The other Thursday at training was one of those evenings where everyone seemed a little less than 100%. You could feel it coming during the warm up and kata. Everyone was a little slower, injuries seemed to be more troubling than usual. My own right ankle was playing me up for some reason. It just felt tight an difficult to move.
The feeling was obvious and sensei seemed to get it and as such didn’t run us ragged, instead he got very technical.
He made us concentrate on doing proper men cuts with proper tenuchi at the proper distance. We’re all guilty of various different violations of these rules so it was really nice to concentrate on these specifics.
Personally I’m guilty of getting too close and hitting men too hard. Someone told be a couple of weeks ago that my men cuts are too hard and my kote hits too soft. Some consistency is required.
The other thing I have been really guilty of is not doing is correct taiatari. I’d never really considered the correct way of doing it before and sensei fixed my lack of stability here. What I was doing was not keeping my elbows locked in correctly so that my hands would come back against my dou. This gives no stability and means that I get too close. Tucking the elbows in creates a triangle with the forearms and a solid base to push against.
Next came the distance. I’ve been hitting with the wrong part of the shinai too much. At my last session with Bofa Sensei, he kept telling me to move my body before the shinai, which I had tried to do and it was only this time that I realised that I’ve been getting too close because of what I’ve been doing.
I’ve been pushing forwards, hard from too close and starting my cut straight away. This leads to me leaning forward while doing the cut and forcing me into an overly hard taiatari with my hands too close to my body. WRONG!!!
What I should be doing is starting the cut from further out, pushing in with the body first and then cutting so that the correct part of the blade hits the top of the men, then taiatare correctly. This means I can stop quicker and also have more room to go through properly as well.
Next part is the correct tenuchi which is something I think I struggle with for a lot of reasons. We’re all guilty of lifting the shinai too high before cutting so that the shinai point is too far back. This slows down the cut reaction and then requires more power to perform the cut and makes the tenuchi wrong because there’s too much power in the cut.
This has given me a heck of a lot to think about and areas to improve for the foreseeable future. It’s interesting that Sessei Marley has often told us that kendo can become like a plateau of non-improvement for some time and also no idea of what to do next. I kind of felt a bit useless after the last major training session and now I have a great chunk of things to think about.