Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tournament Preparations

Well, now that the Fall season is coming, certain things happen. Schools sessions begin (for those that have it anyways), the weather begins to cool down and, most importantly, the Kendo tournaments in the area tend to occur around this time as well.

During the Fall/Winter season, there are tournaments held by the Midwestern Federation, Southeastern Federation and East Central Federation. At this time, I don't know which ones I will go to, since it's dependant on my ability to travel there and the desires of the Cincinnati team, but it's good to know that there are some available tournaments going on.

No matter how many I ultimately go to, there is one thing that is for sure. This will be my second time in the shodan/nidan (1st dan/2nd dan) division. Back at the Cleveland tournament, I honestly didn't know what to expect as far as what I needed to do to do well. It's one thing seeing what is going on through other people's matches, but it's another thing to actually participate in it. I've spent the better part of five years in the mudansha division, so this is a pretty big change for me, regardless of how I, or others, see my ability.

After really paying attention to some of the early and late matches in the division, I think I have an idea on what needs to be done to feel better about my performance. Don't get me wrong, I have been spending a lot of time improving myself since the Cleveland tournament this past April, but I feel that I wouldn't be completely ready if the hypothetical tournament were to happen tomorrow.

So how will I be able to gauge whether or not I feel ready enough to perform as desired in the tournament? That can only be truly answered on the day of the tournament due to all the independent variables going around on tournament day. But, based on what I learned then and throughout my training, I do have some ideas on what I could do to prepare myself.

First of all, I need to put more emphasis on the basics. I could throw out as many tsuki-mens as I would like, but it all means nothing if there's no foundation to build them on. I can build a house on land but, if it's not firmly planted in the ground, something as simple as the occasional heavy rain could send it sliding down the hill with occupants in tow, leading to disastrous results. What I really need to be doing is taking the next month or so asking myself many questions like:
  • Am I keeping my balance at all times when I move?
  • Are my hand positioned correctly to take advantage of physical leverage?
  • Is my body stiff or loose?
The list isn't exhaustive, but the overall point is there. I need to try to look at everything I do in terms of the fundamentals I learned when I first started. Then the more advanced stuff should fall into place until I have to revisit the basics again.

I have also had thoughts on incorporating Iaido into the mix to help with concentration. Will this work, or is this just an excuse to practice more Iaido? That is something that I will only find out for myself in time. The reasoning behind this is that, in a Kendo match, I can sometimes get flustered with thinking way too much about the many outcomes of my actions which, in turn, slows me down and end up losing. So why do I think that Iaido will help? In Iaido, I am supposed to dispatch imaginary oppenents which can take a lot of concentration to really think about where I am cutting on the person, how the opponent is supposed to react and how I am supposed to conduct myself through the whole kata. If I can at least begin to have an idea on what it takes to stay aware of the imaginary opponents, I think there may be SOME benefit when I am against a real opponent.

Then there is the value of watching high-level tournament videos. This is more for entertainment/inspirational purposes than looking for something to emulate. Emulating from a video would be a waste of time, in my opinion, because what they are doing is of a much higher level than what I am at and these sorts of things work for their situations. If I were to just pick something up while watching, then I certainly won't avoid it, but it's not my main focus. Seeing these videos sometimes provides me with inspiration to what is possible in a match and sort of gives me something to work towards. It is also nice to be able to compare my own abilities to theirs in a fun way and to try my best to find where the point was scored for the times when the movements are hectic and fast as well as see what passes and fails in various judges eyes.

One more thing I could probably do is retreat to the Kentucky mountains, pitch a tent, live off the land and come back all scruffy and philosophical about seeing the light in Kendo. But given today's hectic world that requires me to work and pay bills, that seems like something that would be impossible, or would have to be cut drastically short. It does seem kind of fun to do though...

The most important thing that I should remember from all of this is that it is necessary for me to have fun with all of this. I need to have fun with the training and I need to have fun at the tournament. If I can't do any of that, then I believe that everything will be all for naught because my spirit would be in the wrong place despite my body being there. To be honest, I don't really have much to worry about in this department since I tend to take stuff in a light-hearted manner. And, even if I don't do as well as I would like at the tournament, it's not like it will all be a waste. I will undoubtedly learn lots of things along the way that will carry me into the future.


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