Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 238-239

Day 238:

In Iaido, we opened by performing our known kata over and over until Sensei was ready to instruct. I did my 1-2-6-12 like normal. I’m getting better and remembering the chiburi steps without forgetting. I think I may have made a mistake in tying my obi because putting the saya in the loop and tying the sageo was awkward today. I’ll have to think about that. Sensei gave a lecture on the sixth kata. He made sure to tell us about the finer points, like the second step forward has your left hand pulling up on the saya and twisting to help the draw. You are also supposed to pull back the saya instead of pulling the sword forward. This allows you to have power when cutting your opponent. We practiced the draw by doing the kata over and over using emphasis. By the end of class, we were using small kiais each time we did a cut.

In Kendo, we spent the entire class in two lines like advanced class. We did men strikes, kote strikes, and kiri-kaeshi over and over. Good workout. The beginners would block with their shinais while we would strike them slowly and gently.

Day 239:

Class was cancelled due to severe weather.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 236-237

Day 236:

In Iaido, I did the same routine over and over to hone my technique. First I did rei-hou to bow in, then I would perform 1-2-12 in that order over and over. Sensei commented on how my arm in the first kata was too high. I seem to keep cutting at my own eye height rather than an imaginary opponent’s eye height if they were in seiza. Sensei knelt in seiza in front of me to give me a target. I need to practice that. He promised to teach me a new kata, but he didn’t get to it today. I told him he owes me a new kata next class and he just smiled and agreed.

In Kendo, we were spinning the lessons of fumi-komi and men strike together. We would practice kiai all the way down the floor, then men strike all the way down the floor, then fumi-komi all the way down the floor. We added in a few drills to have two partners cross the saki and hold the shinais like that all the way down the floor. I helped receive men strikes for a short time while others were putting on their men and kote. I didn’t bring my men since my kote were in the shop for repair. I could have brought it, but I wanted to practice with the students this time. The end of class was practicing a half-round of kiri-kaeshi using very slow strikes and being perfect with each one.

Day 237:

In Iaido, I started off same as usual. Bow in, 1-2-12, bow out. However, Sensei taught me a new kata. It is the sixth kata, using tsuki. You start off standing with both hands on the hakama. You step forward with the right foot, then the left foot and put your hands on the sword. Then you step forward with the right foot and draw, threatening the chin of your opponent. You bring the left foot up into chudan while moving the left hand up to the sword. Then you step forward to attack tsuki. You use the special turning around step where you move around the sword. You attack vertically behind you, and then do it again to face front. You perform small chiburi to the right side and then noto. There’s a lot of steps involved, but it looks impressive when you do it. We had another competition for students going to test at the seminar. I timed the first group, and participated in the second group. The others had a random combination but I did 1-2-6-12-6 for mine. My first time was 5:53, which is good. We squeezed a last set in before the end of class and my time was 6:03, which I believe is not good. I had several seconds where I just could not get my saya into the obi. I think that was what made my time bad.

In Kendo, we did a new drill where we kiai all the way down, then all the way back. Also, we did all the way down, all the way back going backwards, and then all the way down. That was a new one. We added men strike to the drill to make it interesting. Then the instructor asked us to put men on and receive. I received men strike and half-round of kiri-kaeshi from the unranked students. Then the advanced students paired up to do kiri-kaeshi, men strike, and then a very short ji-geiko.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 234-235

Day 234:

Today in Iaido, Sensei was preparing the others for a trip to a seminar and promotional testing. We did the full set of bowing in, kata, and bowing out over and over. My classmate did the first five kata, while I just did the first and twelfth. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve done the twelfth so I should review my notes. Another student who is shodan got to pick her kata from the whole set of twelve that she knew. At the end of class, Sensei timed my classmates on their whole performance. He even set up chairs and designated a line to adhere to. It was interesting to see.

In Kendo, the drills on fumi-komi and men strike continued. It seems as if Sensei is rotating nidans to get them to practice teaching students. I wonder if that is part of becoming a “sensei”. The end of class was interesting. We lined up in two lines facing each other across the dojo floor. One side would hold up their shinais to block men while the other side would strike men with fumi-komi. It seems as if I don’t have a lot of time for advanced class anymore since my job is so early, so advanced class seems to be for special occasions. I guess I’ll save them up for preparation for promotional testing and just lose sleep then.

