Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 433-434

Day 433:

No class today as I am not well.

Day 434:

Today I went back and did three sets of Iaido. I was out of breath after class, so I still can’t tell how much better I’m getting. I can’t wait to do the blood tests for the doctor again.

After class, the instructor asked me if I would be an officer of the club. Normally, we elect members of the board (that runs the club). However, he said he wants to try appointing this year. I said I would serve if asked.

This was the last practice of the year. In two weeks is the next practice.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 431-432

Day 431:

I arrived at the dojo to find it set for a party. I waited until someone showed up. The instructor said it was ours for the night, so we cleared the floor.

We only had time for two sets, but I was still able to do more. I asked the question about when to spring forward with the tsuka-ate. He said to rise up and bring your toes up first, then spring forward. That makes it easier than springing from tate-heiza like I’ve been trying to master.

The Kendo instructor did not show up, so the Iaido instructor taught the basic Kendo class. He asked me to stay and help teach Kendo kata to the students. We went over the first two kata in detail and showed the third kata.

Day 432:

Today I arrived early. I got three sets in and was very tired. I can’t wait to see the doctor for my checkup.

I’m finding the big chiburi from jodan hard to control. When I asked the instructor, he showed me a simpler chiburi where the tsuba only travels straight down, not left and then right. You use your tenouchi to flick the sword. The sword should not move left and right, only travel in the plane of the blade.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 429-430

Day 429:

No class today because I am ill.

Day 430:

Today I was feeling average, so I went to class. We had a lot of people in class today so there was almost no room to maneuver. So I did all of my kata randomly to try to fit into the small space.

After class, I asked the instructor why it was that I keep finding myself back to the starting point when I did noto. He told me that this is an aspect of my long legs. I have to step back in smaller steps.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 427-428

Day 427:

No class today because I am ill.

Day 428:

Today I feel better. I was able to do three sets without losing my breath. I think I’ve recovered from that Kendo class and horrible sleep all last weekend.

Only things to work on is linking metsuke and making sure to raise the iaito directly over my head before striking.

I've heard of the next Iaido seminar. It's two days instead of one day. I'm only hoping that it won't be too long each day. I might not be ready to participate if it's two full days.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 425-426

Day 425:

Today was a straight-forward day. No special instruction, just kata. I completed three sets of kata and did well. I just need to remember to raise the iaito above my head before striking.

Day 426:

Today was oddly a bad day. I got off work early to take a nap and store up energy. I had planned to eat before class, but my nap was two and a half hours long. Not enough time to eat. So, I did kata on an empty stomach. Half of my kata had flaws in them. I did three full sets and a few spare ones before class was over. The instructor watched me for several kata and did not comment. I think that means I’m doing okay.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 423-424

Day 423:

Today I did three full sets of Iaido. Today was a bad day. I had a headache and an uneasy stomach all day. I did some awkward cutting vertically downward because of that. So, I just let it go and kept at it. It seemed as if I could only remember to use metsuke or bring the sword directly above my head after a cut, not both.

Day 424:

Today I decided to pace myself. I only accomplished two sets, but that was by design. I had a question about hakamas. I’ve seen some Iaidoka tuck in their hakama after kneeling in seiza and others leave it alone. Often, on leg of my hakama is splayed wider than the other and I wonder if I should do something about it. The instructor said not to bother. It was most important about economy of motion. Tucking is an extra step unless I need to do it to avoid stepping on my hakama.

I went back to Kendo for one night. The instructor made sure to let me know about stepping out if I needed to. I survived stretches and suburi fairly well. I also completed footwork drills, although I’m out of practice timing my fumi-komi and swings. I stepped into line for waza drills and was doing well. However, I started losing my breath. Even having a break halfway through didn’t help that much. I had to step out. I watched the others finish waza and then perform kakari-geiko. I still led ending rei-hou. It was a good practice, but I think I have more healing to do. I can’t wait to visit the doctor again in a few months.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 421-422

Day 419:

Today I did three sets of kata, pacing myself and adding more metsuke.

Day 420:

Today I was able to finish three sets of kata before the instructor decided to give a lesson on the sixth kata. He pointed out that you need to draw the sword above your opponent’s head and swing down. It’s not enough to just flick the wrist because there’s no power behind the strike.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 419-420

Day 419:

No class today because of severe weather.

Day 420:

Today another student showed up with no experience. The instructor spent all of his time teaching him instead. He did take the time to come over and let me ask a question. I asked about the tsuki in the eighth kata. Our printed lessons say that you thrust to the solar plexus. However, we’ve always been taught to thrust up through the ribcage and into the heart. We found out that thrusting to the solar plexus is feasible when your step away for the turn involves moving backwards.

I completed three sets of kata today, but that was only because I was hurrying. I get to anxious trying to add new moves into a kata that I wind up being too eager to make the actual cut. I just need to calm down and be smoother instead of faster.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 417-418

Day 417:

We were in the gym again. It’s not a comfortable floor. Our other nidan came back from her break away to take care of private business. We had some more structure today. After a full set and then half of another set, we lined up for class.

We learned some points about the fourth kata. I learned that I should only thrust my arms forward in the initial tsuka thrust, not lean forward. Pushing the sword out of the saya may lean me forward but not until then. I also learned to not be in a hurry to rise up from tate-heiza. Rise up onto toes and then fumi-komi. Remember to turn your head before the backward thrust and before turning back around for the final cut.

We practiced the third and fourth kata for the rest of class. I tried to include more metsuke in everything. I also have started to try to do the stand-up and cut for the third kata all in one motion. It’s really tempting to move too fast.

Day 418:

There was another new student today. The instructor spent most of the day with him teaching about standing and basic cuts. I got to do two and half sets by myself until he squeezed in a lesson.

We learned about the fifth kata. The biggest thing was something we had already known. It was to turn over the saya at the last moment before drawing. One thing I did learn was that on the downswing, you only cut to the center, not all the way back to the left side. That’s hard to do if you’re trying to make both upswing and downswing look together as a single attack.

