Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 331-332

Day 331:

No class today because of the holiday.

Day 332:

Today was a special day. Last practice of the year. We had an extra-long Iaido practice. We went through our kata under the supervision of the instructor. We then had a structured class where we all practiced each of the first five kata together and had group comments. The instructor was lumping me together with a shodan as the ‘advanced students’. Kinda weird being ‘advanced’ when I don’t have a rank. Apparently, I’m in a gray area because I know all twelve kata where the other rankless students do not. We even had a practice test. We would bow in, do the first five kata, then bow out, all under six minutes. The instructor timed us and my time was 5:30, which is what it should be. I made sure to be extra slow in the beginning, but then sped up by the end. I couldn’t loop the sageo properly at the end, but it did not touch the ground.

Afterwards, we had Kendo class. It was a combined beginner/advanced class. Even though it was late, I stayed for it all. We had warm-ups and suburi by our ikkyu. Then we had free keiko with anyone we wanted for any time we wanted. I had keiko with three people of varying ranks, received kakari-geiko from two others, and had an intense keiko with a sandan. I was holding my own the whole way. It was a lot of fun.

At the end, we took time to practice kata. I was paired with the ikkyu, so we practiced the first three kata. I was encouraged to teach the fourth kata. We didn’t have time for a full lesson, so I showed the shidachi side. One of the instructors was watching and not interrupting, so I think he was judging my ability to teach. I gave some corrections about the ikkyu’s first and third kata, and then we practiced it a couple of times. Running through the fourth kata was harder, but rewarding.

We finished class and had some good pointers from the instructors. They outlined along the year when various tournaments and testings can be expected.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 328-330

Day 329:

Today in Iaido, I practiced my kata for a while until the instructor looked for supplies to run the club. Then he called for a class. We went thorugh the steps to rei-hou for over half the class time. I learned to twist the saya when pushing the sword to the right hand to help keep track of the sageo when moving into to-rei.

In Kendo, the instructor led the class in warm-ups. I’m glad, because I still forgot a few exercises. We took pains to learn proper sonkyo and then we put on men. I had to sit out and put on my doh and tare first. There was no break between classes. We moved into lines and I received men, kote, doh, and kiri-kaeshi. Then we had a few keikos. From my recovery over the weekend, I did much better. Not huffing and puffing at all. It was either the rest or no fans running during practice.

Day 330:

In Iaido, I did my kata over and over. The instructor watched me for a while, but did not say anything. Maybe he didn’t have any advice. I’m getting better and throwing my weight on my back foot for chiburi. I just need to slow down and do it deliberately. Also, I’m getting a little better and keeping my heels down after the first and second kata rather than them being high up in the air.

In Kendo, I led the class in reihou while the instructor led the class in warm-ups, suburi, and footwork drills. Then we had a mock shiai. The ones without bogu did a kind of competitive kihon. 2 men, 2 kote, 2 doh. The judges would hantei for a winner. I helped by receiving for one of them.

Then it was time for the students in bogu less then 18 years old. There were four of them. They did a round-robin style tournament like usual. In the end, the girl who was ikkyu won. At the conclusion of her second match, her opponent started crying. At first we thought he was struck in the ear, but that turned out to be not the case. He said that at the end of his match, he just had a mass of anxiety that he could not keep out, so he cried it out for ‘no good reason’. Either that girl’s spirit crushed his, or maybe all of the high-intensity constant drill of kiai-strike-zanshin-kiai-strike-zanshin-etc just got to him. After a few minutes outside to recover, he was fine.

In the adults bracket, I was one of three people. I fought the other shodan and a girl from mudansha. I actually played it smart and baited-counterbaited to trick my opponents off-guard. Sometimes it worked. I struck, passed through, screamed my head off, and turned around, over and over. Occasionally, I saw the opening and struck quickly enough to get a point. I won both my matches 1-0. Afterwards, I led the class in ending rei-hou.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 327-328

Day 327:

Today was a bad day all over. Bad day at work and bad day after work. In Iaido, I practiced the kata in order with plenty of room for the tenth and eleventh ones. I tried to modify my fourth kata to sit in iai-heza more like the instructor. I must have done something wrong because I absolutely crunched something on top of my foot. It hurt badly for the rest of Iaido class.

In Kendo, I was having some chest stress and lack of breath. I led the class in rei-hou and warm-ups. At the end of stretches, the instructor led us in more stretches and then commented how I’ve been lax for the past two weeks by missing a few stretches. It’s cold, so we need every stretch to avoid injury. Every time I shouted a repetition for suburi, it felt like I never got back a piece of my breath. By the end of suburi, I could not speak at all.

We did a long set of footwork drills, including one where we cross the floor in two lines weaving in and out of each other to practice timing. We went across the floor in a serpentine manner always facing the same direction, going forwards, left, right, and backwards. We even did it using partners all across the floor. We paired up for striking drills with kote but not men. We struck men, kote, and doh. The instructor was my partner for striking. He commented that I need to stop trying to strike sideways. Instead, I need to start swinging straight downward and then adjust on the way. That’s hard to do, but I did it successfully a few times.

Finally, I got the order to end class. I led the class in ending rei-hou. Finally, this day is over.

Day 328:

Today I have decided not to go to class. My chest has been sore all week and I haven’t recovered my breath from last class. I’m going to rest.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 325-326

Day 325:

Today was the start of a more structured class. We had a little free time to practice my kata freeform. I even got to practice my two new kata. After that, we had a class where the instructor would command us all to perform a certain kata all together a couple of times. Then he would give comments. We did that for the first three kata and then class was over. I did not skip out early like usual, but I rushed to put on doh and tare for Kendo.

I led the class in rei-hou but our ikkyu candidate led the class in warm-ups. However, I ran the class for footwork drills! I had been passively planning such a thing for months but it happened! I wonder if this is training for being a nidan/sandan who would teach the class. I had the class concentrate on zanshin by making sure everyone turned around and took chudan after the drill. If even one person did not finish properly, then the whole class had to repeat the drill. I had to force them to repeat a couple of times, making sure to say out loud that someone forgot to finish. We did long kiais, shomen, kote, and kote-men strikes. Then the instructor took over and arranged us in a serpentine maze for renzoku-men strikes without anyone wearing men. It was fun but a little dangerous. Everyone was forced to be aware of their partners and who was next and how far away they were.

Day 326:

Today was less structured than the last class. I just worked on my twelve kata over and over. I did get a comment from the instructor. On the tenth kata, I am thrusting to the tsuki while wrapping the blade around my body, which makes it off-target. I need to thrust it straight. It needs to move like in the fourth kata. I also need to show the side of the blade to the attacker in the third kata instead of the back of the blade.

In Kendo, I led the class in rei-hou and warm-ups. The other shodan led the class in footwork. We had more partner drills today, which helped keep our distance. The head instructor even did the sideways footwork drill with me while he was in jodan to see if he could keep the distance. We did menouchi drills without men and then we lined up to put on men. After doing kiri-kaeshi, menouchi, and koteouchi, the head instructor called for a new drill. Anyone not attending the advanced class would do kiri-kaeshi-men-men-men-men-kiri-kaeshi. I had a knot in my abdomen when I started, but I pushed through anyway. I was out of breath, but I kept pushing myself harder to break through. I did well. I only ran out of breath right at the end. I then closed out the class with rei-hou.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 323-324

Day 323:

In Iaido, I started out doing my regular routine. I’m refining my second kata to show off the final draw and adjust of the body at the beginning when you spin.

The sensei decided it was time to teach me the tenth kata since we had the room on the floor for it. You start off standing and take two steps forward. Place your hands on the sword. With the third step, you lift up the tsuka still inside the saya and then slam it down on the first opponent’s hands at the position ‘northeast’ of the start. You then draw the saya off the sword and then point it horizontally to the ‘southwest’ with the blunt edge against your body. You slide sideways into the second opponent and thrust to the abdomen. You face the first opponent and step into a shomen cut. You then turn to step into a third opponent to the ‘southeast’ for a shomen strike. Then you bring it down into a stance like waki-game while turning to face the last opponent to the ‘northwest’. You bring the sword up over your head and then step big into the final opponent for a shomen cut. You step back into left jodan, chiburi, and then step back to the start. It’s complicated, but you get into the flow of it with practice.

In Kendo, the instructors decided to give my role to the nikyu who is planning to test for ikkyu. This will give him a bigger sense of responsibility for future ranks and roles. Good for him. He led the class in rei-hou and warm-ups.

We had a guest today. I’m not sure if he’ll be a regular, but he is a Kumdo fighter. He has a different stance and different motions after the strikes, but he is really good and judging distance and keeping his energy up. He also has a very sideways motion when doing kiri-kaeshi.

The class did lots of footwork and shomen drills to work up our spirit. We then did kiri-kaeshi, menouchi, and koteouchi drills. We had a short set of two ji-geiko drills at the end. I had lower-ranking students to encourage, so I let them hit me a couple of times before I tried to hit them.

Day 324:

Today, I started off with my routine, adding the tenth kata to my list. However, the instructor offered to teach me the eleventh kata. I said yes and we started learning it.

You start off taking two steps and grip the sword. You draw forward, but then you step back and raise it upwards in a nuki move. You then strike the right side of the opponent’s head down to the chin. Carve backwards up and then strike the left shoulder down to the sternum. Carve backwards up and then strike the right ribs under the arm down to the hip. Carve back up and then swing around to level with the hips and slash horizontally across the doh, making sure to turn your upper torso to follow the sword. Raise up and then slash downward down the middle. Chiburi to the right and noto. Step back about seven steps (nine of you took big steps) back to the start.

It’s been fourteen months since I started Iaido and now I know all of the kata. Still, I don’t have a rank yet. I’m not frustrated. I’m saying it feels weird to know so much and yet not have had the chance to test. I guess I’ll just be ready to test soon.

In Kendo, I led the class in rei-hou, but the instructor led the warm-ups. After footwork drills, we did a lot of waza. We separated into ordered groups and rotated through after each attack was finished. A couple of people were not doing it safely, so the instructor halted the class to lecture them about safety. Then we started up again. We moved into keiko (or ji-geiko for those not in bogu) and kept going. The same line had an accident. Apparently, someone hooked a keikogi with a ki-saki whoch resulted in the arms being tugged and the opposing shinai bonking the back of the student’s head. I can’t even imagine how that would work but apparently it worked.

