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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