So last weekend we were visited by our Shihan, Boffa Sensei and he quite rightly took us through some basics again. I always find it really interesting how his teaching makes things so fundamentally clear. It’s like taking everything you think you know, throwing out 80% of it and then boiling it down to one simple detail. I guess this is how you learn things though. You hear a thousand different ideas and inputs and practice those and eventually it leads to one simple idea because you finally understand it.
It was during this session on the Saturday that I had a realisation which developed over a week to make me realise that I’ve been doing something fundamentally wrong for the past 4 years.
I’m getting that dejavu feeling again.
This time it’s something so fundamental and so obvious to everything I can barely belive I hadn’t worked this out before.
It is simply to do with my left hand grip. We are all told over and over to grip the Shinai with out little and ring finger, and the index and middle finger should not grip too hard. Okay got that.
Now the part this weekend that hit a chord was when we were told that having a hole in the palm of you kote was a good indicator of where your grip is wrong as it means you Shinai is moving in your hand in some way and it shouldn’t be.
Bing! Eureka moment.
I’ve been doing this for the past 4 years, letting the Shinai move back and fourth in my hand. My kote hole is at the thumb joint. I’ve been allowing the Shinai to move through my hand far too much, using its movement in place of wrist movement.
The thing is, I’ve watched people grip the Shinai straight up in a fist and told them not to. I’ve told them to soften the fingers. I’ve also told people to let it move in the hand but that’s not right.
So last night I trained all night trying not to do this. The result is I realised how much I was compensating for my lack of grip in the left with too much in the right. I feel like I’ve just started. My left wrist and hand ache like never before and I’ve got a blister where I haven’t had one in ages. I’ve got no strength in that hand at all because I’ve not been doing it right. Extra suburi and slower cutting practice are in my future.
So I’m finally understanding what my seniors say when they said they had to go back and rebuild their kendo. But don’t we all want to do that with all sorts of things.
I’m an old programmer at heart and I hear it so offen that if you knew then what you know now, you would have programmed a particular thing completely differently. The thing is you can do this over and over again with kendo with new improved knowledge and experience refining every time.
I see no problem with every night taking one aspect of your kendo, forgetting everything you think you know and rebuilding it. Why not?
There is no goal. I’m not training to win shiai. I’m not training to beat anyone in the dojo. I’m not even training to get my next grading. Then why? Well I can only speak for myself but I’m training to feel that one perfect moment when every single part of the cut goes perfectly and feels completely effortless. The timing of the push is spot on, the opportunity sticks out like a giant flashing light, the hit is perfect and you zanshin is spot on and you’ve finished the cut before your opponent or you know what has happened. It’s that moment of mushin that everyone talks about.
So all I can say is never think that anything you do is perfect. It can always improve or be rebuilt.