After I led the class in ending rei-hou, the instructor gave us a big lecture about taking responsibility for your line if you are highest-ranking. It was a good lecture.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 321-322

Day 321:

In Iaido, my toe is better. I am beginning to see how I should keep my weight backwards to stabilize myself. As long as I do this, I should not wobble on my legs coming up. I’m wondering if my posture in the fourth kata is good enough. Others hold their right legs differently. Also, I was hasty is drawing today. The sword rattled in the saya coming out. Darn that misshapen interior.

In Kendo, my breath was shallow and my voice crackled a lot. After warm-ups and suburi, we had a few rounds of suri-ashi and fumi-komi. After adding in menouchi, we put on men. We did seemingly endless rounds of kiri-kaeshi and menouchi.

Day 322:

No class today as there is a holiday tomorrow. I would have preferred to practice.

A Beginner's Point of View 319-320

Day 319:

Yesterday, I hurt my left big toe to the point where it was bleeding. I hope it won’t bother me today.

In Iaido, I practiced my kata over and over. I’m getting smoother on turning around in the second kata. My toe didn’t hurt me if I moved slowly. I need to practice moving my weight back onto my rear foot to avoid being unstable when standing.

In Kendo, Head Sensei showed up again. I led the class in rei-hou, warm-ups, and suburi. We did lots of footwork drills with kiai and fumi-komi. Then we put on men and I was motodachi for endless kiri-kaeshi and menouchi.

Day 320:

My toe is better, but the skin is stiff. It gives me excuse to slow down and do the leg movements correctly.

In Iaido, I really am putting much emphasis on the sixth and seventh katas.

In Kendo, we did a lot of footwork drills. The endless kiai with every drill left me out of breath. Still, I stayed in line. Kiri-kaeshi and menouchi was the order of the day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 317-318

Day 317:

No class today. I had a prior engagement that I could not get out of.

Day 318:

In Iaido, my iaito was freshly polished and oiled. It slid in and out of the saya nicely. I practiced my kata under the gaze of the instructor. He said nothing, so I guess that means I’m doing well.

In Kendo, who should show up but Head Sensei!!! It’s been forever since I’ve seen him! I decided to do my best. I lead the class in rei-hou and suburi. We did a lot of footwork drills leading up to striking. We did better than usual. I was motodachi with three others as we received kiri-kaeshi, menouchi, and koteouchi from the students. Head Sensei did not have any comments for the class. A few of the students were pulling their arms back after a strike, so I had to correct them.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 315-316

Day 315:

In Iaido class, I arrived early to set up the dojo floor. Then I worked on my kata. The second kata is still a little awkward, but at least I’m coming closer to the answer. I’m still having trouble with the sageo. When I asked for some help, the instructor showed me how he uses his sageo. He explained that the beginning to-rei has you letting go of the sageo as you push it into your right hand, and then push it to the ki-saki. Allowing a small loop in the sageo is acceptable as long as you don’t fuss too much.

In Kendo, we did our warm-ups in a circle, like at tournament. After suburi, we got our men and dove right into a lot of kiri-kaeshi, men, and kote drills. Many of the students did not have bogu, but we taught them to receive kiri-kaeshi, men strikes, and kote strikes.

Day 316:

In Iaido, we had a full class. I squeezed in and did my kata without getting too close to the others. I remembered to place my left hand about midpoint on the iaito instead of close to the tsuba. It does make the tsuki motion easier and straighter.

In Kendo, our instructor didn’t show up until about too late. It turns out that he forgot to pack his bogu and uniform. Instead, he took video of the class during waza. I led the class in warm-ups and suburi. The instructor asked me to repeat a few suburi to make sure the class did it right. Then we broke into groups for suri-ashi drills with lots of kiai practice. We gave our loudest kiai, sometimes with our mouths closed to build up our lungs. During kiai and even suburi, I found my voice deepening and being louder. I wonder if I’m improving my kiai. We put on men and did a lot of kiri-kaeshi and menouchi drills. We finished by having a couple of keikos.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 313-314

Day 313:

In Iaido, I used the time to practice my kata. I’m getting better at turning around in the second kata. I just keep my weight on my right knee and pivot with my left foot. I just gotta remember to draw back my saya a lot just before the cut.

In basic Kendo, we did stretches, suburi, and footwork drills. Then we put on men to receive for menouchi and koteouchi. The final drill was for the motodachi to do kiri-kaeshi on the students for a single time.

In advanced Kendo, I was not feeling well. My heart was racing and my breath was shallow. I don’t understand what was wrong. There were only four of us for advanced Kendo. We did a couple rounds of kiri-kaeshi and then practiced doh-kiri-kaeshi and kote-kiri-kaeshi. Those drills can get dangerous if you move too fast. We did several drills of three waza switching attackers for four sets. That was a single drill. We did a few drills like that. I was out of breath and I had to stop and sit out. I watched the others do three-square before they took a break.

During the break, I learned they were not feeling well also. Maybe it was the weather. We went back in and did three rounds of jigeiko and a full ninety seconds each. I was in good form with nuki waza and debana-kote.

We then broke for kata. I love kata. I actually learned the seventh kata. Both come out three spaces in chudan. The uchidachi steps forward with a tsuki, which the shidachi parries and steps back. The uchidachi swings for oh-men strike while the shidachi strikes doh and steps forward and to the side. The shidachi crosses left over right and then kneels on the right knee. Both look at each other and pass through waki-game into chudan. The uchidachi steps back and the shidachi stand up with a forward step. Then both circle around each other while crossing their feet over each other until they are back to the start. The shidachi takes small steps while the uchidachi takes big steps. This brings both back to start. I got to learn both sides tonight.

Day 314:

In Iaido, I’m beginning to establish a pattern for turning around in the second kata. If I use the turning around to draw back the saya it works. Then the final adjust of the left foot coincides with the actual draw of the sword. Class was very crowded today, so I held off on practicing the seventh and ninth kata mostly unless the way was clear. The air was very humid so the floor was kinda sticky.

In Kendo, I led the class in rei-hou, warm-ups, and suburi. The instructor joined us for the second half of suburi with a few comments. We did several footwork drills involving men, kote, and doh strikes across the floor. I tried to make my fumi-komi smaller but more deliberate. We then put on men and received many, many, men and kote strikes form the students.

In advanced Kendo, we did a lot of waza drills. Menouchi and koteouchi with several ji-geiko inbetween for extra hard work. I almost made it to the end of waza practice without stopping but I did have to stop. There was no hotseat or four-square today, so I stood by and called out ‘yame’ when the time for ji-geiko was over.

We then broke up for kata. I love kata. I spent the time teaching the third kata to my friend who is two ranks lower than me. Eventually, he’ll need the first three kata for his ikkyu test. He kept not getting the footwork right. So, I walked him through both uchidachi and shidachi sides over and over for the rest of class.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 311-312

Day 311:

I did not go to class because I was buying a new car. I thought I had scheduled plenty of time, but the sales staff kept me at the dealership all afternoon and into the night. Business just does not respect dojo class times.

Day 312:

In Iaido class, I worked on my kata again. A couple of instructors watched me, but did not comment. I noticed the sharp edge of the iaito was turned inward a couple of times when practicing the eighth kata. That didn’t seem quite right, so I asked the instructor. He confirmed that the sharp edge should be outward. I also practiced turning in the second kata. It’s awkward, but getting better. I’m putting my weight on my right knee and using my left toe to provide the leverage. After turning, I’m practicing getting the left leg right with the horizontal cut.

In Kendo class, we had extra sandans show up. Apparently, they’re going to be joining us from now on when they can show up. We did stretches and suburi. We then did footwork drills and men strikes in bogu. At the end of class, a sandan made comments about posture and breathing to the class.

In advanced Kendo, we did lots of kiri-kaeshi, men, kote, and ji-geiko. I had to sit out for a while until they started organizing for three-square. I stepped in for that, getting the same group as the new sandan. Afterwards, he commented on how I was doing well but I should relax my shoulders. Apparently, I have that old problem again. He also complimented the other student with us on his accuracy and balance.

Then we took a water break and split up into groups for shiai. We did it informally, without shinpan, but we did it with the attitude of being tested. The lower-ranking students were rebuked for their lax attitude towards the opening rei-hou. After that, they sharpened up. I had my shiai against a ni-kyu. We pushed each other well. I pushed him to speed up and attack. He pushed me to slow down and take control.

After class, then new sandan commented amongst us dans about how the moksuo for rei-hou was too short. Our instructor explained that we were advised not to moksuo or at least make it short. I told him about how I measure the three breaths with two heartbeats for each part of breath. It’s something that we’ll have to nail down definitively.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 309-310

Day 309:

I was not feeling very well, so I went to class to fix myself. In Iaido, I did my full set over and over. I tried more to perfect the spin on the second kata. It was difficult. The instructor came over to give me advice, and it sounds like I need to put my weight on my right knee. Use my left toe to provide the spin and when it finishes, slide my left foot aside. Easier said than done. Still, Iaido cured my headache.

In Kendo, we had a lot of students again. The instructor had us put our swords aside. After putting our palms together we went through a series of exercises to feel our range of motion up and down for men, kote, and doh. After that, we did kiri-kaeshi and menouchi. My nausea was half-cured by the end of class.

In advanced Kendo, we started off doing kiri-kaeshi, menouchi, and choice-of-waza drills. Then we went right into hot-seat drill for aiouchi-men, kote-suriage-men, and keiko. Afterwards, we did kata. I love kata. Myself and another student taught the first kata to another student who is not long into wearing his bogu. Over and over, we taught it to him until he seemed to understand the principles involved. My nausea was completely cured by the end of class. I guess this proves that Kendo is good for you.

Day 310:

I was late for Iaido class because of a huge traffic back-up on the roads. Class was half over by the time I arrived. The instructor was busy teaching other students so I didn’t get a lesson on the special Iaido knot. I’ll have to practice at home with those illustrated guides. I practiced a full set and then practiced the second kata over and over to get the spinning part right. I’m coming along. I’ll just keep my weight on my right knee and use my left toe to provide the power to spin.

