I had the great fortune of attending the All United States Kendo Federation Summer Camp this year in Millington, TN, which is just outside of Memphis. Before I begin, I would like to thank the Memphis Kendo Club for making this event a success with nice facilities and great organization. The practice place was very spacious yet provided enough ventilation so things never got too bad.
The seminar was chock full of information. What I will do for the following points is describe some of the notes that I could remember and try to interpret what they mean to me based on my skill level.
- Both the attacker and reciever should have an active role in training. The attacker is taking the role of the student by trying to execute the technique at hand as best as he or she possibly can. But the receiver shouldn't be too lax in taking hits either. The receiver's role is that of the teacher and should try to make the situation as realistic as he or she possibly can. If the receiver just lazily accepts techniques without any application, the attacker is just parroting the technique without getting much of a sense of how things are supposed to work. One good example would be debana-waza. The receiver, which is initiating the attack, should really attempt to go for the kote despite knowing that the attacker is most likely going to block. Not doing this correctly will result in neither knowing how the technique is applied.
- There are three parts to learning a technique: learn, practice and apply. The first part is just getting to know the technique with just the mechanical aspects. Using men as an example, this would be where all you are doing is developing muscle memory of the upswing and downswing to hit the target. The second part is practicing the technique. Once you gain the muscle memory, it is now time to refine that men so that the posture is correct from beginning to end and the right muscles are being applied to execute the swing itself. The final step, application, is where you learn how to apply what you have learned and explore how everything is supposed to work. So here, you would try to find out the best timing, how big or small the strike should be and how strong things should be to successfully achieve yukou-datotsu.
- Suburi should be treated as more than just warm ups for the main event. Oftentimes, we do the suburi to just warm the muscles up to segway into kihon geiko. But the various men strikes and suburi all have uses in shinsa and shiai, so just rushing through them is only a waste of time and encourages bad habits to form. During the seminar, this was applied by doing 100 matawari (crouching men) suburi, shomen suburi, naname suburi (the ones with hiraki-ashi) and haya-suburi (10 sets of 10 suburi).
- A person should not easily proclaim to be the teacher, but then they also shouldn't easily become a student. I think that this is supposed to mean that one shouldn't be too boastful about taking the leading position but, at the same time, one shouldn't just immediately put put yourself down into a smaller role. Everyone in the dojo needs to work together to improve in the dojo and that means that we shouldn't be too concerned with the overall role in the dojo.
- "You need to have a conversation with the shinai, don't argue with it." The shinai is supposed to be an extension of my body instead of just an extra appendage. Trying to force the shinai to do what I want to do isn't as effective as moving my body and extending my ki to move in harmony with the shinai.
- I need to concentrate on making all my hits count or I'm just wasting energy. As Matsuura sensei put it, just making random hits against an experienced person will just make them think about how to dispose of me instead of considering me a force to be reckoned with. I think this was probably the best personal advice given to me in terms of how he said it though.
- Ma-ai is still an issue for me. I tend to not really pay all that much attention to the effects of being too close or too far. Whenever I move in to try to get into a comfortable position, I don't need to move in so far. I pretty much just need to maintain issoku ittou no ma but getting myself to the point where I can prepare for an attack or parry.
- This one was for the kata portion, but I need to hold the bokken tip a little higher than chuudan no kamae. The purpose is so that I can threaten with the blade instead of just the tip when using a shinai. This is one thing that hasn't been told to me very often until about a few months ago, so I don't really know just how widespread that sort of knowledge it is. But the explanation does make sense since the bokken is a better sword facimile than a shinai where the tip is more imposing than the "blade" portion.
On a side note, I did take a few photos of the seminar. They mostly consist of the shinsa since that was the one thing I did not participate in, but I tried to do the best with what I had and tried to learn a bit about photography.