The tsuka should finish its travel in the center while the ki-saki should finish a little left of center. It is better to twist the sword a bit in hasso so all you do is push it along the plane down into chiburi. I wonder if that’s the way in all of the big chiburi, like in number seven and number ten.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 415-416

Day 415:

Today was weird. When I showed up, the dojo was closed and dark. Usually it’s either just closed or one person ahead of me clearing the floor. Well, I turned the lights on, changed into my uniform, cleared the floor, and then swept up.

I began practicing my kata, trying to include vision into it. It seems that I can remember to either turn my head to look at the ‘opponent’ or I can lower my gaze during the final strike. I need to be able to do both.

I noticed that only one person showed up for Kendo during Iaido class. No other students, no instructors. I began to wonder if I had to offer a class to him to avoid him feeling cheated. I’ve only taught one class before and that was under the supervision of a nidan. I guess since I had neither shinai nor key to the equipment closet, I would have done warm-ups, footwork, wind sprints, and then shomen and kote suburi. After the fact, I hope that I would have remembered to show Kendo kata. What a thing to forget after doing so much Iaido.

I cleared the floor after deciding that there was to be no Kendo tonight. The student left before it was class time anyway. After I got home, I got the message about no practice tonight. Well, at least I got a free practice.

Day 416:

Today as well as next class will be in the gymnasium. I hate the gymnasium. It’s a concrete floor with thin artificial covering to look kinda like wood. It hurts to fumi-komi.

There was class, but our new student needed attention. So no structured class since we would have to start with the fourth kata. I made some progress with memorizing more vision. The vision is called ‘metsuke’, meaning more focus that just seeing. You keep your attention and focus on your ‘next’ opponent. You must look before you draw and attack.

I did two sets and then a couple of iterations of the first, fourth, and tenth kata to get the idea of metsuke down for those kata. It will take some time before it is all memorized.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 413-414

Day 413:

Today was more structure. After about one and a half sets of kata, the instructor called for us to come together. We concentrated on the second and third kata.

I learned this time to draw the sword halfway before turning around. Try to drag your left foot so that when you perform the final draw, you snap the foot to the left slightly.

I learned for the third kata that you must twist your wrist slightly to cause the ki-saki to spring up to almost horizontal.

Day 414:

Today was no structured class. Sensei and I were here, but no other ‘advanced’ students. There was a newcomer who needed to be taught the kata from the start, so the instructor spent all his time with the new student.

I took the time to incorporate the new ways to do the kata, including jo-ha-kyu. Sensei offered advice for turning my head to establish eye contact before turning the rest of my body. It sounds simple enough, but in practice it’s a lot of things to remember, especially if you’re trying to have no-mind. Well, I suppose practice will eventually make perfect.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 411-412

Day 411:

Today I slowed down and included slower cuts and great circle paths into my kata. I got to complete three sets and I feel much better.

Day 412:

Today, I tried to include eyesight (looking at your target) into my kata. I forgot during half of my kata. I got through two sets when the instructor actually called for a formal lesson! We talked about the first kata and its finer points. He added the next step in proper higher-level kata. We should rise up from seiza slowly, building tension and drawing slowly. Then at the last second before drawing fully, we flick our toes into the ‘live’ position. That’s harder to do than it looks.

After class, he talked to me about something that sounded like ‘jo-ha-kyu’, which basically means starting slow and then speeding up to finish. It’s something to do at the shodan/nidan level. It builds momentum.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 409-410

Day 409:

Today was not a good day. My abdomen was sore all day. After clearing and sweeping the floor I barely had the energy to complete two sets of kata.

Day 410:

Today was a lucky day. I felt okay at work and I didn’t have to clear the floor tonight. I went into kata with a passion. Keeping in line with the great circle technique, I blazed through two sets of kata right away. Still, class was half over so I went for another round of kata. I should have stopped for water and a minute to rest. Once I got to the fourth kata I smacked the tsuba against my hand.

After that, I had no energy. My cuts were lethargic and I was wobbly on my feet. It was visible that I was having a hard time. After practice, the instructor told me to slow down and not go so fast. I think if I can remember to breath between each cut, I should be okay.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 407-408

Day 407:

Today was just a bad day from start to finish. I was tired and sore all day. I didn’t have to clear the floor and thought I could just complete three sets of kata easily. I didn’t have a lot of energy and I was wobbly on my feet getting up from a sitting kata. I hope the doctor knows what he’s doing. I don’t feel better yet.

Day 408:

The floor was already cleared when I got there, so a simple sweep was all that was necessary. I only finished two sets of kata and a few spare kata. I couldn’t keep up the pace since my abdomen was sore all day.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 405-406

Day 405:

Today I had to move all of the furniture and it made me very tired. I was actually breathing a little shallower as I started. Not a good way to start a class. I hope my liver will recover. My next appointment with the doctor is in a few months.

I only had the energy to complete two sets of kata before my energy gave out. My swings are smoother but a few still wobbled downwards. I need to be more calm and less intent on finishing strong. Also, my weight is not distributed well. I sometimes wobble on my feet when striking.

Day 406:

The floor was mostly clear today because one of the cleaning staff had been working just before I arrived. I only had to move the sofas. I was brimming with energy when I started class.

I completed three full sets of kata. I was swinging strongly but smoothly. I was calm and drawing better, too.

I saw that there were two new students singing papers. I wonder if they are here for Iaido or Kendo.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 403-404

Day 403:

No class today as it is a holiday.

Day 404:

Today I wasn’t the first to arrive. One of the instructors arrived and moved the furniture. I still had to sweep the floor but that’s all right. Since I didn’t have to move the furniture, I wasn’t tired going into Iaido.