In Kendo class the normal instructor did not show up until only ten minutes before the end of class. This is because of the bad traffic back-up and it was not his fault. I led the class in warm-ups while another instructor would teach the class in elementary footwork and kihon. The normal instructor showed up by the time we were in bogu.

In advanced Kendo, we started off with a hard practice of lots of kiri-kaeshi, waza, and ji-geiko. The previous Guest Sensei came back. I learned that he is a sandan and he’s thinking of joining the dojo. I had to step out right before the class separated into two groups of three-man-four-square. I did come back in time for keiko. We lined up in two lines and picked our partners. I had three keikos before becoming exhausted. Then we broke for kata. I love kata. I naturally paired up with a lower-ranking student who only knew the first four kata. I helped him smooth over his fourth kata over and over by going through the roles with him. Maybe next time I’ll teach him the fifth kata.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 307-308

Day 307:

In Iaido, I started practicing my routine, paying attention to the second kata. I tried not to move my left big toe back like I was taught before the spin. It’s very awkward and my final kneeling stance is narrow and unsteady. I need to pivot on my toes and push my right knee out.

I was taught a new kata today. It’s the eighth one. Similar to the sixth kata, you are surrounded by two opponents kind of off-line. You take two steps forward and then grip the tsuka. With the third step, you thrust the tsuka up into the face of the forward enemy, as of breaking the nose. The saya does not totally come out of the obi. You slide the tsuka down to reveal the sword. Here’s a tricky part. You grip the iaito ‘sideways’ to make the blade ‘horizontal’. You then pivot the left foot and then slide the right foot around to the left and turn around. You thrust to the rear opponent up between the ribs and into the heart. You then grip the iaito properly with two hands and swing up. You pivot on your left foot and step back to the front with the right, cutting downward vertically. Chiburi to the right and noto. Three steps back to the start. I think I can get the hang of this one. The instructor saw me do it a couple of times and said I have the basics down.

In Kendo, we did stretches and suburi like normal. However, the class was packed. Several of the students now have keikogi and hakama. They all chose white keikogi and indigo hakama. Not bad looking at all. There was a new student as well. The head instructor took him aside to teach him walking and holding the shinai.

We did lots of waza practice, menouchi, koteouchi, dohouchi, and kote-menouchi. We got a chance to show the class how it is done properly after they all had a chance to drill. Then we had the advanced students do ji-geikos.

In advanced Kendo, we started with kiri-kaeshi and menouchi. We then practiced ojji-waza of our choice and then had a keiko using those techniques. That went for most of the class. Never once did my heart hurt. We also did hotseat for a full rotation of ji-geiko in twenty seconds. We also did shinsa matches under the gaze of the instructors.

After that, we did kata. I love kata. I was paired with a lower-ranking kyu who only knew the first three kata. I practiced with her over and over. She was very…rusty. I went with her step by step correcting the biggest issues and then repeating the katas. We had fixed the first two when we ran out of time.

After class, the instructor and I had a nice chat about how I seem to have “winning mode” and “testing mode”. He thought there was a discrepancy in my Kendo, which is normal for a shodan. He also said he wasn’t quite sure what the difference came from. I told him that it was urgency. Sometimes, I felt pressed for time or having an overabundance of time. He suggested that I spend the next few months trying to find a balance between the two and resolve them into ‘one Kendo’. It was good advice. He said he would give me some reading material to help.

Day 308:

In Iaido, we had a record-breaking crowd of students attending. Even Sensei showed up. We were squashed for space, but we muddled through as best as we could. Several of the low-ranking students are now wearing their keikogi and hakama. A few even have plastic saya to sheathe their bokken. I started doing my full set, trying to turn around smoothly in the second kata without prepping my left toe first. I tried it by putting weight on my left big toe and then by putting weight on my right knee. It seemed smoother on my right knee so I think I’ll try to do it that way from now on.

In Kendo, we had a Guest Sensei show up. I don’t know what rank he is, but he looked like he was between sandan and godan. We did the whole class practicing techniques for kiri-kaeshi. We did a drill where one partner strikes the raised shinai for men and takes three steps. The other partner receives the strike and steps back to reset the pair. Every other turn, the pair switches roles. The next drill would have the partners striking sayu-men. Finally, the motodachi would put on men and give and receive kiri-kaeshi in full.

In advanced Kendo, we did a lot of waza. Kiri-kaeshi, men-ouchi, kote-ouchi, doh-ouchi, and kote-men-ouchi. There were a few keikos during the long progression of drills. I had to step out for breath just as they were setting up for four-square drills. Guest Sensei was confused at first about how the square would flow, but after two full rotations, he got it well. After that, there was a break for water. I put on men and jumped back in for free ji-geiko. You could choose your partner and fight however long you wish. There was a long line for keiko with Guest Sensei so I sparred with other students for ten minutes. Then I got in line to spar with Guest Sensei. I was the last one of the night to spar with him, so he was winded. However, he was not slow. He was just as fast as the first ji-geiko. He would beat me at every exchange and push me to swing faster and faster. I would try to vary my timing and distance but he wasn’t fooled by any of them. I did get a few basic strikes in for men but he would bonk me on the head when I would turn around. After a couple of these times, I charged past a full extra step past. He then complimented and said that was a good distance. After class, I thanked him for coming and mentioned that I learned about establishing distance after exchanges. He asked me about the advice I was given. I told him about the contradictory advice and he advised me to take the extra step to be safe. That makes sense.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 305-306

Day 305:

In Iaido class I continued my slow draw of the sword. It seems as if all of my kata are improving by the slow draw of the sword. It seems as if I draw the sword halfway and pull back the saya the other half. The flick of the sword it just a finishing move. I wonder if that’s right.

Today there was a packed class, but only two instructors. After warm-ups, had a lot of footwork drills. I had to keep the class organized for the instructor. Once, we did so much fumi-komi that the instructor’s clipboard and papers fall over. Without thinking, I raced over to clean it up. I’m not toadying so much as automatically keeping the class running smooth instead having the instructor to stop and fix it himself.

In advanced Kendo class, we did a lot of basic waza drills, like two oh-men, two sashi-men, two oh-kote, and then two sashi-kote (all as a single drill). We also did a hotseat drill with one of us taking on a whole line of kenshi one at a time, over and over. We would rotate out constantly, performing such things as kote-suriage-men or men-kaeshi-doh. Too bad we had no time for kata.

Day 306:

Sensei was at Iaido class today. He moved a little stiffly, but deliberately. Myself, I tried to incorporate more saya-biki in my first two kata. I did ask the instructor for whether or not the gaze for the third kata would shift from the center. He replied that you always keep your gaze upon your opponent, but after the slice you lower your gaze slightly and then noto.

In Kendo, we did warm-ups and suburi. Then we had the motodachi put on kote and practice kihon kata, which is the menouchi kata and the koteouchi kata with the bokken instead of the shinai.

In advanced Kendo, there were only four of us. So, we had a hard practice of lots of ji-geiko and a full four rounds of four-square. The ceiling fans were running slower than usual, so there was not a cool breeze churning up the humid air like usual. We were sweating a lot.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 303-304

Day 303:

In Iaido class, I performed my normal routine. I was getting the hang of the draw for the first kata, but the steps for the fifth were beginning to elude me. When I concentrate on not rattling the sword upon draw, I step too far. If I correct my steps, I rattle upon draw. Class was crowded, so I only performed the seventh kata twice to avoid coming too close to others.

In beginner Kendo, we had a full class. There were new bright lights and ceiling fans to swirl the air, so it was not so hot. Inside the bogu was still very warm and we sweat, but it was much better. We did lots of suburi, including explanations and footwork drills. We then put on men and became motodachi for the students. One explanation at the end of the class was the three ways to kill the opponent. Kill their spirit with kiai, kill their sword by pushing it aside, and kill their techinique by altering the spacing. It was a good lecture.

In advanced Kendo, we did a round of kiri-kaeshi, men, kote, suriage-men, harai-kote, and aiouchi-men. In between each drill, we had a short ji-geiko using the waza we just practiced. There was a short practice test for all of the candidates destined to take the ikkyu exam.

Then we did kata. I love kata. Myself and the other shodan teamed up with the instructor to learn the ins and outs of the sixth Kendo kata. The uchidachi role is to show all bad mistakes. The uchidachi comes out in chudan and feels pressure from the shidachi. The uchidachi steps back into jodan and then steps back into chudan. He then gives a lazy attempt at sashi-kote, which is parried by the shidachi. The uchidachi has his kote cut by the shidachi, who then carves up the shoulder into jodan. The uchidachi steps back, turning the left shoulder away form the shidachi, as if cowering. After the shidachi steps back into line, the uchidachi steps back into line.

Day 304:

In Iaido class, I performed my normal routine, but slowed my draw of the sword. It nearly totally ceased its rattle and it allowed me to draw it smoothly for a more definitive cut. I think I’ll keep doing that.

In beginner Kendo, we did lots of suburi. There were beginners in the class, so the instructor spoke a lot about how to perform the cuts. Afterwards, we did footwork drills. I put on men and performed the role of motodachi for the students to practice their men and kote drills. The ones without bogu or uniform just practiced menouchi.

In advanced Kendo, we did alternating drills of waza and then ji-geiko with the same partner right after using that technique. It was different and interesting. We had lots of ji-geikos. At the end, the instructor picked a student testing for ikkyu. All of us dans would fight a full keiko with that student one after another, pushing him to his limits. The last two matches had him huffing and puffing hard. He took to leaning over out of breath after striking men. We kept yelling at him to stand up straight and push himself. The last instructor had the student do a drill just like Head Sensei. “One more men! One more men! One more men! One more men!” Over and over until the student struck men perfectly. After practice, we wished him well and each dan gave him advice. My advice to him was to stop planning so much. He needed to feel his opportunity and then finish his strike. I also suggested to him not to lean over, no matter how out of breath. That signals that you give up, which is bad.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 301-302

Day 301:

Today was a holiday but the dojo was open. We gathered for Iaido a little bit late, so we only had twenty real minutes of practice. Still, I did my routine and tried to concentrate on flexing my wrist to increase the range of motion for the chiburi.

