As many experienced kendoka know, respect is an extremely important aspect to Kendo. You respect your sensei. You respect your dojo. You respect each other. You especially respect your sword. Japanese culture puts an emphasis on respect for the elderly, which trickles down to showing respect to those who have more experience than you, whether it be in an activity, school, or just life.
During rei-ho at the start of practice we line up in order of rank and status. The most senior sensei sit on one side; his students sit across on the right to the most junior on the left. Until today I was the most left student. As you can probably guess, we had a new student join us. We actually had two students join – one was a completely new beginner like myself, and the other was a previously students years ago, had a knee injury, was currently studying at another nearby dojo but decided to return to ours. Judging by where he stood in line, he was most likely a shodan (1-dan) or maybe a ni-dan (2-dan).
The new beginner joined for warm – ups but was taken aside when we started suburi. Since I joined in on suburi last week, I now get to stay in with the rest of the established class for suburi. Still trying to get the hang of haya suburi, but with anything that comes with time. In the main class we did a new drill to help train our left foot. In Kendo, the left foot is the “power foot” and shouldn’t be just dragged around when striking or moving. The drill consisted of making a large step forward with our right foot into a lunge position with our left knee on the floor and holding our shinai above our heads as if we were to strike men. Then, using only our left foot and not our right leg or body, we were to push ourselves up out of the lunge while doing a men strike. We did this about 8 times down the hall then turned around and did 8 more back; always lunging forward with the right leg and pushing up with the left. Was a great experiment in discovering what muscles you use, how you use them, and how much training one needs to do.
After the new drill I split off from the main group to join the new student and our sensei. Since it was his first class we went back to the basics and covered basic strikes and footwork. Some good review as always. I finished class with a sore spot on my left hand at the base of my pinky. I’m sure it’s from just gripping the moving the shinai around. No feet blisters yet though. While I do have some pretty calloused feet from just being an avid walker/hiker, and walking barefoot on my hardwood floors for many years, not to mention the taji practice I know I’m destined to get a blister on my left foot as every kenshi has before me. Time will only tell.