In absence of Bert Heeren-sensei, Mark Herbold-sensei of Museido graced us with his presence. While Ran-sempai directed class, Mark-sensei provided instruction. We continued our past few weeks’ focus on tenouchi and on interval training.
The usual 4×50 oki-men were followed by rounds of kirikaeshi around the dojo floor. Four rounds of men kirikaeshi were followed by another four of kote-men intervals and another four of double hiki-men intervals. Mark-sensei impressed upon us the following important points:
- It’s not a race. Motodachi should not be tempted to run backwards as fast as possible. Our spacious dojo makes this tempting, but by running away you’re messing up shidachi’s exercise.
- Shidachi should determine motodachi’s pace with his/her strikes. Each strike forces motodachi backwards, not the other way around with motodachi “pulling” shidachi around the room.
- Strike correctly, targeting yokomen. Our target is not the opponent’s shinai, our target is to strike motodachi’s head and temple. If shidachi repeatedly strikes at the wrong spot, lower your shinai so he may target correctly.
- The kote-men intervals should ideally have a 1-2 rhythm. If you cannot manage this yet it’s fine, as long as you strive for perfection in your exercise.
- The double hiki-men intervals are still interval training! Do not spend lots of time in taiatari, trying to set up your attack. Go into taiatari, do the double hiki-men, perform zanshin, stop in a clear fashion. Then go into taiatari again immediately and proceed with your attack. Continue until the end of the room.
Class with continued with kihon practice and open jigeiko. At the end of class, Mark-sensei had a parting message: he would very much like everyone to practice with full focus and intent.
During class he often felt that many students were doing exercises by rote, instead of focusing on what they were doing. Things that are pointed out in class are details which you should pay attention to. However, the underlying assumption is that you already pay attention to everything else without having it pointed out to you.
In jigeiko a lack of focus and intent was often shown in kamae: the tip of the shinai is being moved about aimlessly (“we’re not making whipped cream here!“) instead of using it to sense your opponent. The tip of your sword is where the fight is being fought! At Museido the students have recently been studying a “quiet” kamae, minimizing the movements they make and cutting out anything that’s not needed. By aiming for efficiency you will improve your kendo, as your reaction times go down and you are focused fully on your opponent.
Finally, with regards to intent: if you aim for 100% and only achieve 60% that’s great and acceptable! But aiming for 60% and only getting 20% is not. Train to the fullest. Having success without intent also does not count for anything: wonderful, but accidental ippon might score you something but you’re not learning anything.