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.