Saturday, May 31, 2008

Training Notes: 5/31/08

This has been one hell of a week. Work has been pretty hectic, though Kendo really helped take me away from the stresses of it. Unfortunately, it kept me away from practice on Thursday as I pulled a 16 hour day.

But it didn't keep me away for long since I was ready to practice again at Miami Valley today. As the weather warms up, my body has to acclimate itself to a new set of temperatures. This was only heightened by the training conditions since Ariga sensei only allows the ceiling fans and open doors to provide ventilation. I really had to fight exhaustion due to the heat, but I think things went well overall.

There wasn't much that was different from the normal practices there. We had warmups, kirikaeshi, waza and then mawari geiko. The only difference was that I didn't go to second dojo due to some work issues that I couldn't solve anyways due to the files not being sent till um...two hours ago...Yeah, I'm not happy about this.

As usual, I will leave some words of wisdom that was left for me by the sensei and sempai in attendance.

1) I need to try to feel out my opponent instead of just blindly attacking. This seems like a somewhat difficult concept to understand since there seems to be the necessity of balance between blindly attacking and waiting around for the opponent to hit me.

2) I have the tendancy to hesitate before attacking. If I move forward, then I need to become committed to the attack since I am so close to the other person. Being closer than issoku-ittou no maai puts me at an advantage since I don't have to move so much, but it also gives the opponent that same advantage. And if the person I'm going against is much faster or more experienced than I, then that can only spell trouble for me.

3) Gotta work on that distancing. It's harder than you think to guage how far you need to be since there's only a certain part of the shinai that will count as a point. On that note, I should fix my shinai since my nakayui seemed to slide down a bit.

Now it's time for me to wait until tomorrow to try my hand at Kendo and Iaido again with my tattered body.

One final note before I go. I am going to pursue the fansubbing of the anime Musashi no Ken to see how well it does with the general public. Bamboo Blade seemed to have some sort of popularity as of a few months ago, so it would be interesting to see how things go when it's accessible to the English speaking world for the first time (to my knowledge anyways). Plus, I think it would be better if the person translating the anime actually knows a bit about the subject matter at hand, which is Kendo in this case.

If you would like to help me out on this, feel free to holler at me. The only requirements are that you have some knowledge of the Japanese language and the desire to translate something. The Kendo knowledge can be proofread by me if you have no knowledge about it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Training Notes: Pittsburgh Joint Practice

This past weekend was another one of the ECUSKF joint practices in Pittsburgh, PA. It was a nice, kendo-filled weekend full of fun and excitement as I do my best to improve my abilities whilst staying alive during these very tough practices.

The first day was mainly for the senshu in preparation for the tournament in July. It started out like the general practice and then moved on to the practical matches. I participated in three matches and won the first two. This is pretty nice since it seems to be pretty hard to win, considering you have to get judges to vote in your favor. Of course, I didn't leave it to just those wins. I could always use some tips so I went to Nagata-sensei for some afterthoughts. These were some of the points that he left me:

1) I should concentrate on going forward as much as possible and taking advantage of the position. Overall, I did a decent job with keeping maai, but sometimes I went backwards more than I should have.

2) On the subject of getting the correct maai, the opponent was able to get the correct distancing faster than me. I need to work on not only getting the maai, but getting it quickly before the other person knows what's going on.

After the practice, we ate dinner at this restaurant that was pretty expensive, but had good beer. Then we went over to a fellow kenshi's house to watch the videos. It felt strange looking at myself after the fact, but it was a great opportunity to see what I look like in a match from a different vantage point. It was pretty uneventful as most of us were tired and concerned about staying up too late for the practice the next morning.

The next practice was the general practice for everyone. There was a lot of people there for such a tiny room. The main practice included the general men, kote and kote men before moving on to a variety of oji-waza against someone doing men and kote.

After a short break, we moved on to the free practice against the highest ranked people there. I went against some people for the free practice the day before, so I made sure I went against those that I didn't get to go against the previous time. The first person was Nagata-sensei, which is always an exercise in survival. No matter what I did, my distancing was always too close or too far for a good hit. Sigh, yet another thing I need to get straight.

The practice finished off with kakari-geiko with the Sensei there...which was 7 people for 10 seconds each. It's really hard to keep going, but it was something I had to do if I wanted to improve. After that, practice was over and I got some more pointers from Nagata-sensei.