I had so much energy, that I took to Iaido with gusto. I remembered to swing easy instead of with power so I was smoother. I was so into the ‘zone’ that can’t really remember if I did two sets or three sets. By the time I was looking at the clock, it was time to go.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 401-402

Day 401:

Sensei brought his own sword to practice and suggested I try using it. I felt like it was made of hollow plastic. He said this was a zinc-aluminum blade. It’s metal but it feels like nothing, like air. Well, that settles it. I’m not buying a zinc-aluminum sword any time soon. My ‘slow swing’ seemed to fly at a hundred miles per hour for the horizontal cut in the first kata. I slowed down again and it sped too fast on the down cut.

Sensei was amused and showed me a kata from Muso-Shinden Ryu. It’s like the first Seitei Gata kata, but standing. You step forward with your left foot, hands on the sword, draw and cut horizontally while stepping forward with the right foot, swing to the left and upwards while stepping forward with the left foot, then cut downwards while stepping forward with the right foot. Chiburi just like the first Seitei Gata kata. After a couple of times, I slowed down and stopped using power in my swing. My kata got better. Sensei gave me my sword back and I tried again.

By using great circles centered around my navel instead of pushing and pulling the steel as if the center of mass of the blade was the center, I did much better.

Day 402:

Just a side note, the owners of the building filled the furniture with a new type of chairs. Folding outdoor chairs that seemed built backwards. It took several minutes to figure out how to fold them. I guess it was good for the problem-solving skills. Instead of just using two hands, you need to use a foot and one hand or else you won’t generate enough pressure to overcome the tightness of the chair. There’s a lesson in there that reminds me of last class’s no-strength lesson in Iaido. Different points of view and different approaches can solve problems.

I continued to work on my Iaido and it appeared to me to be smoother. Not wobbly on my feet tonight. Just trying to pay attention I felt distracted. My mind was going many strange places all throughout the class. I did two sets of kata.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 399-400

Day 399:

No class today as I am not feeling well. I will rest and go to class tomorrow.

Day 400:

Today someone else showed up earlier than me. He wound up cleaning the floor before I was done changing into my uniform.

Since I did not move the furniture, I had lots of energy. I was able to do three full sets of kata before I was tired. My iaito was scraping out of the saya as I drew. I need to pull it back more fully.

I asked the instructor about the difference in the eleventh and twelfth katas. For each of their chiburi, they do something different with their right foot. In the eleventh kata, you stay firm. In the twelfth kata, you slide your right foot backwards. The instructor seemed amused at this question as he did not have an answer.

I practiced a few more kata at random until I decided to ask Sensei. I waited until he finished a kata. Then I asked him the question. He replied that Seitei Gata was a result of a mixing of the three main schools of Iaido. The difference in chiburi steps was a result of the mixing of styles and techniques. That’s very interesting. It’s no wonder that seeing a demonstration of Muso-Shinden Ryu shows similarities to Seitei Gata.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 397-398

Day 397:

In Iaido, Sensei showed up to help clear the floor with me. He must have gotten out of work early. There were extra things on the tables, so moving the furniture and sweeping the floor made me more tired. I still had enough energy to do two sets of kata.

I noticed the instructor when he does chiburi, he lets the ki-saki dip a couple of inches down, making the sword look like it’s dropping. When I asked him about it, he said that he really didn’t notice, so it must mean that’s how he does it. When I asked about my chiburi, he said I should be more horizontal because my sword is heavier.

Day 398:

Today I tried to push myself. I completed two sets and looked at the clock. There wasn’t enough time to do a third set, so I just practiced the fourth and fifth kata. My upswing doesn’t look too fluid into the downswing because my sword is so heavy. I guess I should just make it smoother instead of faster.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 395-396

Day 395:

I was the first to arrive at Iaido class, so I set to work clearing and sweeping the floor. Those tables and sofas seem heavier than before. I was winded and half exhausted after finishing. I set to work on my kata and could only perform two sets before I had to stop.

I think I’ve found an error I’ve been doing in the tenth kata. For the first overhead cut, I’ve been stepping with the right foot, followed up by the left foot. Then repeat for the next cut. I should be stepping with the left and then with the right for the second cut.

The doctor says my liver is slowly getting better but my immune system is hindering my progress. I’ll be at least six more months out of Kendo. I really hate losing all of my progress towards nidan.

Day 396:

I was first to arrive again, so I cleared and swept the floor. It’s still tiring but I have the time to pace myself. I had the energy to complete two sets of kata and then start a third set before I had to quit.

I asked the instructor about a finer point of the seventh kata. After the second cut, does one raise the sword in jodan or more horizontal like an anticipated parry? The instructor said that it was both. So, treat it like the start of a parry but then push the upper part of the sword up into jodan. Sounds like it’s something easier to do than explain, but it makes sense. Also, the pommel of the sword seemed loose. The instructor said that it may be loose on purpose and that it was only affixed to the sword by the wrapped cord. As long as it doesn’t come off, then it’s fine.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 391-394

Day 391:

No class today because my sprained toes still hurt. I’ll let them heal.

Day 392:

I finally got an appointment to have blood work done at the clinic, so I’ll skip today. I learned my lesson about pushing myself after I give blood.

Day 393:

I went to Iaido today, trying my foot in the heat. As I went through the motions of the first three kata, my foot felt fine. Not perfect, but easily not hurting. It’s time to work it back into shape.

I noticed that my noto is not very good. It’s not crisp like usual, just sloppy. At the end of the three sets I’m exhausted but not sweating. That must be my liver acting up. I think I’ll go another month.

Day 394:

I did a good three sets of kata today faster than usual. I wasn’t sweating and I was only a little down on energy. I concentrated on better noto today and improved it. Sensei was there and with two-thirds of the class gone I traded spots with him to let him practice the standing kata. I worked on the first, second, and fourth while in the short space.

I noticed that my iai-heza was too centered between both legs so I was wobbly getting up. If I keep most of my weight shifted onto my left foot, then I can get up faster and smoother.

