I fly out to Italy on Tuesday next week, a mere three and a half days ago now. Am I ready? To be honest, yes and no.
I’ve practised my nuts off for this. In that sense, physically, and technically, I am ready. I’m in pretty decent shape, I’m very happy with the general level of my kihingeiko, all positive.
Mentally, I think I’m ready. Not quite so confident there due to a massive attack of the nerves at the last taikai I went to, but on the plus side I learned a phenomenal amount about my approach as a result, which I think is probably going to be vital for me in performing well. I’m not going to go into details (because it’s lunch time now, and I don’t have masses of time!) but the upshot is that I put too much pressure on myself before I had even swung a shinai. I had a lot of good advice on the day, and it had immediate effects, but still, I did not get the results I wanted. The plus side is the advice that I got, and the immediate results from changing a couple of minor things have put that episode firmly to bed. So, I *think* I’m ready….. shall we see?
All that is left now is one more light practise in Saturday, plenty of rest apart from that, and packing stuff up and getting ready to roll out. I am really looking forward to this one….
It’s been a while since I’ve put aught here, and for good reason. Not that I don’t have anything to say (I can always think of something to say!) but I’ve simply been just too dam busy. Really.
Obviously, I have continued the practise, and at good pace too. I’m getting 3 a week with the security company, and then another one somewhere, usually either the ‘kan or at Shinjuku. In the run up to the WKC I am really starting to see the benefits in this ramp up. I feel good: fast, light and dynamic. And some of my old techniques are returning from the grave to back me up too, which is a sure sign that things are on the up and up.
So, that’s fairly normal, right? Well, in addition to that……I’ve been studying hard for the worst timed exams in the history of academia. The WKC is at the end of this month, right? Well my first (of three this year) exam was yesterday (confident that I did enough to pass….) and I have another 2 at the end of next week. 2 weeks after that is Italy.
Between kendo and study, I have had literally no free time for the past 6 weeks. I only even remembered that I wrote a blog a few days ago!
At least I’m generally happy with both though. That’s something!
Recently on Facebook I posted about buying my WKC shinai, and a couple of tweaks I had done. I had a brief conversation with someone about, and thought I would write a little about my individual shinai here too.
So, as my regular reader will know, I like fat shinai. Impossible fat. Jabba the Shinai. But with a couple of minor modifications.
The balance is important (obviously) but for me it’s right in my hands. Any feeling of weight in the tip is bad, as far as I am concerned. I like a fast, whippy, kote uchi, and I can’t do that with a heavy kensaki. I’m so concerned about this that I will use the more expensive doubled up leather tsukagawa to add an extra few grammes towards the hands. Every little helps!
The other thing I am actually quite fussy about is shaving down parts of the tsukagawa.
I use shinai with a 30mm diameter at the end. That is big (next time you are in your local bogu shop, or talking to a supplier, ask them. If they even stock them, I would put money on them being special order only….) This in itself is not totally normal, but in addition to that, I also have 2mm taken of the base of the shinai, down to 28mm, for my left little finger only. Very wierd, but I was first put onto this by Sumi Masatake sensei. He doesn’t do it to the same magnitude, but he also sands down the side of the bottom of his shinai.
For me, it really cements the shinai to my hand to have this extra couple of mm of grip, and really does make a difference to the last few cm of control, when I attack.
As a result of this, I’m also toying with the idea of doing something similar for my right forefinger and thumb, because after figuring out that this helped, it suddenly felt like I was holding a wine bottle in my thumb and fore finger on the right too.
Apparently, I’m not even close to being the only one to do this. The mighty Miyazaki Masahiro sensei apparently has his whole right hand grip koban-gata, while the left remains a normal circular grip. Apparently a few other members of the Kanagawa police do the same….
Went to a competition at the weekend, the Tokyo-to Kendo (obviously) Taikai, as the taisho of the Shinjuku team.
We went out in the first round…..again. But, and like any character in a Martin Lawrence film, it’s a big but, I was pleased with my own performance. Obviously that means I won my match….but why so pleased?
