Sensei Says, “Renshū This…” (Speed)

After that long, dark spell last August where my kendo and personal life was just a mishmash of feel–bads and resentful thoughts,  these days are seeing more sunny days (albeit with light rain showers… or sunshowers,  rather — figuratively and literally).


Maneki Neko tenugui with the kanji “Makoto” (sincerity).

My training is now seeing further improvements too.  It is noticeable enough for my senseis to relay their observations and opinions about my growth. For instance, J-sensei praised my footwork, which according to him is now showing about 50% change from the bad habit/s I developed overtime, while Y–sensei commended my tenouchi, saying that is is now ‘correct’ and that I can now do good ki–ken–tai–ichi.  Meanwhile, M–sensei addressed the fact that I have improved but hasn’t really observed me well enough to understand ‘what’ exactly has improved. Nevertheless, I appreciate that feedback from him.

So with all these encouragements come a new challenge I need to set my mind onto — and that challenge is to be ‘fast.’ Speed has much to do with sharp footwork and sharp strikes. Developing these are now my main goal.

The question is… HOW?

Of course, the most sensible answer to that is “Practice, practice, practice!”

But as what J–sensei remarked with regards to my improvements, he said, “You’re now working on the finer details.” 

“The idea is, when you lift the shinai over your head, your left hand is really just moving up vertically. There is no change in the shape of your normal kamae. You, however, tend to do a 2–motion swing where the left hand is moving out and up — it’s very noticeable. Try and get used to that feeling [of vertical lift–up]. It is faster and more efficient.”

“For zanshin, your right foot should be able to pull you up after fumikomi and send you moving forward with velocity. You should be able to feel the inertia of the shinai tip’s forward movement [after a strike] pulling you forward too.”

Apart from these, he also remarked on my timing.

“That is good! You may have missed by hair’s breadth, but your timing for hitting kote, when I was doing kote-men, was very good!”

“Good one! You may have subconsciously detected my weakness.. ,” he said when I managed to hit his men at the moment he moved his shinai slightly to his right. “Did you notice it?” he asked.

Nope. I sure as hell didn’t. Can’t even replay the incident in my head.

I just got lucky.

“VJ, you need push forward with strong kamae and voice. Keep center. Seme.”

This is just my rephrasing of Y–sensei’s advice (he’s more into ‘action’ when giving instructions than ‘words’). You see, I keep running into the tip of his shinai (a self–inflicted tsuki), and so he showed me how I should be moving forward. Basically, I should move forward smoothly – in small steps –  with a strong, steady kamae and a murderous kiai to accompany it, and as soon as I have taken over center and am within my hitting range, I should strike quickly. I can’t really verbalize it, but I can visualize it in my head and I’ve got to admit, that kind of seme is fearsome.

I am going to learn that!! It’s his kendo style… slow, steady, and speedily sharp!

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