Damn was I sore after Day 2. Mostly my left hip flexors – which makes sense, because those are powerhouse sprinting and jumping muscles. Why only the left side? The left leg is the main propeller of motion (at least from what I learned so far) in the style of footwork I’ve been practicing – namely okuri-ashi. I need to remember to stretch this area more.
The main culprit for the sore left flexors was something we touched on in Day 2 and elaborated further this class: Zanshin. Geoff Salmon notes that “in simple terms zanshin is the mental state and physical posture that allows you to respond to a counterattack after you make a strike.” We did not delve too deeply into zanshin in the lesson but from a shallow perspective it involves striking a valid target while continue to move your energy forward into your opponent’s space or territory followed by turning and facing him in chudan, ready to strike again.
Day 3 began the usual way except this time I was invited to join suburi with the rest of the class. Suburi often refers to the warm up practice cuts while stepping forward and backward. There are several types but we focused on joge-suburi (lit. up-down) where you make wide swings from almost touching your back to almost touching the floor, katata-suburi where you swing with only your left hand, shomen-suburi, head strikes, and haya-suburi which is a fast back and forth, almost jumping like, while making men strikes – this last one I’ll need to practice more, it was very awkward the first time.
After suburi I was taken aside for individual lessons again. We continued to review the basic strikes, incorporating footwork, and zanshin. In the previous lesson, my sensei would use his shinai as the target for striking. Today, in order to practice the right distance for kote strikes, my sensei decided to wear his kote and let me actually strike him. As most experienced kendoka are aware, there is a certain sound that occurs when getting a strike just right. It was good to have this kind of auditory feedback when practicing. I was able to adjust my swings and I got it right more often than not.
I was also allowed to practice do strikes on sensei as well. Did not have as much success with that as with kote. I’m still raising my right elbow a little too high, and I’m not coordinating the feet as well – taking too large of a step and often striking too low on his do. I’m coming down at too much of an angle which is why my elbow is coming out and it’s preventing me from getting a good zanshin as well.
I will consider this carefully and train well.