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.