Saturday, September 26, 2009

Welcome back, To that same old place that you laughed about

The University of Cincinnati (UC) Kendo Club is now back in session. The first practice was actually on Tuesday but I missed that one out of my own stupidity but I did attend the Thursday practice. One thing I can say is that it's great to be back!

Usually, there is the typical shrinkage over the summer months from the people that don't return after the summer break, but that didn't really happen so much this time. That isn't to say that there will be some dropouts later as it's typical for any activity, especially a college club, but it looked good. There was a lot of energy throughout the practice which only boosted my own. I hope that this is a sign of things to come throughout the year. One thing that I can't get over is the 2 hours 45 minutes of practice time on Tuesday (and 2 hours 15 on Thursday) we have. Takano sensei made a schedule for us to follow so we have some direction on how to use said time span.

One of the things I have been working on is trying to calm down during jigeiko. This stems from the comments Matsuura sensei (and many other sensei over the years) gave me at the last national Kendo seminar. In essence, one, decisive hit will serve me better in battle than a hundred, unfocused hits. My plan is to try to loosen up my body, analyze the situation and then make my attack. My goal here is to be able to concentrate more on being a thread to the other person take advantage of their weaknesses instead of just going for something and hoping it hits.

That was the easy part. While I definitely don't have it perfect, I think I have an idea on the potential results of my actions. Unfortunately, this calming-down has yielded a few more problems of my own, mainly hesitation and over-thinking. I may be able to stand my ground, but there are some missed opportunities because I am thinking too much about the outcome and slow myself down. So now I need to bring up the aggressiveness again, but only gradually until I hit that desirable sweet spot that I can work with over time.

One big goal I have for the time being is to prepare for my nidan exam. While I'm not going to let it completely consume me, it has been in the back of my mind for a time now. I tend to get a little nervous with exams, no matter what kind of exam it is which oftentimes doesn't come out in my favor as anyone can see from my first shodan exam. I think the best thing I can do is just listen to whatever my faults may be and just fix them bit by bit. I'm pretty confident I could do well, I just don't want to crack under pressure. And even if I don't pass, the advice I get would be more relevant to my abilities for the next time I try out for it.

Now that the UC Kendo Club is back in session for the year, I am back up to 5 days of training per week. And, because of a change in hours, I may be able to bring the Iaido back up to 2 days a week at the Corryville Rec Center, though those practices happen on the same days as my Kendo practices with the Northern Kentucky club. I was able to see the results of that much practice over the past year, so we'll see what develops this year.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Problems Fixing Problems

Time for a statement from Captain Obvious! Everyone has their own problems to fix in Kendo. Some problems may be easy to fix within a few practices and others might take a lifetime to work out. Unfortunately, the path to fix these issues come with a bit of frustration and last week was one of those times.

The frustrating scenario happened this past Wednesday at the Corryville practice. For the past year or so, I have been told some variant of keeping my back straight, pushing more off my left leg and turn my wrist in to make quicker, more effective strikes. I have been working on these in some degree or another, but I just tend to regress back to my old ways later on. Despite working on it, it has gotten a bit on the frustrating side since it seems like there hasn't been that much improvement despite my best efforts.

I know that the path of Kendo comes with a lot of hardship, but knowing and experiencing are two different things. This frustration comes on several levels:
  • The pressure I put on myself to improve by fixing any known errors
  • The pressure I put on myself by trying to show that I am actually listening to everyone's suggestions and taking steps to improve myself
  • The pressure I put on myself with the frustration of getting that same advice said to me and wondering if there is actually some improvement.
I typed the situations like that to put emphasis on the fact that I am putting the pressure on myself, whether or not it's warranted. The first bullet point is pretty much the only sort of pressure I need to put on myself. The sensei and senpai that give me these suggestions know that I am trying my hardest to improve, or they would have given up on giving me any sort of advice a long time ago. And, despite what they actually think, I know for a fact that anything they say is somewhere in my mind which puts it at or near the top of the list of things to improve on, whether or not I am consiously thinking about it. Also, I do realize that different problems take different amounts of time to fix which is all dependant on how big or small the change is, how long one has been doing it wrong and general ability to think about it during all forms of practice, in and out of the dojo. For all I know, I could be improving, but I don't realize it. I could be getting closer to that point where I can do things in an acceptable manner, but I'm just getting pushed to make it better.

One thing I need to think about while fretting over fixing these issues is that, the longer I fret over it, the longer it will take for me to improve. That would just cloud my judgement and cause me to lose focus on the things that do matter. The important thing is knowing that I recognize these problems and have steps planned or taken to fix them in the best way possible, no matter how long it will take. The thing about Kendo (and anything in life really) is that, even after 30 years of practice, I'll never have my back straight enough, I'll never employ the use of tame enough, I'll never use my left hand enough, I'll get the idea. There will always be something that needs improving on. The thing that I realize about Kendo is that I am trying to reach that asymptotic region of 100% perfection. I know I can get close, and it might look like I am at that point from the outside, but I'll never personally reach that point.
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