Practice began with Sensei giving a short talk on shinai maintenance:
- As shinai are made from bamboo, don’t try and sand out the dents as you’ll split the fibres
- If doing any maintenance be careful of splinters under the skin, and also try not to breathe in too much of the bamboo dust
We began with kata. Depending on people’s grade they either ran through the entire Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho or numbers 1-4, with some people moving onto Kendo no Kata 1-3. Pointers I recieved were:
- In bokuto kihon 4, kakarite’s initial attempt at men needs to be a strong cut as it then gives more momentum/impetus to the rest of the kata
- again with kihon 4, be careful of how far you step back during the hiki waza. The cut want to be deeper than would be usual with a shinai.
- kihon 5, the debana kote should be made mainly with a stretch of the wrists (also must resist the urge to fumikomi :) )
- kendo no kata 3:
- As uchidachi you initial parry should be strong, with the 2nd weaker as you’re overpowered by shidachi’s push
- During uchidachi’s parry’s the feel of pulling the kashira (right word for a bokken or just swords?) should be much like that when receiving kirikaeshi.
- uchidachi’s raising of sword should be strong as it’s actually threatening shidachi which is what makes him move backwards
- The ‘joining’ of shidachi and uchidachi when moving back to the center should be reasonably seamless (ie; there shouldn’t be a pause while the kensen connect, it should flow).
- Generally, to improve the appearance of the kata the movement in should start off strong becoming warier as you become closer (ie; at 9 steps your safe and showing strength, but as you come closer you should start to be more aware of approaching danger). On moving out it should be the reverse, from kensen touching the movement is careful as there’s still a chance of attack but then moving faster once you’re out of danger. This applise to both Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho and kendo no kata.
We then put on armour and begain shinai practice. We began by doing kirikaeshi at walking pace. This made it obvious how much you can rely on momentum when doing kirikaeshi at full speed. Also made you focus much more on the cuts and where they were landing. I felt I had my left hand too high for the saya-men cuts, so there’s something to work on. Moved out of rotation to work with the beginners doing a basic form of kirikaeshi, Sensei had then doing it using only men-uchi and sliding footwork. When I rejoined rotation we were working on kote-men, 2 sets using one breathe. Then moved onto an exercise where kakarite would push motadachi’s shinai (with motodachi pushing back), then releasing the pressure and cutting a small kote or kote-men. Felt that the work Sensei and Sempai had done with me on kihon 4 really improved my kote here, I could feel quite a bit more ‘pop’ than usual, also the kote-men I felt I’ve made an improvement on the footwork and wasn’t ending up to close for the men, think again this was down to extending arms for kote more. Then moved on a ‘routine’ uchikomigeiko (men, kote, do, kote-men, kote-do). After a number of rotations Sensei doubled the cuts.
We then finished and Sensei asked us all to say a few words about practice. I commented that I am finding kata very useful at the moment. I think this is mainly because I’ve got the base movements down (just), and exploring some of the other concepts is making me think about my shinai kendo a bit more and also carrying over good habits.