Thursday, June 04, 2009

ECUSKF Joint Practice (May 31st)

The ECUSKF held their joint practice in Columbus this past Sunday. Unfortunately, this was a pretty small one compared to some of the others I’ve been to, but it was no less beneficial to my Kendo to train with people from all over the area (mainly Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia).

There was a kata session added to the beginning of the practice. There isn’t anything too formal with it since we just grabbed the nearest person and went through the kata and got suggestions from the senior members.

I will admit that my kata abilities were quite rusty since it has been a while since I have done them (the non-cooperating floor didn’t help matters either). I did get some much-appreciated help on them though. The biggest thing that I needed to fix was the overall thought process during kata. I was just going through the movements and not putting much feeling behind it. Granted, I was just trying to get used to doing kata again, but I also need to realize that there is supposed to be a story and purpose to each of them and it’s up to me to be able to interpret and display that when I do them if I ever hope to understand Kendo better. This tip also got me thinking about the overall perception of what kata means to kenshi.

One thing that seems to be apparent is that kata isn’t practiced all that often, or it isn’t given that much importance until the weeks approaching promotional exams. It’s easy to see why though. Kihon-geiko and jigeiko is much more active. Rigorous practice involving these give the most apparent results through better reaction times and tournament victories. Thus, setting some time on the side for kata may be seen as a burden since the benefits aren’t really seen immediately and tends to be treated as another obstacle to getting that next rank.

Things got a bit more interesting once I started to analyze what each of the kata are supposed to represent. Instead of just robotically going through each of the moves, it became an exercise in timing and dynamic body movement. So essentially, the thought process had to shift from, “I gotta move to the left,” to, “I need to dodge the person’s cut.” I would like to be able to put more focus on kata to help me permanently think in this manner. As it stands, I only do kata once a month, at best.

The second part was the normal practice where we stretched, did warm-ups and did some kihon-geiko. Going through the suburi and ashi-sabaki can be just as important as the rest of practice as it’s easier for me to break down my swings and footwork to see what needs to be fixed. There were two suggestions that I was given. The first one is that my feet were crossing during suriashi. While I had the speed, the balance and effectiveness is gone once my feet are crossing since, at that point, there’s very little I can do if someone is able to take advantage of that sort of situation. The second piece of advice I was given was that I needed to use more of my left during the upswing. Not only does it open up my elbows for easier swinging, it also serves as another piece of advice for those that may have the same issue as me.

My goal for this practice was to put more emphasis on tame and sutemi. I tend to either be too relaxed during matches, which slows down my reaction time, or I might end up being too tense which slows down my overall movements. And the fact that I tend to be too preoccupied with the results of my attempts ends up putting unnecessary doubt during times I could be taking advantage of the situation. I felt that it worked to my advantage during this segment, though my timing could use a lot of work for oji-waza.

I did my best to keep a similar thought process during the free practice with the sempai and sensei. Of course, when the opponent is moving and actually trying to take advantage of your deficiencies, things become much easier said than done. I was trying to apply some pressure to the other person for my first match, but it mostly was done in vain. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, the pressure was being put on me and I was the person losing control of the match. Despite all that, I still tried to make sure I was prepared for any moment I saw. When that match was over, he suggested that I needed to try to put more focus on my own kendo instead of what the other person is capable of. It makes sense though. Worrying about the other person only slows me down and causes me to not go for some otherwise good opportunities.

There were a few other matches I had that day in which I was trying to keep my thought processes in check. I wouldn’t call them successful, but it was better than not attempting to apply them in the first place. Another thing that I have been working on was making sure I keep a better eye on openings, which seems to be a side-effect to applying tame. It actually worked out with one of my hiki-dous since the sempai I was going against thought it was good enough and the sensei that was watching said that it was the best one he’s seen me do. I really appreciated that since I have been trying to be more effective with hiki-waza, though now the issue is actually being able to reproduce everything that went into that.

After the practice was over, I got some suggestions from the sensei. The two main things that I recall, was that I still had an issue of leaning into my strikes before I go. Not only does it put me off balance, but it also telegraphs to the other person that I am about to do something. I really need to do a better job with using my lower body to move forward instead of using my upper body to reach further. The second tip dealt with better use of seme. This has actually been a problem of mine for quite some time, and he has been reminding me of it since then. From his definition, I need to try to have better command of the center before I attack. While I try to keep this in mind, I guess I don’t fully understand what it really means to apply seme. I do recall there being a section in Kendou Joutatsu Book (剣道上達Book) by Hidekatsu Inoue, so I think I’ll do some consulting with that to get a better idea on what this seme is all about. Now if it only was written in English, it wouldn’t seem like such a daunting task.


Post a Comment

Powered by Blogger