In Kendo, we had a merged beginner and advanced class. We had four new students start today. We did warm-ups and footwork practice. We had some basic suri-ashi and some basic men drills.

We broke up into motodachi and received strikes from everyone. The beginner students were awkward, but no more so than I was at the beginning. After more kihon drills, the beginning students stepped aside as the rest of us performed ji-geiko.

Day 302:

Today I spent most of the day at a new job interview, so I have not had much to eat or drink. It was also extremely humid. I was sweating profusely just cleaning the floor.

In Iaido, Sensei came back to class. He was stiff from his time with the doctor healing his joints, but he looked ready to take up the sword again.

We did our kata routine as usual, trying to pay attention to details. It’s difficult to keep your focus on the opponent in the third kata after you cut. I keep drifting my gaze back towards the shomen.

In Kendo, we separated the class after halfway through suburi. I was in the advanced section where we finished suburi and then did footwork drills over short distances. We went forwards solo and sideways with a partner. Then we put on men and were motodachi for the students. The beginners were trying just to do regular oh-men waza without passing through. Some of them were hitting too hard, some were tensing their shoulders, some were not stepping their feet properly. I tried to give good tips to help their strikes. They were grateful for anything I had to offer.

At the end of beginner class, I had to leave. I was not feeling up to advanced class. I was tired, dehydrated, and lacking energy. I decided to just go home and rest up.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 299-300

Day 299:

In Iaido class, I did my normal run through. The instructor noticed that my horizontal cut for the first and second kata was too high. I guess I need to swing my shoulder lower to avoid being so high.

In basic Kendo, I led the class for rei-hou and warm-ups. We were in the smaller space of our normal hardwood floor. So, no wind sprints of huge length but back to fumi-komi drills. Win some, lose some. After footwork, we put on men and I was asked to be motodachi. The students did kiri-kaeshi, men, kote, and doh drills. One student is new to bogu, so his strikes are awkward. During the doh drills, he swuing early and wide, striking my elbow right on the bony part twice in a row. My flesh bruised and swelled up right away.

In advanced Kendo, there were only five of us. We started with one round of kiri-kaeshi, and then went into many drills of men, kote, and doh. We spent a lot of time during nidan-waza, such as men-suriage-men and kote-suriage men.

The instructor had invented a drill that I call ‘Four-Square’ drill. Four people stand in a box formation. The one who starts in the position closest to shomen on the dan side will receive kakari-geiko from the one across form him. The other two positions are ‘rest’ positions. Once thirty seconds of kakari-geiko is done, everyone rotates to the right. So, the one who just performed kakari-geko will now receive it for thirty seconds. We rotate constantly every thirty seconds without waiting for bowing before and after a rotation. It’s a hard practice without stopping and those rest positions really come in handy. Without them, I’d have to stop to catch my breath. At the end of class, we practiced kata. I love kata. We did the first five kata for a refresher.

Day 300:

In Iaido, I did my run-through like usual. Sometime, I would rattle the sword in the saya. I need to twist the saya more and draw more slowly. When I slow down and do each step deliberately, I do better.

In basic Kendo, I led rei-hou and warm-ups. We did more footwork drills as a group. There was a time when I was part of a line of six kenshi going across the floor all at once. It was just a touch narrow, so I let the others go a full step before I went to avoid colliding. Also, the instructor advised us to put most of our weight upon our left foot instead of the left. This allows us to stop properly. It also allows us to do fumi-komi in a more controlled way. When we put on men, I was motodachi again. The students did men, kote, and doh drills again. That previous student who was swinging wildly did much better this time.

In advanced Kendo, we did kiri-kaeshi, men, kote, and doh drills. We then went back to having a single student receiving constantly from a line of kenshi one at a time. We practiced suriage drills this way for a while. We included a drill where the receiver would do keiko with each kenshi one at a time for fifteen seconds in a constant stream of fights. We continued until everyone had that chance with everyone else.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 297-298

Day 297:

In Iaido, there was only the instructor and two of us. We had the gymnasium again. We had a free practice today. I tried to make the chiburi for the first and second kata into one fluid motion instead of three separate actions. That was harder than it looked. I kept hopping up into standing stance and that made me a little unstable. I need to slow down and make it smoother.

In Kendo, I led the opening ceremony. We did a whole lot of wind sprints. We also did a drill about turning around in tai-atari. A pair of kenshi would match up with one going forward and one going backward. They would go across the floor until they reached a line. They went to tai-atari and use three steps to turn around 180 degrees. Then they repeated until the next line. We did this several times. It was fun and a good lesson.

I stayed for advanced Kendo today. The wind sprints left me tired and exhausted. We did several rounds of kiri-kaeshi and men strikes. I tried to do the men strikes the way Guest Sensei told us. After several rounds of men strikes, I was out of breath. I drank some water and sat down. I went back in after missing the drills about kote and kote men. I did participate in the drills for kote-suriage-men and men-suriage-men. Men-suriage-men is harder than it looks, especially if you don’t step to the side wide enough. I finally got the rythym by the end. We did a few rounds of ji-geiko. I received a comment from an instructor about how I am ‘forgetting’ that I am a shodan. He meant that I was not trying my full compliment of techniques and relying on a chosen few. He’s right, so I need to remember to try nuki-waza and hiki-waza from time to time.

We finished class by doing kata. I love kata. I spent the class with an ikkyu candidate, teaching him the finer points of the first three kata. We did this over and over until the end of class. I gave a few pointers on how to compose himself so the judges will like him. I hope he passes.

Day 298:

Today was a free day. I practiced my kata alone again. The instructor came over and commented that I’m still cutting too high on the first two kata. Maybe I should aim for ‘chest-level’ when I cut horizontally. I asked about bringing the sword up for the first cut in the fifth kata. The tsuka bumps off my forearm when I stop the blade. The instructor never had that problem, so he conjectured that I was cutting too forcefully and snapping my wrist too hard. He suggested that I cut more gently to avoid it. Makes sense.

In beginner Kendo, we were in the gymnasium again. The workers were not present to certify that the church building was ready for us just yet. We did stretches and suburi normally, and then went right into wind sprints. I helped the instructor demonstrate the proper way to turn around in tai-atari. We also did a nice ‘caterpillar’ footwork drill all across the lines of the gymnasium court. Very good workout for the legs and ankles.

In advanced Kendo, we only did one round of kiri-kaeshi and went into the 5-7-9 sets of drills for men, kote, and doh. I was exhausted halfway through, but stuck in there. I simply slowed down and paced myself and I did not need to stop for a break. There were several lectures, which gave me time to catch my breath. We had a couple of ji-geiko matches at the end. I overdid it a bit, pushing the tendon on my wrist and slamming my left forearm into the men-gane of my partner over and over. I was too close for strike and my opponent was fast.

To end class, we took off our bogu and got our bokkens. We did the kihon drills with the bokken. Men-ouchi, kote-ouchi, doh-ouchi, and tsuki-ouchi were the first drill. Kote-men-ouchi was the second drill. Men-hiki-doh-ouchi was the third drill. Finally, suriage-men was the fourth drill. The suriage is the same-side of the bokken, so no dipping down and bringing it up to the other side.

At the end of class, my wrist and arm were hurting me. All I could say is that it was a great practice and ow-ow-ow-ow.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 295-296

Day 295:

Today we were back in the hard-floored gymnasium. I did my routine of kata over and over. The no-slip floor was throwing my steps off-balance. I had some trouble remembering if I was supposed to kneel or stand at the conclusion of the fifth kata. I stayed standing and asked the instructor. He agreed that it was standing.

There was a new student. He wanted to study Iaido and Kendo together. The instructor spent most of his time with him teaching him to stand, walk, and swing.

I felt it was a good time to try Kendo again. My wrist was stiff but not painful. It was also Guest Sensei’s last day here with us. We used bokken for suburi. Guest Sensei didn’t like the way I did shomen strikes. He was saying that I was raising too high and not stretching far enough on the down swing. He showed me how to do it by positioning my arms. It was awkward but it was working and it was faster. I guess he’s right. I need to remember how to do that.

We did kiri-kaeshi and shomen suburi with shinai and then we broke up for matches. We only had time for three matches by the students lower ranking than myself. I’m almost disappointed and almost happy at the same time. I’m so rusty after many weeks of no Kendo I must look terrible. Still, I’m grateful to Guest Sensei for his advice. I’ll have to try to remember it.

Day 296:

Today in Iaido I learned that the ‘sonkyo’ position to finish the fourth kata is not a true sonkyo like in Kendo before and after a match. It’s with the left knee on the floor and tight right foot slid back past the left knee. That’s much easier than what I’ve been trying to do. It may even hurt less. That’s good.

Also, at the tail end of class, the instructor had us practice the second kata all together. He reminded us that we begin to draw as we start to turn around and ‘snap’ the last movement into place when we flick the sword out. It looks like he’s pivoting on his right knee instead of the left foot like I’ve been doing. I need to start doing that.

In Kendo, we did more suburi with lectures along the way about form. I’m trying to do men strike like Guest Sensei instructed. Raise up so the left fist is at the forehead and you just barely see underneath. Then snap your left arm forward on the downstroke. I’ll have to practice that a lot.

After suburi, we did wind sprints. Very good exercises, but left me breathless. Then we put on men and did more men strikes and kote strikes, but only the strike, not passing by. I made the mistake of using full charging speed so I almost keep bumping into my partner. I did correct myself after a bit, though.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 293-294

Day 293:

Today there was only myself and the instructor. It was a free class, so I worked on my 1-2-3-4-6-7-9-12 over and over. My sword was rattling again and I tried to remember to draw partway before flicking the saki outward. My left foot was stiff when doing the fourth kata, so the relaxing into the final position was painful.

Halfway through the class, the instructor commented that the reason I seem so awkward in my stances is because moving forward while swinging the iaito causes my momentum to move forward fully and I have to stop myself with effort. In Kendo, this is expected because we wish to charge past our opponent. In Iaido, we wish to stop in our tracks. We do this by not bringing our back foot as far when finishing a strike.

