These days sped by in a blur. I had a lot of practice to do. I had to sharpen my accuracy, increase my speed, promote my zanshin, and focus my center. I must have sweat my body weight over these days and kept going. Sometimes, I had sweat burning in my eyes and my belly muscles cramping all together, needing a short rest.
We went through all of the standard waza and some harder waza. Kiri-kaeshi, kote-kirikaeshi with tsuki, doh-kirikaeshi with tsuki, kote-ouchi, doh-ouchi, kote-men-ouchi, kakarigeiko, and ji-geiko. We also got to practice kote-suriage-men, men-nuki-men, men-kaeshi-doh, ai-ouchi-men, and doh-uchiotoshi-men.
Several days practice was cancelled due to the weather. This wasn’t good but it can’t be helped. We just had to practice every minute possible.
Both of my shinais cracked in a single week. I had to perform some of the longest bamboo surgery over a weekend to try to save them. After replacing two different staves, one of the shinais became heavier. Slower to use but hits more firmly.
I got to practice my kata over and over again. Sensei stated that I was ready for the test, but the instructor had many little comments to make. I spent my time helping others prepare for their promotion exams.
I actually sprained my left leg two practices before the seminar. I chose to skip the last practice just to be careful. Pushing it would turn it into a major sprain. I already went through a promotional exam injured once. Not doing it again, thank you.
Day 562.5 Seminar/Promotional Exam:
This was a long day. Most of the day reminded me of the Iaido seminar. We stood around on a hard floor doing kata over and over. It was instructional. It was interesting. It was definitely not a waste of time. However, the hard floor and standing all day really took a toll on my back and ankles. I was in serious pain. I had to sit down during breaks or else I’d have to sit out. These are the kata exercises that mudansha will be tested on with their promotional exams. We’ll have to know them to teach them.
After lunch and finishing the kata, we broke into a short session of keiko. I got to keiko with two teachers, one I have fought before and one I have not fought before. The one I have fought before corrected me on my footwork. She said my left foot was passing my right foot. That was lazy of me. The one I have not fought before stopped me multiple times for several errors, such as not holding center and striking accurately.
However, I took in all of the advice and drilled my own mind with the proper way to do kendo. When it came time to do the exam, the waiting was hard. I could not get comfortable on the floor and had to eventually stand up. However, it came time to test. I resolved just to strike men, strike men again, maybe one kote, and then strike men again. I chased my opponents all over the floor, bating and striking. I remembered not to block at all, even once.
When the instructor called out the numbers called to perform kata, I smiled at my number being stated. I took my bokken and resolved to do my best, bringing my seme to the full. The shimpan-cho warned us to pause a lot in kata to avoid rushing. I did my best, showing good form as the shidachi. However, my footwork was awkward in the 7th kata. We were all asked to do the 7th kata again, making me nervous. I did it again, unfortunately rushing the doh cut.
At the end, we all gathered together. The sensei ripped into us for good keiko but not good kata. They said we didn’t seem to know the nuances of kata and they demonstrated a few cuts. It turns out that I was taught wrong about the 7th kata. The shidachi doh cut is not horizontal. It is downward diagonal and the sword is pulled by kneeling down, cutting the opponent in half.
They turned around the board to show the results of the kata. I was already planning to take the kata-only exam at our tournament out of shame. However, my number showed a pass. I quickly turned in my written answer and fee. I have now finished my path towards nidan. I feel very proud and very humble towards all of my teachers and dojo-mates.