At the end of class, Sensei told me that I had a ‘death grip’ on my iaito. I needed to relax. His adice was to drive home using only my thumbs, ring fingers, and pinkie fingers to relax the hands. Maybe tha’s why I got my three sets of kata done so soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 389-390

Day 389:

I went to Iaido again today. My toes still hurt but only slightly so. I’ll just be careful. I was able to complete all 12 kata three times. Sensei showed up late. He wedged himself in a tiny space just to be polite and let us lower-ranking people practice. At the end of class, I traded spaces with him so he could practice his standing kata. I just practiced the first, second, and fourth kata until class was over.

For myself, the instructor said that I was cutting too low. The ki-saki was actually pointing too much downward towards the floor. It’s hard to stop that heavy steel blade, so I guess I should start squeezing in tenouchi earlier. He also told me to use only my left arm for cutting in all cases except for when I draw with the right. Then I have to cut with the right. Doing that will correct any downward wobble.

Day 390:

Today I started by doing my 12 kata like normal. It was a nice day for Iaido. I completed a full set and felt good about it. I completed a second set and felt wobbly on my feet. My sword was pulling me again.

When I completed the third kata in the third set, I caught my toes on my left foot as I slid to the right. Pain shot up my foot and leg, making me gasp. However, I was able to complete the kata uninterrupted. However, after the kata my foot began to throb and cause me hardship. I decided to be smart and quit there before I really hurt myself. I bowed out using the quick method.

I talked to Sensei after class and asked him about how he was doing the third kata. He was actually using a kind of pivot/jump step and stepping back in to cut diagonally down and left. It looked powerful. He explained that he was also studying Muso Shinden-Ryu. He showed me the basics of the kata in question and the idea that you are not just parrying but stepping completely out of the way and then back in as your opponent passes you by. It was very interesting. Maybe someday I would like to study it as well.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 387-388

Day 387:

I smashed my left toes over the weekend and they’re still hurting. I hope I’m good enough for next class.

Day 388:

Today my toes felt better, almost healed. They’re still purple, but flexible. I went to class and there was a function in the area. The community center had a large event, so the area was crowded. I almost didn’t find a parking space.

We got in late because the building was locked. An employee opened the doors and let us all inside. I changed into my uniform and went out right away. Sensei was there, and he looked better than he’s been in a while. No grimace of pain when he cuts. I spent the practice time pushing myself slowly to last through the class.

My sword felt heavy, my toes stung if I turned on them, and I messed up the eighth kata by taking an extra turning step. However, it felt really good to be back to class.

I asked the instructor to watch me and tell me what he thgouth after I had been out for months.

When class was over, I noticed that Head Sensei was present! What a time not to be good enough to be at Kendo! I talked to him briefly and he was shocked to hear about my liver injury. He seemed to think the doh strikes shouldn’t contribute too much to my health but when I told him about the aggravated growth in my liver, he seemed satisfied. He encouraged me to work with the doctor and not to rush coming back. I’m glad he has my well-being at heart.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 379-386

Day 379-384:

More progress on my attempt to heal my liver. I can’t wait to get the blood tests back later in the year.

Day 385:

Today is my first day back at Iaido. It felt really good to be back in the dojo. The place looked exactly the same. I missed even the squeaky floorboards.

I went through a full set of kata and was embarrassed at the fact that I had forgotten the tenth kata! I had to stand there and search my memory to find it. Eventually I remembered and finished. I was breathing strongly and needed a drink of water.

I went to complete a second set and felt very drained. I had forgotten to keep the ki-saki down when finishing the fourth kata, like I was on autopilot. I got some more water and knelt in seiza for a few minutes.

Then I powered my way through the third set of kata. I tried not to push hard, but to just do them. I was slow, with many pauses, but I finished. Even through there was about seven minutes left in class, I was drained. I bowed out and paid for the month. It turns out that if I only go to Iaido then I get a discount. Nice, but it just reminded me of not being able to do Kendo.

Day 386:

No class today as it is a holiday.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 363-364

Day 363-378:

I’ve been seeing the doctor for a while, trying to get my liver cured. I may be at it a while.

I got a call from the doctor after several tests done. It turns out that I’ve had a benign growth in my liver for some time. It’s been undetectable until now. Last fall, I got struck in the unprotected part of my side by a few students practicing doh-uchi and missing the doh armor. Those strikes injured my liver and aggravated the growth, which in turn aggravated my liver. I think next month I might be okay to go back to Iaido since there is no contact. However, it may be a while until I go back to Kendo.

Day 378.5:

This is the first tournament I’ve been to since my injury. I’m still injured and the doctor has forbidden me from fighting until I’m healed, but I can run tables.

The night before the tournament, I showed up to the gymnasium to help set up. I spent over an hour helping to tape up the courts and arrange the tables. Everyone wanted to know where I’ve been and what’s happened. I told them the short version of my medical story and they were all shocked. They were all sympathetic and told me not to come back until I really felt cured. I’m glad to know they’re all behind me.

We had over one hundred and fifty fighters show up. I set myself at a table and began to help. The table manager asked what I wanted to do. I volunteered for ribbon-tying since I seem to be really good at it. I let the manager know that I could help with any job she needed.

As the day went on, more and more fighters showed up who were not fighting at the moment, asking to help. I sent them off strategically to find kenshi that I couldn’t find. As a result, all fighters were tagged for every bracket of a round in advance. I had no idea I had management skills.

The tournament went smoothly and I stayed to help clean up. We put just about everything away and I went home at about 8:45 or so. What a long day, but I didn’t get exhausted once. I’m grateful that I didn’t have to stop and wheeze in front of everyone.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 361-362

Day 361:

No class today, as I am not well. My abdomen has been hurting ever since the bonus Kendo class. I’m going to take it easy for a while.

Day 362:

No class today, as I am not well. My abdomen has been hurting ever since the bonus Kendo class. I’m going to take it easy for a while.

In fact, one of my doctors strongly suggests that I not go to class while my liver is suspect because a sick liver can cause a multitude of other problems.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 359-360

Day 359:

No class today, as I am not well. My abdomen has been hurting ever since the bonus Kendo class. I’m going to take it easy for a while.