I asked to be taught the fifth kata so I could be ready for any promotional exam. The fifth kata can be awkward. You step forward with the right and then with the left foot. You rotated the saya to almost upside down and make ready for an upward diagonal cut. You partially draw the sword. You step forward with the right foot and draw the sword, bringing up in backhand not quite all the way. You turn the blade right side up, ready for the downstroke back the same path. You grip with both hands and cut down back the same path. You then step back into hasso-no-kamae and chiburi by swinging your right hand around and over your head. Noto and take three steps back with the right foot. This is a lot of awkward steps but it’s an interesting kata.

My left wrist is still aching from the injury even though I’m resting. I’ll go back to Kendo when I’m ready to use that tendon for tenouchi without hurting it. Even the instructors agreed with my decision.

Day 294:

Today was a day of routine. It was only the instructor and two of us beginners. However, today I decided to do my kata with enthusiasm. I slowed down and made each motion a full effort, with the bending of the wrist.

It worked! I’ve never felt so good about my kata as today. I was ‘feeling it’ when I did the motions. I felt the opponent in front of me. I ‘saw’ the cuts. I pulled back the saya to make the cuts smoother and quieter. I tried not to bring my left foot forward so much to stabilize. I flexed my right wrist to make the cuts and chiburi more smooth. The instructor watched me for a while and said nothing. Instead the instructor offered to answer questions I had. I didn’t have any because I was just working things out for myself.

I was not perfect. My finish of the fourth kata was still awkward. My stance after the first and second kata is still a little shaky. My ascent in the third kata is still not smoothed over. Still, I enjoyed class today.

My wrist is still injured. No Kendo just yet. Perhaps not even next week.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 291-292

Day 291:

My first day back after trying to take care of my injuries and my left wrist is still very stiff. I made sure to stretch out extra before class and then I went into my routine. I performed 1-2-3-4-6-7-9-12 at half speed to avoid hurting myself. My kata seems to be a little awkward since I’ve been out of class for 2 weeks. Still, I moved slowly and did my best. My wrist did not hurt because I was moving slowly. Also, my drawing of the blade seemed a little smoother, maybe because I concentrated on being accurate rather than being powerful.

I did not go to Kendo class because my wrist was still tender at the end of Iaido class. I’m going to wait until it’s strong again before going back to using it for tenouchi. The instructors let me know that from now on, we are using bokken for suburi rather than shinai. I’ll have to remember that form now on. Maybe it’s time for a bigger sword bag.

Day 292:

Today we had a full Iaido class. There were the two instructors and four of us who were beginners. We had to squash ourselves for space. In fact, once everyone showed up, the lead instructor had to stop practicing to give up his space for everyone else to use. For most of the class, I did my routine of 1-2-3-4-6-7-9-12.

For the last ten minutes of class, the lead instructor took us through the moves of the first kata, showing the key points. I thought I was doing it well, but I guess not. My sword rattles in its saya when I draw because I’m not pulling the sword out enough before the quick flick at the end. Also, I’m concentrating on low enough of a draw but I take it too far. The saki should be in front of the shoulder or knee. When making the vertical cut, the saki should end up just lower than horizontal. Finally, the chiburi should finish by showing myself the back side of the sword, but not the sides. I tend to do that anyway, but it’s good to know it definitively.

Still no Kendo, but my wrist is getting better. Maybe next week.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 289-290

Day 289:

No class today since I am injured.

Day 290:

No class today since I am injured.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 287-288

Day 287:

No class today since I am injured.

Day 288:

No class today since I am injured.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 285-286

Day 285:

Our normal dojo suffered a structural problem and was closed for repairs. We moved our practice into the building next door into a dance hall. It seemed nice with a floating floor, mirrors on the wall, and a line taped into the floor.

In Iaido, I practiced 1-2-3-4-6-7-9-12. The third kata is hard to remember, but it is actually easier if you chain all of the individual motions into a fluid, slow movement from standing to chiburi. I noticed by standing on the line that my footwork for the sixth kata is not right. I’m stepping off the line to the left and ending up there. I should be staying on the line. An instructor corrected me. Secretly, I can’t wait to learn the fifth kata. Then at least I’ll be ready for a seminar when it happens.

In Kendo, we discovered the ceiling was not quite as tall as we would like. If we use a shinai, we are about an inch from striking the light fixtures. That’s not good. Instead, the instructors got the stash of several bokken and loaned them to students. I’ll have to remember to bring my bokken to practice from now on. We pretty much did all suri-ashi, fumi-komi, and suburi for all of class. It was good work and reinforcement of the basics. It was a good choice while the instructors did not know how well it would work with shinai in this ceiling.

We had a Guest Sensei show up. He gave a few comments for the basic class and then participated in the advanced class. My injuries were just finishing healing and I was tempted to stay and participate. However, logic won out and I went home instead. Guest Sensei said he would drop by for about a month or so. I think I’m going to try to stay for advanced practice next time or even next week.

Day 286:

Today I’m stiff from my injuries. I went to Iaido to practice my 1-2-3-4-6-7-9-12 in prep for Kendo. I was stiff on the third and fourth kata. The third is awkward, like all kata are at first. I think I should not draw on the first knee up. Perhaps I should draw on the second knee up as a single, fluid motion. The first knee up should simply torque the sword up, making it ready to draw.

In Kendo, we were in the gymnasium. We were slow to start, since others were late to show up. I was asked to start opening ceremony and warm-ups. As we did warm-ups, the instructors showed up, giving comments. We even did some suburi again the way they wanted. A sandan led the group for haya-suburi. At the end, we were told that we failed. At first I thought someone else must have messed up their stance, but it turns out I screwed up. I was louder than the instructor and ‘took over’ the pace. That’s wrong. The sandan should lead the pace. Man, was I embarrassed. I apologized and we started again. We did it right this time.

For class, we were lead in wind sprints, which reminded me of hockey drills. We charge in kamae and kiai all the way to a line, stop, then back to the start. Then start again and go further to another line, then all the way back. Finally, we do it again all the way down and all the way back. We are supposed to hold a single kiai for as long as we could and then take a breath and kiai again. After several ones over and over, my lungs were hurting. I had to stop and get some water. I participated in another set of wind sprints and then we stopped. We then did a drill I call the ‘tunnel’. Three kenshi lined up, facing the rest of the class one right after the other, holding their shinai out to the side. The first and third held to the right while the second held it towards the left. This meant we would charge through and strike men or kote only a single step apart until we reached the end.

At the end of the line, the last one joined the ‘tunnel’ to make four-kenshi long. Over and over until we had eight kenshi for a tunnel and the instructor giving the opening for doh at the end. It was the most fun in any drill we’ve ever had. Unfortunately, my back and legs were hurting by the time class was over. We did closing ceremony and I left. When I got home, I was in a lot of pain. I decided to skip class for a while until I’m healed. I’m not a teenager anymore so it might take a while to heal. These are the same injuries form the tournament and promotional when I tested for shodan while injured. I guess I never let them heal right.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 283-284

Day 283:

No class today because it is a holiday.

Day 284:

Against better judgment, I went to class. I’m still stiff and sore from the tournament, but not having the last class had made me antsy for exercise.

In Iaido, there were only myself and an instructor. I did 1-2-4-6-7-9-12 like usual. The instructor approached me and asked if I knew all twelve kata. I said no. He mentioned how he had taught the third kata to the others and would I like to learn it. I very enthusiastically said yes.

The third kata is tricky to learn. You turn to your right and sit in seiza. You imagine your opponent standing to your left. You put hands on the sword and come up on your knees and toes. Bring your left foot up to just behind your right knee and turn the toes outward. Pull the saya up and stand on your right foot, which has toes pointed into the arch of the left foot (very awkward). You draw up over your head and a little in front, blade pointed backwards. You imagine your opponent has over extended a cut downward, hitting your sword. The force swings your sword around up and you grip with two hands. Swing your left foot backwards and cut diagonally. Here’s where it gets weird. Rotate your left hand around to a straight-arm position, which rotates the saki to rest safely on your right knee. Reverse the grip of your right hand and grip the saya. Perform noto ‘backwards” and with blade out. Once it starts to go into the saya, rotate the saya to normal position and finish. Step to the left to end up where you start. I’ll have to practice this a lot. It’s actually harder to do in steps, but it’s necessary.

In Kendo, we did endless suri-ashi and fumi-komi exercises. Not good for my injuries but good for my Kendo. Eh, I’ll heal later. We finished by doing kiri-kaeshi several times. I was motodachi again. I decided not to push myself too hard.

Sensei was back, but he did not suit up. He just came to pick up supplies to loan to another dojo putting on a tournament. I talked to him for a while. He said he’s been to the doctor for lots of tests and to fix the injuries. I reminded him about the Iaito cleaning kit and a spare pair of men himo I’d like to order. He said he’ll put in the order when he gets the chance. He also says he’d like to come back to Kendo and Iaido when it’s possible.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 281-282

Day 281:

In Iaido, I practice my full regimen of 1-2-4-6-7-9-12. The fourth kata was painful for my foot, but I did it slowly and carefully. I’ll have to practice it more. The rest of the kata came naturally to me, even though my body was stiff. A couple of others got a lesson on doing the third kata. It was to round them out because they only knew the first two, or so I’m told. Since I was not asked to be included, I figured the lesson was not for me. So, I practiced my set. I did get some instruction. My tsuki in the sixth kata was too high. After the diagonal cut to the head, you must thrust under the sternum or else have the blade get caught. Imagine pushing downward as if severing the guts. I might ask for lessons on the third kata at a later date, after my sprains heal from the Kendo Tournament and Promotional.

In Basic Kendo class, I was asked to be motodachi again. It’s was kiri-kaeshi all throughout the class. We did it very slow. So slow that our strikes would ‘stick’ to the men before performing the next strike. At first, people didn’t get it, but after several reminders and demonstrations, they did it correctly. In fact, the lesson was a success as their strikes were getting more accurate. I got a correction from one of the instructors that my chudan-no-kamae was held out too far in front, exposing my kote. I never knew I did that. I wound up doing lots of kiri-kaeshi that day.