Day 235:

In Iaido, Sensei was getting ready to take the others to a seminar for testing. We went through a practice exam. You stand at the ready with your sword out of your belt but held up to it. You wait for the judges to say “meijo” and then you approach. You stop at the line, ready to go and wait. Once the judges say “hajime”, then you begin by bowing to shomen and then bowing to the sword. You perform your routine of kata as previously decided and then finish by bowing to the sword and then to the shomen. You put the sword to your belt but not in and hold still. Once the judges say “eijo”, you do the special walk away. I learned a new kata, which is the second one to increase my routine. The second kata is like the first one, only reverse. You start off by facing the shomen, then turning away and moving to seiza. When you are ready, you grip the saya and tsuka like usual, bringing your toes up. Then you move your left big toe behind the right big toe. Using the left big toe as a pivot, you spin around to face the shomen, then draw and cut horizontally. You then bring your right leg up and cut vertically while bringing your left foot forward. Your legs are reversed in position from the first kata. Then you perform chiburi with reversed legs. My combination to do for the practice test was 1-2-12-1-12. Apparently, six minutes is the ideal time to try for, so you must get as close to six minutes without going too long. My time was five minutes and thirty seconds. Not bad.

In Kendo, we continued with men strike with fumi-komi. Most of us put on men to give and receive strikes. My schedule is becoming unfriendly to Kendo now. I usually skip advanced practice because it’s too late in the evening. By the time I would get home, my adrenaline would keep me awake until an hour after midnight. My alarm sounds only a few hours later for my job, so I need my sleep. The time that I normally spent napping before Kendo is now spent in Iaido. Well, I’ll just have to save it for special occasions like holidays or preparation for promotional, especially Kendo kata.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Beginner's Point of View 232-233

Day 232:

In Iaido, Sensei was getting a couple of students ready for a seminar up north. In class, we concentrated on rei-hou mostly. Sensei would show us how to bow in and out properly. We would follow along as best as we could. I obviously needed a lot of practice. I would bow in, perform the first kata, then bow out. I had to remember to seiza the right way and all of the sageo steps in my checklist. I think it’s time to smooth over the checklist to a more refined form. I did the whole routine twice by the end of class. I’m getting smoother, but I still only know the first kata (and twelfth, but that’s for later).

In Kendo, there were a lot of people present. We had to have three lines for warm-ups and suburi. Then we all put on men and did one-step men and one-step doh drills. I would take turns receiving men and doh as well as giving men and doh.

Day 233:

In Iaido, Sensei was getting some of us ready to go to a seminar and promotional exam. We would do the bow-in, kata, and bow out. I only knew the first kata, so I did that one. I did all right bowing in and out, although I’m still feeling out the line. I should be closer but I don’t want to have my knees on the line just yet. For the first kata, doing the sword movements was easy, but I seem to forget to switch forward feet exactly half of the time. It seems that every other time I try to noto with the right foot forward and left foot back. Also tonight the saya did not seem to swing to the back for sayabiki like it should. I’ll have to ask Sensei some questions about the tightness of the obi and placement of the saya. On top of that, every third time I did the first kata I would forget to bring my knee down to the floor in the second half of the noto. It’s not hard to do, it’s just that doing the kata in stages like Sensei teaches ingrains patterns which are hard to break.

In Kendo, Head Sensei showed up today. After warm-ups, he taught the class like everybody was going to test for promotion soon. The spring tournament is coming in a couple of months, so I should expect this. We did lots of kiri-kaeshi, one-step men, and one-step doh. As I went through the lines, one of the instructors asked me to take his place. So, I received for a large portion of the class. Once, Head Sensei told me that when receiving for a shorter student that I should lean my head forward a little to let them strike the top. It gave me a slight headache to do so, but not bad.

In Advanced Kendo, Head Sensei continued to drill everyone as if they were going to test. Lots more of kiri-kaeshi and one-step men. Many, many drills of that. Eventually, I had to step out and rest. I just couldn’t get my breath back. After a while, I got back into it. Head Sensei was setting up impromptu matches and saying that they were the promotional keiko matches. The nidans were competing for the sandan victory. The mudansha were competing for the ikkyu victory. I stepped onto the floor at the end of it, so I didn’t get a match. Head Sensei wanted everyone to do kakari-geiko with enthusiasm. In our dojo, the phrase ‘with enthusiasm’ means ‘scream like a maniac’, so people love to do it. When we did kakari-geiko, the nidans received and would make opening like we’ve been drilling for weeks. Kakari-geiko with Head Sensei was very taxing, but I hung in there. To finish class, we did long keiko with partners. I had a short one with Head Sensei and then two longer ones with other students. I left openings for a lower-ranking student and pushed myself to win against a higher-ranking student.