Day 360:

No class today, as I am not well. My abdomen has been hurting ever since the bonus Kendo class. I’m going to take it easy for a while.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 357-358

Day 357:

No class today, as I am not well. My abdomen has been hurting ever since the bonus Kendo class. I’m going to take it easy for a while.

Day 358:

No class today, as I am not well. My abdomen has been hurting ever since the bonus Kendo class. I’m going to take it easy for a while.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 355-356.5

Day 355:

In Iaido, I did my routine a full three times. However, the instructor gave me some advice. He said that when using jodan-no-kamae for zanshin, you hold your sword high to look intimidating, not in a relaxed stance with elbows bent. I tried it and that’s not a very stable position for chiburi. I guess I’ll have to practice it.

In Kendo, I felt really tired. I could not finish suburi and shout the repetitions back. I was really tired all class, sweating a lot. We did a lot of kiri-kaeshi, menouchi, and sashi-menouchi. Over and over, I saw a lot of students not reaching or even keeping their right arms high enough for shoulder-level. I made sure to give lots of encouragement. We finished by doing a pair of keikos.

Day 356:

Today was a very warm day. As it went on, I was sweating, even though the overhead fans were on. As I practiced, the instructor gave advice to another student. He was saying that the best way to spin around is to place your weight on your right knee and use your left foot as a pivot. Turn around slowly and then draw. I tried it and it did make the turn easier and smoother.

In Kendo, we did warm-ups and suburi. I nearly made it all the way, but lost my breath at the last twenty haya-suburi. We had a new student with us. I had to coach him silently through the suburi and during the footwork drills. After that, he went to another instructor while the rest of us put on men and did drills. We did drills that helped to work up fumi-komi. Kiri-kaeshi, menouchi, koteouchi, and dohouchi. We finished class with several keikos. However, I was exhausted. I nearly had to stop and step out. I toughed it out and finished class, but my last two keikos were really pathetic. I was moving slower than the students and was outclassed by everyone. I was glad when class was over.

For the past couple of weeks, the instructor was very upset that a particular student was always walking in front of him, violating a rule of etiquette. Even when the instructor would explain to the class why we do not pass in front of the instructor, he keeps doing it. I approached the student after class. I started by complimenting him on his efforts. Then I told him about the rule of no passing in front. I explained why it exists and I told him how to avoid doing it. I made it very clear that I was not blaming him, but he seemed to not understand that he was doing something wrong. I just told him how the rule worked and to walk around behind the line of students or behind the instructor and he would be fine. The student promised to do better. I hope I was not out of line in doing this, but the student just did not understand that he was being rude after more than two weeks of the instructor explaining to the class about no passing in front (and he was still doing it).

Day 356.5:

Warm-ups, could not do haya-suburi, men-tsuke right away, got in for rei-hou, kiri-kaeshi, menouchi, koteouchi, step out, feel terrible, back in for men-aiouchi-men-men, step out, watch keikos, help film instructors doing keiko, lecture on maintain shinai, clean/dry bogu, tie men different way, maybe start tying flaps again

My sense of timing is legendary. We had a random bonus Kendo practice this weekend. Of course, the day before the practice, I was at a medical specialist to find out what’s been making my endurance plummet. He asked for seven vials of blood and I gave them happily.

The Kendo practice started late, even though a couple of us arrived early. I used that time to stretch out and get the blood pumping. Once we all arrived, I led the class in rei-hou. We started off doing slow stretches and some nice, hard suburi. My stamina started to break again, so when I heard the command for haya-suburi, I stepped out to rest. After haya-suburi and breathing, I stepped in again. We put on men and started doing lots of kiri-kaeshi, over and over again. I was getting winded after doing a full rotation’s worth. All of that kiai really takes a toll on my lungs. We did lots of menouchi and koteouchi as well.

Suddenly, I lost all my strength. I felt like collapsing. I forced myself to finish waza with the sensei and then stepped out. I had to take off men and get some water. After several minutes of watching, I decided to step back in. I put on men and participated on a drill that went men-aouchi-men-men. Then the partner led the same thing. It was to teach zanshin. A good drill, but it was taxing. After a few times, I stepped out for good. I really did not feel well. I watched as the sensei organized the class into rotating groups of keikos. They filmed the keikos, and I filmed the keiko between the two highest-ranking instructors. They really made sure their form was top-notch to show the lower-ranking students how it was done.

We then bowed out and began the demonstrations of equipment maintenance. We actually took apart our shinais, sanded the staves, oiled them, and reassembled them. A good idea. We then got some advice on taking care of our kote, men, tare, and doh after practices. I have been doing most of these things already but there were a few things that I haven’t seen before. I think I should start tying the flaps tightly to the men again. It’s been a while since I got in the habit. After the equipment demonstrations were done, we had pizza. I was ravenous with hunger, even though I did not feel it. I had three big slices of pizza and a cup of soda. After I got home, I was thinking about my next meal. I should take it easy for a few days.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 353-354

Day 353:

Today in Iaido I was not as tired as I have been, but I was wobbly on my feet. There seems to be a point when my feet can be too far apart and too close together. Also, the instructor corrected me on a point of the fourth kata. When I thrust behing myself, I have to remember to not raise the saki up when I turn back to the front. The sword is still ‘in’ the target, so this cut is a very big cut. However, it actually seems smoother this way.

I was late to Kendo from Iaido, so I missed rei-hou. I hate missing rei-hou. It’s my responsibility to lead the ceremony, but there’s just zero minutes allocated between Iaido and Kendo. It was a bad day, though. I could not finish the warm-ups and suburi without resting. We must have done a hundred suburi, but the last fourty I had to do without swinging. I just couldn’t get my breath back. But we did the same awesome footwork-waza drill as last time. Following the instructor in footwork with men-ouchi, kote-ouchi, and doh-ouchi interspersed in between intermissions.

Then we put on men and did drills of menouchi, kiri-kaeshi, and sashi-menouchi over and over. We capped it off with two keikos.