In Advanced Kendo, I decided to stay for the whole class. I drank some water and lined up. My wrist and ankle felt fine. We did a continuation of the kiri-kaeshi from Basic Class. Over and over, we did slow kiri-kaeshi. We also practiced menouchi and koteouchi. After the slow kiri-kaeshi, we found our strikes to be more accurate. There were several keikos to do. I felt tired and sluggish immediately, but I pushed myself. I wound up practicing my techiniques against jodan users. Dabana-kote (including a pair of really great debana-kote strikes), kaeshi doh, suriage men, and a failed attempt at nuki-men. I’ll work on that. I also did keiko with the beginners who stayed for Advanced Class. I remembered to show good form and loud kiai. I also remembered to allow them to strike openings on me for enthusiasm. On the down side, I think I twisted my wrist again and stressed my ankle. I may have to avoid advanced practice in the future.

Day 282:

In Iaido, I performed 1-2-4-6-7-9-12 again. I got some advice about keeping the tsuka in line with my forearm when thrusting behind myself in the fourth kata. It keeps the sword more stable when doing the thrust.

In Basic Kendo, we did lots of fumi-komi drills. Fumi-komi is my new weakness. We did the drill where two lines move across the floor, intersecting in the middle. You have to stagger when people cross the middle or else you’ll get hit. We worked fumi-komi and men strikes into it. When we finished, we did more of the slow kiri-kaeshi strikes. We started at half speed but worked up to a little faster to keep it flowing.

I did not stay for Advanced Class because of my wrist and ankle beginning to hurt.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 279-280

Day 279:

Today was hot and humid. I decided to come back to my old schedule.

In Iaido class, I was fearing my ankle would get injured, so I took it easy. I did 1-2-6-7-9-12. Forget 4 for now, that would kill my ankle and I’m trying to heal. I suppose I should have stayed home, but I just wanted to start Iaido again. I must have been obvious in my rustiness because I got corrected in 9. I was messing up footwork and not squaring my hips before the tsuki. I need to watch the Iaido DVD again to remember those steps.

In Kendo, the normal instructor did not show up. Someone who’s been out a long time led the opening ceremony, and I led warm-ups. It’s been a long time since I did that, but I fell right into line.

I was asked to be one of the motodachi for the class. We would do kiri-kaeshi, men, kote, and doh strikes. We would receive and then give back. The humidity was not kind to me so I gave the students extra attacks and I only gave a few in return. To do otherwise would stress my heart too much. I made it through class without a break and I decided to go home.

Day 280:

No class today as I am healing my injuries from the tournament.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 277-278.75

Day 277:

Today went by fast. We had a guest sensei today. He was incredibly fast with his strikes. We did several rounds of kiri-kaeshi, men, and kote strikes. Then we had endless keiko. Keiko after keiko after keiko. I had to bow out and rest for a short time. Suddenly, a piece of the ceiling fell down and struck one of the furniture against the wall. Immediately, we wondered if we did something wrong. It turns out the ceiling must have been damaged in the big storm last night. I volunteered to get the maintenance guy. He was really grateful that we told him right away. He said another piece of the ceiling fell down last week during someone else’s activity, but they never reported it to him. Once that was done, the instructor allowed me to sneak in one last keiko with him for practice. I was exhausted and dehydrated, but I pushed myself harder to strike against him. Even if he struck me, I kept my focus and counter-attacked.

Then it was time for kata. Not much time for it, but I did go through the first three kata with someone testing for ikkyu this coming weekend. I kept my focus and just maintained spacing. I think I did well. The instructor gave the ikkyu candidate some pointers and we did the third kata again. The footwork can be confusing. I’m glad I figured out the ‘negatively polarized’ trick to help me remember.

Guest sensei gave me some advice after class. He said to always be mindful of my strikes. If it’s a good men strike, always pass through. If it’s not a good strike do not pass through as it is a waste of zanshin. The instructor for tonight also said that in the fifth kata to have a more deliberate kamae for shidachi.

Day 278:

Today was a huge class. We had Kendoka come in form three other dojos to practice with us. We advanced class bowed in, we had two full lines on the kyu side. It’s been a long time since that happened.

We conducted the advanced class like the beginner class. Most advanced were motodachi and the rest made lines. Students stayed in their lines and motodachi rotated. We did some kiri-kaeshi and a lot of men and kote. Then we did kakari-geiko and then keiko. The first person in the student line also became the motodachi for the motodachi, which was me. I got extra practice against a nidan using nito. Then the class broke up into four teams of four Kendoka. We put on a kind of mock team match, except all keiko instead of official tournament rules. It was fun. I faced a shodan that had not been at the dojo in months because of injuries. I had been facing him over and over in my early Kendo career, but then he had to stop. It was like old times. After the matches, the instructors told me that they could not see any real differences between his Kendo and mine. That was a compliment to say I was acting and fighting like a shodan. I feel really confident now. I’m going to take that test for shodan this weekend.

Day 278.5 (Tournament):

Today should be the last time I fight in Mudansha. I should give it my best. I fought another ikkyu who was my equal. I snuck in a kote and won the fight 1-0. My next opponent was form a Korean Kumdo club. He was tired, but he had lots of energy. We exchanged blows back and forth. Leaping and jumping over each other and past each other. Striking for kote, men, and once even for doh. Closing distance to rob the other of zanshin. In the end, I lost by hantei. I don’t mind. He was a good fighter.

I was on my feet and running around tying ribbons all day. I also kept score for a pair of divisions. In team matches, I was on the “B” team, first position. We went up against people higher ranked than ourselves. The matches were close in points. I fought someone who was either shodan or nidan, someone I had fought against before. I let him fail an attack and then I counter-attacked with a simple men strike and pushed my way through for zanshin. I won 2-1. Everyone else lost, but we had a good time.

I stayed at the end to help clean up and participate in godo-geiko. I fought a 7th-Dan and a 5th-Dan for practice. I pushed myself to fight and win so hard that I wound up partially spraining myself in the left wrist and ankle. That was stupid. I stopped and relaxed until the 7th-Dan was receiving students for advice. He told me to not be in such a hurry to strike and make sure each strike was a good one. That’s good advice.

Day 278.75 (Promotional):

I showed up early and slowly stretched my wrists and ankles. They were stiff and sore from trying to heal last night. I lightly warmed up and simply made ready to start. We started right away, but the other shodan candidate didn’t arrive until after we were seated in line. At first, I was in the third line in the back, but we were pushed up against the wall so I was asked to unevenly fill out the second line. It was at this point that my testing partner showed up. We had no time to practice kata beforehand.

I knew we would be last to test, but the waiting was brutal. I could not get comfortable, no matter what position I was in. After a while, the numbness gave way to racing pains all up and down my feet and legs.

Finally, we were called up to test. The two shodan candidates and an ikkyu candidate. We all did keiko with each other. I remembered to slow down and control my partner through seme, which I did. The other shodan candidate responded to me and I seemed to control the whole fight at my whim. I did allow her openings when she took the initiative. We were trying to help each other pass, after all. The ikkyu candidate did not seem to respond at all to seme. She just attacked and attacked. I had to score a few points and let her score points.

The judges took a break before kata. My partner and I practiced the first five kata with her as uchidachi. She took such small steps and she was even shorter than me by a third of my height. I did not need to step back to avoid the uchidachi strike. That was bad. We were also not touching bokken on the third kata, losing contact.

The judges returned and the kata started. My partner was uchidachi, so I remembered to account for the distance. The first three kata went well. Then on the fourth kata, our spacing was wrong. We were a little too close so our bokken clacked too high and too close. The victory strike was with the midpoint of the sword instead of the monouchi.

We were asked to repeat the fourth kata and a cold feeling came over me. I felt I had failed. We came out to get our distance and I tried to account again. We were too close again. It was a repeat of the previous attempt. At the end, we bowed out.

As I was packing up my bogu, the ikkyu candidate came over after reading the results. I figured she passed ad I wondered if there would be a promotional close enough to now for a kata-only portion for me. She told me I had passed. I was blown away! I ran over to read the results. I passed!!!

The rest of the day was a blur. I was thanking and congratulating everyone over and over too much to pay attention. I made sure to go home and call my best friend. I also bought some dessert for me over the next week. I am a shodan now!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 275-276

Day 275:

Today was possibly the hardest day of Kendo that did not involve Head Sensei. We started off with invigorating rounds of kiri-kaeshi, men-ouchi, and kote-ouchi. We then did a drill of kiri-kae-doh, where you strike oh-men, push the motodachi back, the alternate left and right doh strike, starting with left (proper) side. The motodachi holds the sword in right jodan while being struck in doh.

We had a few rounds of keiko also. Since there were an odd number of us, there was a space in rotation to rest. After a rest from hearing a lecture, I did two keikos and then got another chance to rest.

Then, right away, the instructor called me to stand on one side of the dojo. Everyone else stood on the opposite side. One after another, I fought a keiko in formal fashion gauntlet-style (one after another). After three hard keikos, I got the chance to rest. I was taught to hold the shinai over my head with two hands sideways to show I needed to breathe. I did so, not wasting my time doing anything else. My guts were twisting painfully, even though I drank water before practice.

I fought another three keikos, getting slower with each one from fatigue. I had to use more strategy than speed by now. I used more nuki-men and hiki-kote. One more rest and I fought the instructor. A hard match, but I stuck in there to the end.

Afterwards, we broke up for kata. I love kata again. I’m starting to get the hang of the spacing. A nidan helped me go through the first five kata again. He advised me to show more forward motion every time I would be shidachi and move into left jodan. That shows zanshin. The instructor also came by and mentioned that how I learned the fifth kata was wrong. For uchidachi, I’ve been using right jodan like I was taught. He told me it’s left jodan. That was embarrassing. I consulted the book written by Ozawa-sensei and the book agrees. Uchidachi moves into left jodan. I’ll have to remember that.

Day 276:

Today was a fairly normal practice. After kiri-kaeshi, we focused one various types of men strikes. Oh-men, sashi-men, and nuki-men. I’m beginning to like nuki-men a lot. It seems to agree with the way my mind works. Offer an opening for men, and then leap back and forward to strike their exposed men. I really have to be in the mood for it, or else I don’t pull it off right. We did several rounds of keiko afterwards to build up stamina.