Weeeeeeeell, this shiai marked a small turning point in the way I do kendo in shiai. Up to now I had kind of been the balls out, overwhelm them with my big white kiai type. This had met with moderate success, and with the old adage, it wasn’t necessarily broken, so I wasn’t fixing it. Until now. This time round, I just kind of settled down and settled in, concentrated on my focus points (I mentioned that in the last entry) and went ahead with the plan that I had. And bingo! Ippon-gachi. Not too shabby.
There are a couple of other reasons why I was happy:
- I knew my opponent. Some people like this, but I have always suffered from it, as I have (stupidly) concentrated on fretting about what they can do. This time, I got over it quickly, remembered a couple of pointers (not telling you!) that calmed me down, and got on with doing my kendo.
- Everything was nice and calm. I didn’t actually feel the need to unleash the beast, and as a result was a lot calmer and calculated, which also lead to the ippon (men-uchi, after bodily turning his men-uchi away, and being in kamae long before he was).
- He was doing jodan. I have a mixed opinion of my skills against jodan, so getting this was good for me.
- I never lost control of the match. This also meant that as the time progressed, I felt more and more confident. Also good. Even so, I was still happy that if the tide had turned I had more up my sleeve to bring it back.
- My concentration and foot work were both especially good. The concentration meant no silly attacks (wasting an opportunity, or worse, losing ippon) and the foot work meant I was able to keep constant pressure on him, and not allow him in to the match.
The only thing that I really need to take as an improvement point is stretching to the target. This is a general theme for me in shiai (and one of the focus points for practise from now and until Italy), where a lack of confidence to attack a particular target, or in a particular technique, meant that I wouldn’t stretch to it, in some notion of thinking that it might keep me safe (which is so bloody stupid it defies belief, if you think about it. Being safe by not hitting the target……huuh?!). But like any good problem, the first point to fixing it is acknowledging it. I had been kind of, partly, sub-consciously aware of this, but was never able to put my finger on it. This taikai helped me not only put my finger on it, but grab it and yank it too (fnar – i was only cleaning it, and it went off!). Also, while ironing my shirts yesterday (look at me, all domesticated. I even poop in the toilet!) I was watching last year’s All Japan Taikai, and saw a lot of good examples with which to work from, and mentally slap myself for being so silly.
So, all together, even though it was only 1 match, it was actually a vitally important one for me, because of what I got out of it.
Things just keep getting better and better!
So, a month-ish ago, I was confirmed as going to Italy for the World Championships in May! Snoogins! Very very happy with that. Really happy. People who know me know that this is something very valuable to me, and how much I still want it.
The quest for the WKC did, of course, start ages ago, in the second half of last year. With only three months to go though, practise, of course, is very different. I’ve limited right down my range of practised techniques, I’m beginning to ramp up the intensity, and generally, trying to live as much kendo as possible, be that watching kendo DVD’s while ironing (I’m dead domesticated, me! I even poop in the toilet!) to doing suburi outside in the freezing cold on days when I can’t go to keiko. I’m also continuing on the head-in-right-place plan given to me by the man with the arrows too. All good.
I’ve also drilled my focus points down to 6 points that I am now going to keep on in my keiko from now until May. They are not anything super secret or special, but actually the result of keeping an analytical keiko diary of most of my regular practises, picking the key and consistent parts, and working that into my practise regime. Get me, actually thinking about my keiko! A far cry away from the days of meat poo and doing kakarigeiko with tree trunks.
Down side? Money and time, as always! I’ve got loads to buy still (shinai, small bits and bobs, some speakers for my iPhone, a plane ticket to Italy….!) and time is killing me too. I’ve got close to bugger all days off left at work too…..ack!
But good news is…..I am totally loving kendo right now. I’m definitely on the up and up in keiko, everything is working very well, and I have some extremely supportive sensei around me at the moment too.
Things is looking mighty rosey. Just got to make sure that the focus points bear fruit in 3 months….