I talked to the instructors after class about my fumi-komi. My question raised great interest. The consensus about proper fumi-komi is that it is not quite like a galloping horse. You keep your heel off the floor and slap your front foot down. You then use it to pull yourself forward quickly. I spent the better part of a full year learning the ‘puppet’ method up sword-up-knee-up. Then a guest sensei told us to swing up first, then swing-down-foot-stomp. That’s very physically confusing. I keep getting confused as I am tempted to raise the foot up high. It must be much more forward than up.

Day 354:

Today in Iaido, I did my routine of 1-12 three times. The rest of the class was spent doing the fourth kata four times in a row. I couldn’t remember to keep the saki down. By the end of class it was more natural.

In Kendo, I could actually finish warm-ups and suburi without needing a rest. Instead of twenty slow ones and then fourty fast ones, the instructor surprised us with just fifty fast ones right away. If he asked us to do another fifty, I’d have had to put my sword away. After footwork, we put on men and then had a full day. We did several kiri-kaeshi, menouchi, sashi-menouchi, kakari-geiko, and keikos. We even split up the class to have young students have time to practice without being crowded and students without bogu the same. I kept having to make wider opening to encourage the students to attack, even in keiko. They need to be more confident in attacking. (Of course, I had the same problem at their level.) This was my first class back that I did not have to stop and rest.

After class, I checked my foot. The broken callous had pulled away enough to need trimming. I got the scissors and cut off several pieces far back until the root was exposed. Then I bandaged it. I hope some medicine will smooth it over until next week.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 351-352

Day 351:

In Iaido, I did my 1-12 again. I seem to notice that I can perform the entire routine three full times with some time to spare for listening to the instructor. If I find myself hurrying, I might complete the routine four times and really cut it close for attendance in Kendo. Some of my swings were wobbly because I was really tired. Still, I’m doing better with my feet.

In Kendo, I started tired. I was late to rei-hou because of Iaido. During suburi, I had to go through about a third of it with no voice. I just couldn’t get my voice back. I couldn’t finish the haya-suburi because of my lungs. So, I hopped back and forth with no sword. We did footwork drills with menouchi, big kiai (which winded me more; I nearly had to step out), and renzoku-men.

When, we put men on, I was still winded. The instructor was concerned for me, but I promised to watch myself. We did kiri-kaeshi, ji-geiko, and kakari-geiko. There was special emphasis on sashi-menouchi. The instructor was teaching sashi-men to all of the students in bogu. When it was my turn to practice, me encouraged me to add fumi-komi to it. Lo and behold, I did fumi-komi well! I guess the quick motion of sashi-men makes it more natural then oh-men strikes. I had to sit out soon after. My heart was just fine but I had no breath at all. I felt like my lungs were not pumping air in either direction.

Day 352:

In Iaido, I did my 1-12 like normal. My footwork is getting more stable. However, I am vey lightly sweating. I am getting a little better on the downswing for the fifth kata, so if I remember to do the new transition in the seventh kata from the first cut to the second, I should get better.

In Kendo, we did the warm-ups in a circle. We did a normal set of suburi, but did a hundred haya suburi. I could not do the last forty. There was a very nice footwork drill after that. We would move right-left-forward-back in patterns. Suddenly, we had to do at least ten of whatever strike the instructor called out. Then we went back to footwork patterns. Then a different set of strikes. We would interpose men, kote, doh, kote-men, kote-doh, kote-men-doh, all while waiting for the next footwork drill. That was good. It kept us mentally alert.

We put on men and moved into kiri-kaeshi, menouchi, and sashi-menouchui. I tried doing more fumi-komi with the drills, but I could only get the timing right for sashi-men. I guess I need to practice. The timing and movement of the foot is getting complicated. I think I’ll write the instructor after class and ask him for some advice.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 349-350

Day 349:

Today Sensei showed up again. He was moving slowly all throughout the class. I’m glad he’s getting better. The instructor waited for a couple of us to finish the seventh kata a couple of times before pulling us off to the side. He told us that during the seminar, a sensei corrected him on his seventh kata. Normally, we’ve been cutting into the first opponent, turning into jodan for the second, then cutting the second. The new way is to cut the first opponent, then hold the sword in the same place while you turn your body to face the second opponent, then you cut the second opponent. No stopping, just a fluid motion. It makes sense if the two opponents close together. By the end of class, I was really out of breath and my heart was beating more than usual. I was really tired when I went home.

Day 350:

Today Sensei was back again. Hopefully, this means he’s back for good. He was moving much slower because he was caring more for his form than speed. He also spent time imagining and practicing the logic of movements before performing them. I wonder if I will do that by the time I’m his rank. Right now, I’m working on keeping my feet closer to flat on the floor.

After Iaido, I tried Kendo again. I led the class in rei-hou but not in warm-ups. I was grateful, since I doubt I could finish suburi without hacking up a lung. The instructor led the class and pushed us at a grueling pace. However, there was a new student today, so he stopped and explained each type of suburi and strike. That gave me time to catch my breath. However, he threw in an extra forty haya-suburi just to make it a hundred in total. I actually lost my voice and the dojo seemed very quiet while doing the last few dozen. My form was also very sloppy as I had little energy at that time.

We put on men and moved into regular class. I received for kiri-kaeshi, menouchi, and lessons on sashi-men. We started by practicing ogami-men, in which you pull back to strike your own men-gane and then throw it forward. It seems I have not forgotten to perform sashi-men after all this time.

At the end of class, the instructor gave a lecture on using good kiai and mentally making decisions. You must decide to strike and give it your all, not just whimper and tap. You scream and strike firmly. It’s good to be careful, but you must give your all into the effort, not holding anything back.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 347-348

Day 347:

Today Sensei showed up for Iaido! He felt well enough to slowly go through the kata and get some exercise. Myself, I tried to pace myself a bit more than usual. I wanted to try to last through a full four sets of 1-12. I still place my weight on the front of my feet. It still makes me awkward to step and shift my weight into new positions. Only when I slow down and think about it do I place more of my heel down to the floor.