Then it was time for kata again. I love kata. I think after the promotional exam, I will make time for Iaido class again. I practiced the first five kata with Sensei in both uchidachi and shidachi roles. He told me that if I keep the spacing in mind always, then I should be ready to test. I really need to focus on my spacing. With someone as tall as myself, I need to move forward in normal steps and backwards in bigger-than-small steps. Otherwise, I push my partner back too much and we do not approach center as well.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 273-274

Day 273:

Today was a special practice because the next regularly scheduled practice would be on a holiday. We worked a lot on kiri-kaeshi, and kihon. Over and over we did men strikes and kote strikes. We did several rounds of keiko.

At the end of practice, we did practice shiai matches with the objective in teaching the newer students how to run a shiai. Timekeeping, scorekeeping, yelling, and ribbon-tying were all taught and demonstrated.

I was in the first group. I had two matches, one win 2-0 and one draw. My draw was against a shodan that I’ve been pairing with in practice often to raise my kendo higher. I helped to timekeep after my matches.

Afterwards, we had a practice promotional exam for the kyus and one for shodan. I was told by several people that I did very well on my keiko. However, during my kata exam I think I failed. I could easily see that I was once again pushing my partner backwards and not stepping backwards enough myself. We finished too far forward and not on center. I’m not happy with that. I got some advice, mainly due to spacing and stepping. I NEED to work on more kata to get the spacing down or else I’m afraid I’ll fail for real. That will hurt more than any injury.

Day 274:

Today was a hard day of practice. It was over 90 degrees temperature and humid. There were six other Kendokda at practice today bedsides myself.

We started off with the normal rounds of kiri-kaeshi, men strike, and kote strike. We did a few rounds of practicing kote-nuki-men. The attacker would try to strike kote, and the receiver would step back and raise to clear the center. The receiver would then bring down for men strike.

The instructor decided to center the rest of practice around me and my quest for shodan. He ordered that everyone rotate to have a keiko with me with no breaks in between. I fought all six of the others one after the other. My guts were twisting after the fifth keiko, but I kept pressing. I was in abdominal pain after the sixth keiko, but I kept it up.

The last keiko was against an unranked opponent. I was reminded to fight down to not overwhelm her, but still try to win. In the beginning, I alternated between trying to win and letting her strike. Soon, I heard encouragement to be ‘more aggressive’, so I then pushed to win. A halt was called for ippon-shobu. I used my best techiniques, still keeping good tenouchi and judgement, and I scored a very quick men to finish.

We finished class with kata. I’m no longer confident in my kata. I keep pushing too far forward and not recovering. If I can’t fix it, I might not pass the promotional. During my rehearsal of the first five kata, we were stopped. A nidan pointed out that the reason we were off center was because we were in a shorter space than normal. That was throwing off our distances. With that in mind, we shortened our forward steps and lengthened our backwards steps. That seemed to do the trick. I will have to measure the strides for the full court on promotion day. More practice would help, too.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 271-272

Day 271:

Before advanced class, I was stretching off to the side when one of the others offered to do kata with me. I jumped at the chance. He walked me through the first five kata. I spent this time memorizing the steps for the fourth and fifth katas.

In advanced class, it was a very tiring class. There were multiple rounds each of kiri-kaeshi, men-ouchi, kote-ouchi, and doh-ouchi. Then we worked on hiki-waza. We practiced men-hiki-men, men-hiki-kote, and men-hiki-doh. We then strung them all together for uchikomi-geiko. After that, I was totally out of breath. I had to sit out for a while.

When I recovered, I went back in for keiko. I had several keikos, including a nidan who loves to practice jodan. That’s good, I love to practice anti-jodan techniques. We had several good exchanges, including a great nuki-men done by me. Even the sandan teaching the class called it ‘perfect’.

We then broke up into kata. I did the first five kata as if testing. I received much criticism for my spacing. The first, fourth, and fifth kata especially I was pressing too far forward and not backing off enough to keep spacing. I was told I would fail if I did not correct my spacing. I need to concentrate on keeping myself in check.

Day 272:

Today, we started off with a few rounds each of kiri-kaeshi and men-ouchi. We tried doing suriage-men drills at full speed. That was hard. I kept blocking but not landing a good strike. Well, at least that was done. We moved to kote drills. I did well at kote, especially quick-kote. Small movements to just clear the shinai or circle around the tsuba. I got a compliment for my small kote strikes from a nidan. We then practiced debana waza. Men-debana-kote was the drill and we all did well at it. We then strung a drill for sanbon-kote-ouchi-sanbon-men-ouchi-gohon-men-debana-kote. That was tiring. We did a few keikos before I had to rest.

We did more kata practice. I need more kata practice before I’m ready for testing. I did the first five kata with a nidan. He liked my kata, especially seeing as I controlled my spacing.

We learned a new kata. The sixth kata. The uchidachi starts in chudan while the shidachi moves to gedan. Three steps forward. Shidachi slowly raises up, then tries to slice upwards on the kote. The uchidachi jumps backwards into jodan and then slides back into chudan. The uchidachi tries for kote. The shidachi performs suriage-kote and then moves forward diagonally to the left into jodan for zanshin. The uchidachi steps backwards and the shidachi steps sideways into line to finish. That was hard to remember, but it’s very interesting.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 269-270

Day 268:

Today, a godan came to practice with us. He’s from the instructor’s old dojo in the Midwest. He’s here on his own business, but decided to come practice with us for fun.

We did lots of kiri-kaeshi, men strike, and kote strike for warm-ups. The instructor also started doing something new. The first time he wanted us to do a drill, each side did it three times. After we rotated, we would do the drill five times. Rotate and do it seven times. Rotate and do it nine times. This pace of ramping up really takes a toll on your endurance. I found myself wheezing and huffing more quickly. Our normal way of doing in five times every time was much easier. Perhaps that’s the point.

We also did lots of ji-geiko, including with Guest Sensei. Each time, he would stop his ji-geiko to teach something. For me, he taught me to not step backwards from tsuba-zeriai. Instead, I should leap back to avoid sneaky counterattacks.

Day 270:

Today, Guest Sensei was back for the last time. We trained extra-hard just for him. It was more kiri-kaeshi, men, and kote. We threw in extra kote-men, too.

During my ji-geiko with him, he commented about how I am raising my shinai too soon, revealing my plans. I should step in first, then raise up more quickly to avoid telling where my target is.

We had lots of free practice with any partner we wished. I fought with Guest Sensei twice tonight, and three others to test my lessons. I was doing well with Kendoka close to my rank. There was no kata tonight. I need to work on some more kata. It’s only about a month until the tournament and promotional.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 267-268

Day 267:

Today was the subject of baiting. We started with a few rounds of kiri-kaeshi, and then started baiting. Baiting means you give a little opening in hopes that your opponent will attempt to strike the opening. When they attack the way you want them to attack, you use an oji-waza to counter and then attack their exposed targets. We used mostly kote-suriage-men. I think I did well when I was expecting the attack. I made sure to slow down make more deliberate motions. We did this many times.

We also did keiko. My first keiko was with Sensei. I made sure to remember not to come in for tai-atari because I might reinjure his knee. I used oji-waza to try to make openings and vary my attacks. He used several extremely fast hiki-waza to show me how much I still have to learn.

After a few rounds of keiko, we broke up into kata. One of the instructors dedicated this time to teach me. We went through the first four kata using each role. He made a few comments such as making sure that the distance in the fourth kata was just right or else I would be too close for the spinning block and counterattack.

We then practiced the fifth kata. It’s fairly straightforward. The uchidachi moves into right jodan while the shidachi just adjusts chudan to threaten the uchidachi’s left kote. Three steps forward. The uchidachi attacks men. The shidachi takes a half-step backward while performing suriage-men. The shidachi then takes a full step forward to strike men. Dragging the blade down and backwards, the shidachi slowly starts to move backwards. For zanshin, the shidachi moves backwards into left jodan. Then the shidachi moves backwards into chudan. The pair than take three small steps back to center.

I need to remember to keep my left foot straight. If my left foot feels comfortable, then I’m probably not straight. That’ll be tough to keep in my thoughts.

Day 268:

Today Head Sensei was here. At the start of practice, he asked ‘do you want a hard practice or a soft practice’? Not really knowing the difference, we said, ‘hard practice’. We then set up to do hard practice, which means once we are assigned our stations and drills, we do the drill, then rush to the next station without being told to rotate. This is supposed to have a continuous flow for a near-constant practice without much rest. We tried to do our best, but some of us caused bottlenecks in the drills. Eventually, we moved to a soft practice approach. We did kiri-kaeshi for a bit.

Today’s best drill was something Head Sensei was trying to teach us. He wanted us to do a very quick and very small kote strike with charging in to tai-atari immediately. The drill seems simple enough, but the catch is that you only need to lift the shinai just enough to clear the opponent’s shinai. It’s trickier than it sounds, however I was really into the drill. I like doing a small kote and charging in. After a few tries, I seemed to have the drill down pat. Head Sensei even had me demonstrate for the call about how to do it correctly. I never felt so proud! We did that drill a lot.

We also did a drill where the attacker hits men five times. The receiver would receive men, hit aiouchi-men, receive men, hit debana-kote, receive men. We also moved to having the attacker attack kote while the receiver did the same responses. We rounded out class with a men-hiki-men-men-hiki-kote-men-hiki-doh-men drill.

Head Sensei seemed to be in pain for all of class, but he never sat down. He never halted class. He did need to have his foot taped up or the tape taken off. He did stop a moment to stretch his back, but it took less than a minute. Then he got right back in. That guy must be made of iron.

The final drill was pushing the proper way. We would strike men and collapse into tai-atari. You are supposed to then push your opponent to arm’s length, raise your shinai, and bring it down for a follow-up men strike. You could call it a men-push-men drill. It’s difficult because you really need to push far enough but not too hard. If your opponent falls because you shoved him down, that’s a foul for you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 265-266

Day 265:

Today was a hard practice all about harai-men. We had kiri-kaeshi, men, and kote drills, but they were leading up to a special drill where we would make openings in preparation for striking men. I was encouraged to make my movements small to keep center as much as possible.

In fact, the secret seems to be using less shoulders and more hands to make openings. This keeps you on target for men. At the end of class, I made the request to add lots of kata from now until the promotional. I need to get back into practicing the first three as well as learning the fourth and fifth katas.

