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.