I finished the four sets of 1-12 with no painful thumping of my heart and less fatigue. However, my abdomen has been sore for the past week. The doctor and I are investigating the problem.

Day 348:

Today felt like an average day going into Iaido. I did my 1-12 and found that I could do four full sets of 1-12 easily. However, that was an illusion. After the adrenaline wore off, I found that my hands were shaking and I felt drained. It was a good practice, but I need to remember my limitations.

I asked the instructor something. He confirmed that in the tenth kata, when going for the fourth cut you can take a big step and follow up by bringing your left foot up closer to your right foot. This makes you travel towards the left side of the kata, which evens out your inherent rightward travel.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 345-346

Day 345:

Well, I’ve been talking to the doctor and he’s found something potentially serious inside me. It might equally be just a nuisance, but it’s best to be careful. I’m going to finish the tests and visit him again for a check-up. I’m going to take a break from Kendo for a while until I’m in the clear, just to be safe. I’m mostly recovered from last weekend’s overexertion at the demo and lack of blood. Let that be a lesson. Never give blood and then do Kendo. It ruins your whole weekend.

I went to Iaido class so I can keep exercising and maintaining discipline. I did my 1-12 again and at first I was doing very well. Good posture and control. I need to keep flexing my wrists to make the circular movements nicely. As the class went on, my energy ebbed and I found it harder to keep control. I need to relax my feet so my heels can come down to almost on the floor.

Day 346:

Today was a good day for Iaido. At first, my sword swung freely in my hands. Much smoother than usual. The steel blade felt lighter than usual. I had good energy. However, halfway through the class I started losing energy. My hands were shaky and the blade felt heavier and heavier. My heart rate increased and I started to get winded. I had completed four full sets of 1-12. On the last time I did the eleventh kata, I felt wobbly, like I was dizzy. I slowed down a bit.

One of the senior students advised me to let my arms be more loose and natural in using hasso after the fifth kata. After class, I was glad to go home.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 343-344

Day 343:

I’m back to Iaido class. I’m skipping Kendo because I’m not well enough for it yet. I get winded just walking up and down stairs. Still, I’m stir-crazy, so some exercise will be good for me. I practiced my 1-12 as usual. My sword seems lighter. I’m swinging it almost as fast as the others swinging their aluminum-zinc swords. My heart rate got up to over 140 beats per minute twice tonight. I needed to sit and rest a bit before continuing. Still, I got through class without pain.

Day 344:

In Iaido, I went through my kata like usual. I had some wobble to my motion so I need to slow down and keep my balance more backwards than forwards. The instructor made mention that there’s been a correction to the fifth kata. When we draw and slash diagonally upwards, we follow up with a slash back down the same path but we do not bring our back foot up into a normal stance. We keep it back for stability. Then we slide the right foot widely back into normal hasso-no-kamae. I had just gotten used to bringing it up. Oh, well. I also had to concentrate at the end of the twelfth kata, making sure to slide my right foot back when doing chiburi.

Day 344.5:

We had a demonstration of Kendo at an elementary school today. Just a half of an hour, I’m sure I can last through it all. However, when we all show up, myself and another shodan are the highest-ranking Kendoka there. She took the role of announcer and I led the class. She wanted to do it the way the club did it before I joined. Stretches and suburi first, then rei-hou. It felt weird.

Still, that’s what we did. When it was time to assemble, I led us into a circle and we stretched while the kids filed in and sat upon the floor. I led us in a speedy set of stretches and suburi. Then we swapped our bokken out for shinai and grabbed our men. We lined up facing the class and did rei-hou.

I organized the class into two lines of three each and we did kiri-kaeshi both ways, menouchi both ways, koteouchi both ways, and dohouchi both ways. I stayed in my spot as the anchor to keep mixing up the partners. By now another student showed up and I put him in the odd position.

We finished with some keiko using only men and kote. We each fought twice. My first keiko was all right. I was trying to show good form. However, my second keiko drained me of energy. I found myself using stalling tactics to catch my breath.

Once the demo was over, we lined up, took off men, did rei-hou and the kids applauded for us. We even attended their little finishing ceremony for themselves and then packed up to go home.

I actually followed one of my friends to his house to help him assemble a ‘Franken-shinai’ out of spare pieces. I felt destroyed. Not good at all. Earlier in the week I gave the doctor seven vials of blood for lab analysis across three days. I learned not to push myself after giving so much blood. Ugh.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 341-342

Day 341:

No class today as I am sick.

Day 342:

No class today as I am sick.

Day 342.5

I had to cancel my trip to the Iaido seminar because I am not well enough for a full day of swinging a steel sword over my head. I get winded just doing it for 2 hours.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 339-340

Day 339:

No class today as I am sick.

Day 340:

No class today as I am sick.

Day 340.5

No class today as I am sick.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 337-338

Day 337:

In Iaido class, we had free practice for all twelve kata. I really need to try not to swing the sword so hard. It’s hard to stop that steel when it comes down fast. For the first four kata, the saki must be a couple of inches below horizontal. For the standing kata, the saki must be horizontal.

I did not attend Kendo class as I was feeling bad all weekend. I’m going to rest.

Day 338:

In Iaido class, we practiced all twelve kata freely again. The instructor would walk around and give personal comments. I need to slow down and do it better. I get so excited that I often rush. This makes me lean forward too much and be off-balance.

In Kendo, I led the class in warm-ups. I tried hard not to forget anything, but I forgot the neck stretches. Darn it. I keep showing myself to be incompetent. That and it’s embarrassing. We did lots of suri-ashi drills today. We had a new drill where the instructor brought out long stretches of elastic. We would loop it around someone who would fumi-komi and charge as hard as they could for a few paces. Then the person behind would allow themselves to be dragged forward. All the way down we did this and then back, then we switched partners. That was fun and interesting. I had the strongest person in the dojo and I could resist the elastic until I chose to move. Then I had to resist flying into him from behind. We finished the basic class with renzoku-men and somen charges.

