Monday, December 14, 2009

Yearly Introspection

The final days of the year are approaching us. That means it's time for us to close out the year with reflection over how this year was spent and look ahead at the next year to see how we would like to approach it, given past events and lessons learned over all of our lives.

I thought I would try to approach this differently than in the past. I choose a word or phrase that best summarizes my experiences in Kendo and Iaido over the past year, and choose another word or phrase to summarize my goals for the following year. Then I justify each word or phrase.

This year's word: Planning
One thing that I needed to do more of is to put a little more thought into my fighting. Beforehand, my habit was to mindlessly attack something with little to no planning. More often than not, it just resulted in me getting tired and not really gaining much in the end.

In order to move on to the next level, I need to begin using more seme to create openings and attack any weaknesses my opponent might show. I save energy and it allows me to mold my fighting style as I read the opponent's style. For the most part, I am understanding all the suggestions I am being told as I am reaping the benefits of doing so. Obviously, I have a long way to go to master that as there are many holes that need to be filled.

Next year's word: Resolve
Despite beginning to know about the benefits of using seme, most of it would be for naught if I don't have the resolve to beat the opponent. Oftentimes, I am distracted by the shinai in front of me and the many potential outcomes of any attempted strikes. Any sort of distraction will only diminish my attacks. I really need to do a lot of fixing on myself if I want to increase my chances of defeating the opponent.

I am going to try to get my nidan in March as well. Everyone remarks on how I have good basics, now I need to translate all that to performing well in front of a random opponent and a group of five people trying to grade me. I have failed the shodan test before because of incessant attacking, so hopefully I should be okay if I increase my resolve and institute planning to my Kendo.

This year's word: Technique
Since I've only recently begun Iaido, I have mainly been concentrating on the physical aspects of performing all the seitei kata. The first hurdle was memorizing all of the moves. Once I got that down, then it was all about performing all of my swings more efficiently to make them look and feel better. There was a small bump in the road around August when my new iaito came in. Since it was bigger and heavier, there were some new aspects of swinging that I needed to get used to. As of now, I'm slowly getting it as my body is getting used to handling something that heavy.

Next year's word: Intent

Once the basic moves are taken care of, the next part is understanding everything that I am doing. Without that, then I would just be swinging around a sword with no meaning, which gets boring really quickly. Every kata has a bunkai, or intent, that gives all of your moves some sort of meaning. Whether I am supposed to be in a thin hall or taking down a few people, I am supposed to perform as if I was actually in that situation. Of course, it means I need to use a lot of my imagination and, when there are multiple things that are already going on in your head, there isn't room for much else.

I would also like to try to test for Iaido when I get the chance. The issue now is that I need to know when the next available test is. Because I don't have a rank, getting a grade of some sort should be relatively easy. What grade I get is a matter of the judges and the grading culture of the region I will be testing in. Either way, I will be trying hard to make sure there is some intent in all of my kata to make sharper swings, effective nukitsuke and accurate noto.

Obviously, I don't know what the future holds. The chosen goals are based on advice given to me and my introspection throughout the year. If I do get sidetracked for whatever reason, I hope it's for some other important element for improvement instead of just coasting through practice for the sake of it (though sometimes that may not be a bad idea if things get too frazzled). No matter the outcome, I hope I can approach each practice with something I can improve on to make my Kendo and Iaido better, little by little.
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