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.