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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Oh, the pain...

I had a tiring and painful class last night. The floors at our Tuesday night class are this rubberized foam mat that would be really great for aikido of any martial art that involves falling. However, for okuri ashi, it is very, very bad. I seriously jammed my big toe on my left foot, and I think I broke the third toe on my right foot. It is a deep, rich purple and quite painful to touch/move. Not much I can do about it. If it’s still painful for Sunday’s class I’ll tape it up and hope no one stomps on it.

The tiring part was about the best part of it. I reached a level of exhaustion that I haven’t been to in a long, long time. It is somewhat liberating to be so tired that you can’t even think, you just move. I need to remember to drink more water though, since I think I lost enough sweat that I got dehydrated somewhat (a family trait of my father’s side). We started practice with a round of kata, suburi, then kiri kaeshi with everyone, followed by kihon uchi and nidan uchi practice. Then, and here is the tiring part, we did kiri kaeshi with Yamaguchi Sensei, followed by kakari geiko, followed by kiri kaeshi. A short break (we were allowed to remove the men) followed up with about 20 minutes of jigeiko. I spent all 20 minutes with Jared. He proceeded to stomp me into a little pile of indigo dye. Every time I tried his kote, he hit my men. I felt I got one good, solid men strike on him in the 20 minutes. Yamaguchi Sensei said I had four good hits, and I’m inclined to believe him, I just didn’t feel them. Of course, Jared got in about twenty times that.

Phil pointed out I’m backing up, which I had noticed already, and that “You’re 6-foot something, you should never backup”. I think this goes back to how I used to spar in karate. I was more of a defensive fighter, waiting for their attack and keeping my distance, then moving in when they are at the disadvantage (since most attacks leave you in a disadvantageous position, at least momentarily). I’m going to have to work on being more aggressive. One thing I feel I’m good at is that I’m not afraid of getting hit, but I need to work harder on striking back (i.e, to get ai-shomen) instead of blocking or backing up.

Also, I need to get a bit faster on putting my men on. Following Yamaguchi Sensei’s direction, I purchased my men with kansai style himo, and I have difficulty getting the himo back through the top of the mengane before tying it in the back. My hands are not exactly slender and delicate and I really have to force it to get a finger through the mengane to get the himo to go through. Not that it matters, I still need to get faster before summer camp. I think I’ll try putting it on every night between now and summer camp. I am noticeably faster than last Sunday, which I think is good.

All in all Yamaguchi Sensei says I’m doing better, which is good, I just need to keep getting better (and put some ice on my toe).

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Ugh..

I have learned a new definition for the word, tired. Today was my first day in bogu. I was honored to have Sensei be the first one to hit me (do) and I am yet again amazed at how well the bogu fits. Sensei was pretty impressed with it as well and made several comments that it's better than his. Now, I just need to get good enough to be as good as my bogu.

I now have to change everything about my kendo. The extra 20 pounds of my bogu means my movements are slower and I can't jump as far. Also, the extra weight is playing hell on my knee. I need to ride the bike more so I can get the knee built up more, and maybe start the glucosamine to see if I can build it back up. Right now, it's quite painful.

Oh, and my entire body is blue. Fun.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

No News

Couldn't make it to class on Tuesday, so I have nothing to report. Considering starting to train in Orlando as well (have to ask Sensei about it) and also considering another martial art. I enjoy kendo very much, but I'd like something a little more practical as well.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Lotsa Kata

Had a good, albeit short, class on Sunday. We worked ashi-sabaki and kata for about an hour and a half, then had a little kendo party afterwards. I need to work more on my left foot. It keeps turning out a little bit (5-10 degrees). The same goes for my right foot when doing hidari jodan (uchidachi in ipponme). Other than that, I feel good about the 7 kata. Sanbonme foot work still needs some work (as uchidachi) but overall, happy with my knowledge of the large parts of the katas. Now I need to continue practicing and get all the small, intricate parts. Then, I can work on breathing and the mental aspects.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

We had a good session on Tuesday. As always, the class was very small. Jared and I were the only students. We worked through kata for the entire class. I felt really good about it. I've got the large movements of all seven long sword katas down pretty good. I actually had to go through as shidachi, which was a change for me. I knew uchidachi quite well, but my shidachi was a little rough. Sensei gave me lots of great pointers, which I need to work on.

