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Spirit, dojo unity and weakness.

This weekend we were visited by our shihan, Boffa Sensei.
He took us through a fairly rigorous training session consisting of footwork drills and a specific drill designed to make the specific distinction between small and big men cuts. Along with this was a small eureka moment about when and why you would chose a kote or men cut. I’ve always wondered how you can do either from your normal cutting distance. I’ve always kind of thought that I have to be at the correct distance to perform a cut but for some reason I’d never considered that the simple difference is just performing a different distance on the step of your hit. Stupid really.

In all honesty it was one of the hardest training sessions I have done and afterwards we were rightly lectured on the need for greater spirit and unity. The hall we were in was quite a size and as such, we ended up spreading out rather a lot during keiko. Doing this made our rotations slow, kept us further apart and sensei said this reduces the overall spirit in the dojo making us weak.
It’s a very interesting point as I have done more physically demanding sessions but not been as tired or felt so physically drained. I had never figured that the simple physical closeness of the kendoka in the room could build the overall spirit.

I think back now to the old dojo which despite its faults, was a good spirit venue. Being quite small meant that we were close together, fighting next to each other and helping to build each other’s spirit while building our own. We practiced in there in the coldest part of the winter with broken heating, so there must have been something about it. In the larger hall, all spread out, no one else is close enough, you can see only your opponent and as such you become inner focused and the overall dojo spirit suffers.
You could feel the difference on Sunday and Monday. Everyone was a bit tired, a bit injured or both and as such the spirited movement was not there. Despite training everything as hard as I could, when it came to jigeko at the end, I was somewhat disappointing. Sensei constantly told me off for doing something I was trying hard not to do. Even when I thought I was not doing it anymore I was still told off for it. ThIs was even worse on the Monday evening.
It was one of those evenings where I could very easily have thrown my men on the floor and quit for good, because I felt so low. The blister on my foot made everything worse and I didn’t propel myself like I should have done. In short, I felt like I was terrible. If you asked sensei he would say the same, I’m sure.

The flip side of this is though, that I have to feel something good from this weekend and feel like I have learned something. I trained even though I was completely tired, for both days. Monday night was the worst of it though. I ache everywhere and do feel much worse than when I started, mentally and physically. Despite all this I did this because it’s a test. A test of my physical and mental limits. Those limits are meant to be broken and meant to be pushed till you can’t go any further.
Training when I feel weak and not 100% helps to show where I am lacking. I don’t want to do it all the time. Why would I want to train so much it makes me want to quit? I want to enjoy kendo. Sometimes though you have to go to that point. Being so tired and drained that you want to quit means that you have to gather more spirit to come back from that and regain the level you were at.

I’m starting to understand why some people just quit and never come back. Kendo is not an easy thing to do and sometimes the training does kind of chew you up and spit you out.
I am left feeling quite low and despondent after this weekend. It proves that my spirit is not good enough but in order to to get a better spirit I must train harder and raise my mental game.