Then we put on bogu. Today I was not motodachi because we had an extra sensei show up. That’s okay. I wanted to work harder anyhow. We did kiri-kaeshi, menouchi, koteouchi, and keiko. I had a keiko with our extra sensei, who did a stunning yaku-doh upon me. It shattered my mind when he did it because it looked so wrong and yet struck so true. I complimented him on it afterwards.

At the end of class, I had an extra keiko with my fellow shodan, trying to see if my stamina was better. It was better, but something was wrong.

After class, the instructor showed me video of my feet. They looked bad. No fumi-komi at all, short strides, and my back foot was up almost sixty degrees. This pushes my hips too far forward and puts my weight on my front foot. This requires me to give huge fumi-komi which is wrong. I need to learn to lean my hips back and lower my back foot. Trying out one fumi-komi like that improved my stride greatly. I’ll have to practice that like when I started Kendo.

I really think I’ve been feeling better this week. The only thing different is that I’ve been eating more and resting. Maybe I’ve been overtaxing myself.

Day 338.5

This time I made it to the extra Iaido session. I was sick the last couple of days from work and I was upset that I might miss class today.

We started with some stretching in freeform. I just did some men and kote suburi for warm-ups. Then we did some drills we might see in a seminar, like lunges. That’s where you take chudan, raise up and strike down vertical while leaning forward on one knee. Then you raise up and do the same strike with the other knee. You travel this way all the way down the floor and back.

We also did other exercises where you kinda do the first kata forward, with little chiburi to the side. Then you do it to the right, then you do it to the rear using the left foot, then to the left with the left foot. You do the whole thing again and you wind up back where you started.

We also did matoburi-suburi except when you come up, you rotate the sword horizontal as if using uke to save your life. First pointing the blade to the left and then to the right.

Then we spent most of the time doing all twelve kata one at a time as a class. The instructor would give us pointers to follow and we would do it a couple of times. This took up most of the class.

We finished with a practice test. I felt like I was too slow on rei-hou so I did not breathe between kata. My time was 4:50 or so. I need to breathe between kata to slow down. The instructors also got 5:15 or so, so they need to slow down.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 335-336

Day 335:

Iaido, 1-12, going faster, more effort, should slow, but going from swing to swing should be more emphasized, instructor commented that cuts in standing kata should be horizontal, not down

Kendo, new warm-ups, run around circle of bokken, many ashi drills, partners back and forth, men, kote, kote-men, then break into men-nuki-men and kiri-kaeshi, instructor tells me after class that my stamina is not improving, should walk on days not in class, try to incorporate

Day 336:

Iaido, free practice until half-way through class, practice test, nervous, forget to clear right side of hakama for 1st kata, toes down for 2nd kata, ki-saki not high enough for 3rd kata, tsuka too high for 4th kata, cut up too high on 5th kata, final time 6:06, need 1 breath, not two

No kendo, chest still sore from last class

Day 336.5

I missed the extra Iaido class today. It wasn’t at the same time as last week so it was over by the time I remembered it. I went for a walk instead.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Beginner's Point of View 333-334

Day 333:

In Iaido, we had free practice. I practiced my full set of kata. During number eleven, I accidentally did zanshin in jodan like I was finishing the seventh kata. It can be awkward to remember. We had a practice test at the end of class. I got 5:30 for a time, very nice. The instructor told me that 5:45 is an ideal time to try for.

In Kendo, I led the class in warm-ups and did not forget any stretches this time. Very good. I should try to remember the sequence to avoid embarrassment like that. For class, we did Kendo bokken waza kata. The drills of men-kote-doh-tsuki, kote-men, harai-kote, and men-keashi-doh were a nice change of pace. Then we put on men for kiri-kaeshi, men-ouchi, kote-ouchi, doh-ouchi, and finally kakari-geiko for the students.

At the end of class, the instructor confided in me that the motion I used with my left arm when I rei after a drill is wrong. I was just imitating Sensei when he bows out of a match. I guess I’m not supposed to do that. However, I really would have liked to have known that a lot sooner. Now I’ve got about three years of muscle memory to unlearn.

Day 334:

In Iaido, we started with some free practice, but then went into practice tests. We learned about the set-up and commands for the test. On the first test, I messed up the act of putting the saya in my obi. It just wouldn’t go in. I rushed it and had to speed through my kata. I got a time of 5:45, but it didn’t look good. The instructor commented about how I might be marked down in score even though I got a good time. The second test, I nailed it the first time and slowed down. I got 5:50 without any errors. Much better.

We had a discussion at the end of Iaido practice about the upcoming seminar, so we missed Kendo opening rei-hou. I put on doh and tare and stepped into line at the end of the student line. I did not miss warm-ups or suburi. The instructor went through the exercises at double the pace. If I was a beginner, I would have had to stop and catch my breath. I’m used to the exercises and I’m in better shape than when I had started taking Kendo, I was able to finish. Some of the mudansha were really suffering from lack of breath. One had to stop outright twice to avoid having her breathing stop all together.

Today we had more of the bokken waza. We practiced men-kote-doh-tsuki, kote-men, and men-nuki-men. We kept extra spacing for safety, of course. After practicing those waza with bokken, we switched into full bogu and repeated the drills with shinai and full striking. Very nice way to practice.

Day 334.5

Today we had a special day of Iaido. Normally, we have 45 minutes for a class. We had 2 hours of uninterrupted Iaido. It was like a mini-seminar. We had about a half-hour of free practice and then we went into deep discussion and practice of individual kata. We would practice each kata without interruption, and then we would do them by stopping our motion and posture with each significant sword motion, like a cut, chiburi, or thrust. The instructor would come by each of us and give minor corrections. Then we would repeat the kata with the adjusted motions. We practiced 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. We were supposed to save some time for practice tests, but time ran out. Next week, we’ll finish up the kata and save perhaps half an hour or so for practice tests.