouts of kiri-kaeshi. It was really good. I felt as if I was smoother and faster this way. It got hot but not unbearable. Then Sensei said to put men on. We did a few rounds of one-step men and one-step doh. A couple of rounds of keiko rounded out the practice and then it was time for kata.

I love kata. There was a group of three of us for lower-ranking to practice the first three kata. The third of us had not really practiced kata much, so the two of us taught him the steps for the first three kata. My partner and I would demonstrate the steps and then the other student would rotate in to practice the uchidachi and shidachi roles. We did this over and over until the end of class.

Day 177:

Today was another very hot day. The heat index makes the effective temperature almost one hundred degrees. Technically, the dojo is supposed to be “air-conditioned”, but in reality only standing next to the vents is affected. Sensei gave us a long lecture about not harming our health while maintaining proper spirit towards Kendo. He encouraged us to drink lots of water during the week and feel free to practice with men off. You may not notice how dehydrated you are becoming until you get dizzy. Sensei did not want us to become dizzy and fall.

We did lots of kiri-kaeshi. At first, I did it without men to preserve body water. After it was over, I felt exercised enough to sweat. No sense in trying to avoid it now. I put on men and then joined the class again. We did more one-step men and one-step kote. We did a couple of one-step doh drills to try to loosen ourselves up.

Then we did a new drill. We had done this once before, but I never had a name to it. It’s called katsugi-men. Instead of raising the shinai above your head in the center, you life it backwards to above your left shoulder, then launch yourself forward to the side. Then you strike men and pass through. At first, I kept raising it above the wrong shoulder until Sensei corrected me.

We did a few times of the man-in-the-middle drill, where one person fends of the entire class, one at a time. We occasionally rotate the person in the middle. We did a few keiko matches at the end to finish class.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Beginner's Point of View 174-175

Day 174:

Sensei was back from Iaido camp in high spirits. We did several rounds of kiri-kaeshi, followed by several rounds of one-step men and one-step kote. Occasionally, we would perform oji-waza as our partner did one-step drills on us, sometimes we let them hit. After we were all exhausted, he asked if anyone was still ‘strong’. When no one spoke up, he picked a person and then placed him in the center of the dojo. The rest of us would form a line and continuously attack him using a single attack. He would counter-attack after we started our attack. Once the line ended, he turned around and we immediately attacked again, giving him no rest. This happened for a few full lines and then the next person would rotate into the middle. We did this until everyone had been in the middle. Sensei even took a few turns being in the middle to sharpen his skills.

I had to take a break to catch my breath. We did a couple rounds of keiko and a few more oji-waza drills, including an interesting drill Sensei invented. He would stand still and claim his spot. We would then strike men, slam doh to take his spot and then hiki-men or hiki-kote. We would repeat this over and over until Sensei was satisfied.

I was almost ready to stop for the evening and rest when Sensei called for kata. I love kata. My partner and I were told to practice the first kata over and over and receive specific instruction to make it more perfect. We must have performed each role a couple of dozen times for each of us, but still it was valuable advice. I learned that when I am motivated to do kata, I grip my bokken too tightly, resulting in bulging forearms, which makes the movement too stiff.

Day 175:

Today was a day more for technique that hard work. We did start off with a few rounds of kiri-kaeshi, one-step men, and one-step kote. However, we spent time on one-step doh and oji-waza for the same. We also spent time practicing tsuki and the oji-waza associated with it.

We stopped earlier than usual in order to spend a lot of time on practicing kata number one. I love kata. However, I learned today that my kata isn’t nearly as nice as it should be. I take too big steps going forward, thus putting myself right in the path of my opponent’s bokken. I also do not perform the shidachi’s counter properly. I keep swinging the bokken backwards instead of stabbing it straight up. I take too big a step going forward after the winning cut into left jodan. This keeps us too close when we finish. This probably also makes us off-center for each kata. I need to work on those things.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Beginner's Point of View 172-173

Day 172:

I’m back to class after being sick all last week. It’s great to be back in uniform. As Sensei was dismissing the beginner class, he called myself and another student up before the class. He had received our certificates from the Kendo Federation declaring both of us at the rank of Ni-Kyu (2-Kyu). Sensei made it a point to relate to the class about our accomplishments during our testing. My classmate had successfully performed a pair of doh strikes, including a men-kaeshi-doh strike that was perfect. I had performed several perfect men strikes and nearly accomplished a perfect kote-men. The class all clapped for us.

Class started out the same way we’ve been doing it for a while. We did kiri-kaeshi and one-step men. This led into more drills about oji-waza. We practiced men-suriage-men and kote-suriage-men. We also practiced tsuki and tsuki-suriage-men. I’m still very nervous about performing tsuki, I tend only to touch rather than tap. We finished class by having two rounds of keiko and then kata.

I love kata. I got paired with someone I’ve never practiced kata with before. He’s very experienced at it, but hasn’t done kata in a long time. We practiced the first five kata in sequence. I needed a refresher on the fourth and fifth kata. In the fourth kata, the uchidachi moves into hasso with left foot forward. The shidachi moves into waki with left foot forward. This is the opening setup which keeps me confused. I mix up roles. In the fifth kata, the uchidachi moves into left jodan while the the shidachi simply alters his chudan kamae to threaten the kote. After the counter strike, the shidachi traces the bokken down the nose of the uchidachi and then moves backwards into left jodan and then backwards into chudan. Then the pair moves three steps towards the uchidachi.

Day 173:

Today Sensei was at an Iaido seminar and couldn’t teach the class. One of his colleagues took over the basic and advanced classes. He had a more free-form approach to Kendo. He asked us what we would like to learn. We were at a loss to decide what to learn, so we just asked for some kata at the end of class. We started off with kiri-kaeshi and one-step men drills.

Soon, our guest instructor began to notice things about us. He asked if we had ever trained in sashi-waza. We said we had not learned it formally, just informally. So he taught us slowly about sashi-men and sashi-kote. It means a smaller swing, not bringing the shinai over our heads. For sashi-men, we do not rotate our shoulders. Instead we bend our elbows until the shinai taps our men-gane, then step forward and swing down. This is not the correct final form, but it teaches us not to swing our arms up. Then we refine it to lift our arms just barely and bring them down quickly. It is a much faster waza than oh-men, but harder to score points alone. You must be very decisive. We did the same for sashi-kote.

We also reinforced the idea with a drill where a student would receive oh-men from the class one at a time and respond with sashi-men. Once the class had taken their turn, the next person would rotate in the receiving position. We did this for much of the class. Then we had three keiko matches at the end.

Then came kata. I love kata. I paired off with a partner close to my rank and we practiced the first three kata under the watch of our guest instructor. He told us that for the ik-kyu and ni-kyu ranks, it is more important that we learn to bow in properly than our overall form. It is looked for that we place our hands in front of our tare as flat as we can without touching it in front, not off to the side. Also, when we bow to shomen and each other, we must bow slowly, not in a hurry. I remember that uchidachi must keep the spacing between the two partners, but I learned that stepping to keep spacing is bad. You must twist your wrists up or down to keep the bokken tips touching, rather than your feet.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Beginner's Point of View 170-171

Day 170:

No class today as I am sick from travel.

Day 171:

No class today as I am sick from travel.