Recently at training we had the first night for some newcomers linked in with the borough councils Re-Active8 program.
As usual as soon as I start looking at the newcomers, it makes me focus much more on my own form. If you’re going to show someone how to do something, you have to get it right or you’re just teaching someone bad habits. It’s a great thing to be in a dojo where the correct form is cared about instead of simply trying to score ippon.
Now I’ve talked about eureka moments before and I had a big one this time. I’ve realised that for some time now, I’ve been doing my cuts all wrong. Not just a little bit wrong, ALL wrong.
We are constantly told not to use our right arm to cut, just simply to use it to guide the cut. All the power comes from the left. I’ve generally thought I was doing this and recently I worked on improving it in this aspect to good effect, but now I’ve realised that I’ve been not extending my left hand correctly. I’ve been keeping the arm bent.
It’s another one of those bits of information I’ve heard over and over but it’s never stuck exactly as to why.
If you stand with you right arm straight out in front with your left hand where it should be, your shoulders straight and your left arm straight, your shinai will be pointing pretty much up. Not good for performing a cut and means that you compensate by bringing your arms down and hitting the front of the men.
To counter this, pushing the left hand forward instead of concentration on bringing it downwards will also push the right hand forwards, twisting the shoulders slightly and causing the final snap to happen, striking the correct part of the men. This also gives you a bit more range and means you don’t have to come in as far to cut, giving your opponent less opportunities to perform their own cut.
It is these subtle things that make all the difference. Unless you are a complete natural and instinctively feel what you have to do, you have to get scientific about these things. Appreciate the mechanics of how the body works and also what your body can do.
Only a couple of sessions later and I was very kindly shown my lack of decent zanshin by being hit repeatedly on the head. It leads back to one night when something similar happened and I wasn’t coming back to chudan effectively.
First after a going through, on the turn, I’d been keeping my shinai to my right just leaving my center line open, the shinai coming back into chudan from my right shoulder. This leaves me open. I’m not trying to get back to chudan as soon as possible after the cut so when I turn I’m already in the correct position.
Second one is that after a dou cut, I’ve been withdrawing the blade towards me to my left side thus making myself open. I adjusted this to try and draw the tip of my shinai down the front of the men.
I’m really starting to work on my zanshin which I’m realising is decidedly weak at the moment.
Fast forward to the most recent session and I had probably the best session I’ve ever done, in my own opinion. We spent the first hour and a half working on bokto kihon. A good thing for me as I feel like I know the kata way better.
After this I’m no quite sure what happened, if it was the speed that we did the warm up or my own state of mind but I was fired up for jigeko like never before. I landed way more decent cuts than I ever have before. My kiai and ki were well up. I even remember doing a kiai at one point when we had finished a bout.
Every single one I just felt like I had to dominate my opponent and not let up for a second. When I did let it drop, I got hit more so I just didn’t let it go. Maybe it was because it was only 4 of us in bogu and the more experienced amongst us that meant I didn’t have to hold back at all.
Also just to make it even more interesting, I pretty much ignored all ideas of doing any waza. The basic 4 cuts, debana and not much else.
Now with my newly found men cut distance I was cutting out of range of my opponent.
A night where everything changes.
This is why I love kendo.