Arriving as Iaido was near its end I changed out of my work clothes and started stretching. I’m wondering if any more new beginners show up today, or if it’s just going to be me again. The beginner sensei mentioned last class he hoped more show, but to be honest, I’m enjoying the one on one education.
After rei and warm ups I again was taken aside. No new beginners, just me. We reviewed the okuri ashi footwook, combined with striking men up and down the dojo. Last class we broke the strikes and footwork down into three parts:
- Raise the shinai above my head while moving the right foot forward
- Strike men while bringing the left food forward to it’s original position in relation to the right foot
- Return the shinai back to kamae posture (ready stance)*.
This time we smoothed things out a bit into one continuous motion. Things still lined up the same, raise shinai when right foot steps and strike at the same time your left food closes the gap, but we reduced the choppiness of it. Time for repetition…
In order to give our arms a rest (ha! rest?!), we went over some basic etiquette such as how to bow when standing, how to enter and exit when sparring, and sonkyo. Sonkyo refers to a type of squatting posture taken before and after you square off with an opponent.
I was then shown how to do two more of the 4 strikes: Kote (the wrist) and Do (the side of the belly). The three strikes so far all start the same – you lift the shinai above your head while stepping forward with the right foot. Part of this is to not let on to your opponent where you intend to strike. With the kote you extend straight out similar to the men cut except you end up march farther down, but the motion is similar in maintaining the shinai in the center. With a do cut, there is a slight curve as you come down to hit the side of the belly (and if this were a real sword/combat you would then proceed to slice all the way across disemboweling your enemy).
The do cut is a bit awkward as a beginner, because you have to keep your right elbow in and most have a tendency to extend the elbow out, which then puts the left wrist in an awkward position as well. All this means is that I must continue to practice.
The last thing we did was to put all the cuts to footwork and repeat up and down the dojo. This time my sensei held his shinai in different positions allowing me to actually get a feeling for striking an object. Now that was something. It’s one thing to just go through the motions of the body, but to actually strike something and hear that loud *SMACK* of bamboo against bamboo fills you with a certain energy and exhilaration.
I will continue to study and learn. Until next time.
*There are five stances (or kamae) in Kendo: jodan, chudan, gedan, hasso, and waki. The most basic is chudan and is often taught first to beginners.