My distance is still off, but I think it's getting better (could be that I've worked with Jared enough that we both compensate for my distance).
On ipponme, I need to remember to really avoid the uchidachi's shomen cut. Just backing up a half step isn't enough, I need to 'lift up' my body and pull my hands back slightly.
On nihonme, I did well. Sensei had no comments about it, and even had Jared make note of how I drop the boktou to avoid the kote.
On sanbonme, as shidachi, I need to work on my 'suppression' of the uchidachi's initial tuski. Mine was too much like nanahonme's dual tsuki. Also as uchidachi, I need to rotate my body more as I deflect the shidachi's return tsuki. Also, the shidachi tuski is to the throat, not sternum or shoulder (or over the shoulder which was my case). Also, when rising from gedan, go slow and keep the boktou in contact at all times.
On yohonme, I had some issues with uchidachi foot work. I kept moving back into hasso-no-kamae when I needed to move forward (uchidachi always moves forward). My distance is way off here on ai-shomen, and I need to work on the deflecting movement to get my left hand higher (to cover my entire side with the boktou).
On gohonme, I actually did pretty well. I need to do the suriage waza sooner though. I was waiting for the boktou to come too low (were it a sword, he would have killed me before I deflected the strike).
On ropponme, I did well again. I need slightly less pause in the transition from hidari jodan to chudan. Also, need a little practice again on the suriage waza. I'm doing ok, just need to hit it more often.
On nanahonme, the last step out as shidachi when doing the do cut needs to be more lateral than forward. This was throwing me off a little. However, I'm very happy that I actually got the steps right on the first try this time. I usually have to take two or three attempts before I remember the steps correctly. The boktou needs to be horizontal after the do cut (was dropping the tip) and remember to pause when dropping to wakigamae to show zanshin properly.

All in all, a good session and I really feel more comfortable with the kata. I don't get the same butterflies in the stomach now when Sensei calls out a kata name for me to do. My ankle is feeling a good bit better, but not perfect, so it was nice to have a break from too much ashi sabaki. I should be one hundred percent before Sunday.

Monday, June 27, 2005

How close were you?

Decent practice on Sunday. Not as involved as I usually prefer. I feel a little better on my maai problem, but it still needs work. Most people have adapted to my distance and adjust theirs by backing up (during kiri kaeshi). Our newer student (though more experienced than I am), Sam, doesn't back up as far, which really threw my distance. I think in those cases my forward movement is going to be almost nill, since I can strike men from issoku ito no maai with about a half step in. Really felt good about my kote uchi. I worked against Travis and felt good about the strikes. Only one was off (hit the tsuba) and one or two had a really nice 'pop'. Travis said I hit the right spot each time. I think that by exaggerating my lifting of my left hand, I'm able to get into kote a little better. I need to make my upswing slightly bigger and keep my distance better, but feel good about it.

I've been trying to really watch my left foot to keep it straight. The constantly 'grinding' of my left foot from pigeon-toe to straight is causing that blister (Sensei noticed it a practice or two ago). It feels a little different (tighter in my knee really) when my foot is straight, so I need to concentrate on keeping that feeling.

Left hand is coming along well. Doing suburi with left hand only I felt really good. Sensei made a note of my breaking the wrist at the end of the strike and pointed it out to everyone (as a good thing). I've been trying to work on katate waza, so getting a good wrist snap will be important.

Can't wait to get my bogu. I really feel like I'm missing out on parts of practice. It's good to learn waza, but until you can put them into practical use, it's difficult to really learn them. It would be like learning the grammar of a new language but never learning how to put the sentence together. Bogu should be here in about 1 month (29th of July).

Pretty much all set for the Summer Camp. Saw a post in the forums from Mr. Roosevelt from Idaho that he'll be there. I look forward to meeting him. Not only does he post on our forums from time to time, but I really enjoy reading his blog. In fact, I really look forward to meeting as many people as I can.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A three-fer!

Ordered my zekken (along with 3/4 the dojo) today. Yamaguchi Sensei's translation of my last name:

フォコンナァー

Very cool.

Sweet!

I just confirmed my room for the All US Kendo Federation Summer Camp. I'm quite excited that I'm going (and so happy my wife understands my addition and desire to wear armor and beat up other people in armor with a stick). I might actually have bogu in time, though, I'm not sure the Summer Camp will be where I want to wear bogu for the first time. Still, lots of fun will be had I am sure. Current plans are for 4-5 kendoka from my dojo renting a big car/van and heading up the day before. Going to be an interesting trip for sure.

Habits

Good practice Tuesday, though small. Worked Kata with Jared and Phil. Phil gave me some nice pointers, mostly small things, which I hope means that I've got the large movements down right. I always seem to stumble on the footwork on sanbonme when being uchidachi for some reason. When I visualize it and work the movements alone, I never stumble.

It's very interesting to watch people do jigeiko when you don't have bogu yet. Jared and Phil sparred last night and I think I learned a little something. One, be aggressive (but not sloppy). I noticed that Jared almost always backs off when in tsuba zarai. I think this puts you at a disadvantage and basically only allows for the chance of a hiki waza at best. Phil exploited this a lot against Jared. Of course, it's very easy to make comments standing on the sidelines without bogu of my own (coming soon!)

We also worked on some basic waza; men and kote uchi, kote-men, and do uchi.
Things to work on:
  • Posture. I lean forward when moving, which makes my poor distance control even worse.
  • Left foot. I allow it to turn out, which I realize then correct, and I do it over and over, which causes the blood blister on the ball of that foot.
  • Move with the hara. Don't just step, let the hara move me.

I 'tweaked' my ankle on the padded floors as well. Swelled up pretty good last night after practice and was painful to put any weight on. It's better today, but I don't think I'll be practicing any normal ashi sabaki tonight. I'll focus on ashi sabaki with my left foot forward for jodan, though I'll take it easy to let things heal.