1) He said that I have improved a lot since I first met him as I have done my best to improve each point. Now the next step is to get my footwork straight by not moving the left leg and having good weight distribution. It was the only point that he gave me that day. but you don't want TOO many pointers!

Well, the tournament is coming soon so I need to take everything for what it's worth...and dry out my uniform...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Training Notes: 6/22/08

The practice last night was pretty intersting. Nagata-sensei came to visit us about halfway through practice to teach us quite a few basic points:

1) When you are about to push off, do not move the left foot forward. It's something that's quite natural if you aren't confident in the power of your step, but all it does is telegraph your movements to your opponent.

2) Pay great attention to your maai. There's a fine line between being too close and too far, which can mean the difference between making a successful strike or not. This practice for distancing really made me pay attention to the huge importance of all the elements of the stance to achieve optimum ability.

3) When cutting men, better power can be achieved by hitting through to the ear instead of tapping the top of the head. It gives enough power to be strong without overpowering your hits. This is something that could definately help me out since my hits tend to be on the weak side.

Paying attention to these basic points made the practice a bit difficult by trying to approach things in a different light. Of course, it wasn't the hardest part once things got moving with the jigeiko with Nagata-sensei. It was more of the usual in the fact that it's an exercise in physical longevity while keeping your spirits up. He has to be one of the toughest sensei out there, but it's something I appreciate since his methods tend to make me REALLY see what's going on with my Kendo.

Well, tomorrow is the joint practice at Pittsburgh. Hopefully, things should go over pretty well there.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Training Notes: AUSKF Tournament Update Edition

It's been quite a while since I have updated the blog. I should really try to update more regularly to keep track of my progress and hopefully give others guidance on things they may be having trouble with.

It's about 43 days until the national tournament in Las Vegas and I've been practicing hard to make sure I can get past the first round in the Mudansha division. I have been doing this mainly by going to lots of practices that are routinely held in the area as well as the special tournament practices that have been held recently.

Generally, the tournament practices aren't too much different than normal joint practices, except that there are shiai-styled matches alongside. The practices may not seem like much on the outside, but can teach some very valuable information if taken the right way. The most important takeaway I see from this is the chance to see how well you handle yourself when people are watching your every move. It's one thing to be able to judge you and your partner's hits during jigeiko, but it's another thing to be able to practice how to make all of your hits strong and believable enough for at least two of the judges to vote in your favor. It's a completely different environment that's necessary to get some acclimation to if you hope to succeed in tournaments.

I have been told by many people that my form is great, as well as a few suggestions for improvement. One thing that I seem to not be able to shake off is my hesitation before I go. It really seems to depend on the experience level and fighting style of the person I'm going against, but I really need to at least be more aggressive and resolute in my style. I don't think it's an issue of doing the high school kind of kendo where the senshuu are extremely aggressive to the point of knocking each other down, but it's more of me taking opportunities as I see them instead of worrying about getting hit. This is something that can be stopped in time by paying more attention to doing what I can to break the opponent's kamae to create openings instead of them hitting me.

There are also a few other smaller issues that need to get worked out, such as doing taiatari from the stomach instead of the arms. This is something that could possibly help my arms from getting tired out so much as well as being able to go in with more force with someone with a frame as small as mine. To round things out, there are some small issues with footwork that should allow me to push off with more explosive force by keeping both feet parallel and having more strength in my hits.

Am I doing enough to prepare myself? In the context of the typical American lifestyle, one would think so since the opportunity is rare to be able to practice more than once or twice a week. I tend to be able to get in four practices at most. But there are some things that can be done at home on my part to keep my body moving, such as suburi and running. The suburi thing is nice since I have the vaulted ceiling that gives me the extra space necessary to swing a shinai with little problem. As far as running, I could possibly do more of that so I don't get as tired from practice. The weather is warming up outside and there's a park behind the apartment complex where I can run around...provided there's no rain. I guess I could use the treadmill in the crappy gym as a substitute on those bad weather days, but it's just not the same.

Ah well, I can do all the things in the world to prepare for this, but the thing that really matters is whether or not I give no less than 100% on the fateful day. One thing that might help is to reset my goals for the tournament. In most tournaments, I only hope to get further than the last one, which may be something that's holding me back. I should set my sights on getting first place, and nothing less. In a way, I thought that this sort of thought would only lead to disappointment, as it's not an easy task to achieve as you weed out the lesser-experienced people. But really, having this sort of goal forces you to give your all every single time to improve even the slightest imperfection with your form and thought processes.
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