Day 266:

I had the day off from work today, so I decided to go to both basic and advanced Kendo class. Instead of being a motodachi, practically the whole class was in bogu, so we rotated like normal, except for anyone less than 17 years old, who would be in the instructor’s line. We practiced kiri-kaeshi, men, kote, and doh strikes.

Class was running late and by the end of it, the instructor made up big drills with multiple iterations of kihon strung in a long chain to test our endurance. We did a men-kote-doh combination and then a huge men-kote-doh-men-kiri-kaeshi drill. That last one stressed my lungs as I tend to scream my kiai a lot. About ¼ of the way into the kiri-kaeshi, it felt like my lungs had shut down. I’m sure they didn’t really shut down, but my kiai suddenly became really hard to do, quiet, and my body felt like it was shutting down. I nearly collapsed. Fortunately, that was the end of class.

In advanced class, we started with kiri-kaeshi for a few rounds. There were only four of us, so we got to ask each other what we would like to work on. After a few rounds of kiri-kaeshi, my lungs felt like they were shutting down again. I stepped out of practice and took off men. I stayed out for a long time. My body gives me ‘false positives’ for signals when it’s recovering from anything. I’ll feel good enough to practice when I’m not really ready. This is true for injury as well as fatigue. Instead, I listened to an instructor who was teaching a beginner student all about how to take apart and maintain a shinai.

After a while and a few drinks of water, I really did feel better. So, I watched the others practice a debana drill, focusing on how to read your opponent and try to know when to start. I put on men and stepped in to practice a nuki-men drill. We would pair up and perform four aiouchi-men. On the fifth exchange, the ‘attacker’ would use a nuki-men to avoid the attack and win. We quickly practiced a drill using men-men for the purposes to defeat a nuki-men. It’s not very good at scoring, but it is good for disrupting nuki-men.

We then broke up for kata. It was getting late, so we just cut to the chase. Another student and I practiced the first three kata and took comments. I still seem to have the same problems of ‘pressing’ my partner backwards and not backing up to the starting point. Also, I was told I was getting lazy with bowing by doing it from the neck instead of the waist.

We then learned about the motions of the fourth kata. I learned I can still move into waki-no-kamae fairly well as long as I pay attention to the feeling in my right wrist in order to hide the blade behind me. We practiced both sides of the fourth kata several times before it was time to end practice for the night.

It was later than usual, but I was moving slowly from body pain. That’s the signal for ‘great workout’. The instructor and I were the last to leave, so he took that opportunity to give me a full in-depth analysis of my Kendo and what I’m lacking for shodan. I didn’t take it personally. He was trying to help me. I stayed standing on my incredibly aching feet the whole time.

He told me in great detail about how I was a ‘strong ikkyu’ and that wasn’t enough anymore. I need to start being a shodan. I need to stop relying on my speed and strength. I need to control the match and use more strategy. I need to practice more of my ‘other tools’ that I’ve been learning. He also suggested I ask other dans what they think I need to work on for the shodan exam. I think that’s a good idea.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 263-264

Day 263:

Today I went back to advanced practice. I need to keep coming to advanced practice to get ready for the promotional in a couple of months. Today was very hot. The instructor warned us to be careful of our health and to take breaks when we need to. We started off with a couple of rounds of kiri-kaeshi and men strikes. We even learned something called ai-kiri-kaeshi. Each side attempts to strike men using the same 4-5 pattern after the attacker strikes the first men. This way, both shinai crash together at the uke, forming a block. It’s really energy-draining, but a nice change of pace.

The focus today was on taking and keeping center. We did a neat little drill where each partner takes chudan and then holds it firm. Both step in and try to touch tsuki gently. Only one can do it if they hold center. By experimenting, we found the best way is to have loose hands for the first half of the distance, then squeeze the hands the rest of the way. We added a single sideways step to the drill to try to open up the angle. Finally, we did the drill in the center of the room around the center of the court. Sparsed around the drills we had the occasional ji-geiko focusing on using the center drills we were learning.

Today I thought I would have to take multiple breaks, but I did not need a single break. After the energy of the early class, I recovered on my own.

Day 264:

We started off class with a long lecture about how keeping shushin, or center of your spirit, powerful through your sword can make you near-invincible. When you have a strong spirit, your sword takes the center and your opponent cannot strike men, tsuki, or kote. We then did some ai-kiri-kaeshi and men strikes.

We then worked on a new drill. The attacker tries to strike kote. The defender strikes aiouchi-kote to nullify the point. Later, we enhanced the drill by having the defender follow up with a men strike to teach reactionary strikes to win. We then had a series of exchanges where we pressure the other into striking while we use oji-waza, such as harai-men.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 259-262.5

Day 259-262:

These classes have sped by fast. We are in preparation for the Kendo tournament this weekend.

In Iaido, I have been trying to kneel down in iai-heza like it has been suggested to me. That is painful. You need to curl your toes up on your left foot and then keep them up, including when you lean back after noto. That’s when it gets really painful. I need to shift my weight onto my knee to take the burden off my toes.

In Kendo, we have been working up to keiko and practice shiai. Men strikes, kote strikes, and doh strikes over and over, trying to get each perfect. In one of my practice matches, I went up against a nidan using nito. I used alternate kamae and speed to strike men twice. I tried using the “sticky doh” method to try to score a point, but the judges did not award it. I stuck with the quick men strike to win. The nito player seemed afraid whenever I would threaten tsuki. I would also try to use oji-waza to let him try to attack and then parry and counter-attack. I think I did well. However, our nidan is still learning nito. It will be much harder against an experienced nito player.

Day 262.5 Tournament:

I’ve never been to this part of the country before. My directions weren’t quite accurate on the last part, so I had to turn around a couple of times. Combine that with traffic from road construction and I wasn’t there when the doors opened. Good thing I made it in time for opening ceremonies and to check-in to inspect my shinais.

In mudansha division, I did my usual effort. I passed the first round as the winner. I got a by-in for the first match because of scheduling and I fought against an older woman for my first real match. It was an ikkyu-nikyu division, so I’m guessing she must have been nikyu. I decided to use my speed to defeat her and I was right. I scored two quick men strikes and advanced. My next opponent was all that was standing in my way to a third place medal. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of being “too nice”. My opponent came to tsuba-zeriai often and then would half-back away, then rapidly attack my men. After several strikes, the judges decided he had enough zanshin and gave him two points. I was disappointed. I should have gone after him more and with more energy.

In team matches, they put me on the A team this time, in second place. We faced a team I’ve never fought before. Watching the first match, I saw them stick like glue to tsuba-zeriai and stay there for the whole match, trying to ruffle their opponents into making mistakes of anger. I figured out to break the glue is to run into them and then propel them backwards. Too bad I wasn’t quite accurate enough to land a good strike or else I would have won my match. Nevertheless, our team lost because their captain did not do that tactic, instead he fought normally and edged out a victory.

The drive back was long and I was hungry when I got back. I think I should rest and recover.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 257-258

Day 257:

In Iaido, I practiced 1-2-4-6-7-9-12 again. The first few times I did them, I did well. My body was flowing smoothly. After that, I started to become sluggish and miss steps. I think it was the heat and humidity. They were very high today. When I was doing the fourth kata, the instructor told me to bring my toes up for the movements. I can’t see where to bring them up smoothly, so I think I need to watch the DVD again. I should look at the twelfth kata again also. Do I pull my right leg back for chiburi or should it already be back there in preparation? I was sweating and my heart was beating hard by the end of class. I should pace myself for Kendo class.

In Kendo, our instructor was late so we did a normal set of suburi today. When he did show up, we did a continuation of the last class. We worked on all of the components of the perfect men strike. We started with suri-ashi, both solo and with partners. We went all the way down and back with big kiai and not stopping for extra breath. Our breath is our endurance. We did not put on men or kote, we would just block with the shinai. We received with a partner for all of the pieces of the perfect men strike. Proper distance, stab the ceiling, not pausing between motions, over and over. At the end we were doing eight haya-suburi with a single breath. My partner was doing wrong footwork the entire time. I tried to gently point it out. He wasn’t even aware he was doing it. I also tried to check my own footwork to do it right. Closing remarks form the instructor said that we should be doing kiri-kaeshi with two breaths and maybe a third one for the final oh-men. That’s a tall order, but it is in the direction I should push myself. I guess I should do it that way when I get the chance.

Day 258:

In Iaido, I started doing my normal 1-2-4-6-7-9-12. I tried to remember to insert moving my toes up in prep for the fourth kata and sliding my right leg back for the twelfth kata. However, one of the instructors came over to correct me. Apparently, you are not supposed to slide your left foot backwards to sit in iai-heza. You are supposed to come down like you are going to seiza and then modify it, with your toes still flat at the start. You rise up and bring your toes up. This was logical as it helps with the forward motion of striking with the tsuka. However, when finishing you must keep your toes up and slide back onto your left knee and slide your right leg back during noto. That was painful. I’ll have to ask Sensei what he thinks. He did not teach it to me that way, but apparently a high-ranking sensei taught the instructor like her way. I’ll have to try to do both until I get a clear answer. Later in the day, I got an e-mail from Sensei saying that he supports the high-ranking Sensei’s way of doing it. He taught me the other way as a beginner’s way to start learning the kata and because his Sensei started teaching him that way.

In Kendo, we had a different instructor. He wanted to spread out the lessons to cover much of everything we could rather than focus exclusively on one thing. We did suburi and then put on men right away. Class started earlier than usual so I was late coming in. I missed the stretches but arrived for suburi, so I was not on the dan side of the dojo for waza. We did kiri-kaeshi, men strikes, kote strikes, doh strikes, kote-men strikes, and more kiri-kaeshi. We worked up with advanced waza such as seme to make the opponent flinch and then strike their kote. We then lined up for keiko and sparred with a partner for a few minutes. I had two opponents who were lower-ranking than myself, so I had to fight with them but leave openings for them to strike. I tried hard not to show off but to encourage. Afterwards, we were separated into six-person teams. I had a team match against someone who was unranked. I tried to win, but leave room for counterattacks. It went well. I won 2-1, and felt like the other person was encouraged by their attacks. I also learned that I need to focus on sharpening my form and distance even if I’m leaving openings.