It’s been a rough week of things occurring outside of Kendo. Life tends to happen sometimes. But on to Kendo!
Class is really starting to ramp up for the two of us beginners. We are now officially a part of the main class, although there is still plenty of basic things to learn yet. We’ve continued to focus on footwork and added a new style of footwork in suburi: Hirakiashi
Hirakiashi is a way of stepping to the side while striking an opponent that was straight in front of you before you moved. We used a men strike, first by stepping forward, then back, next to the right and then to the left. When stepping to the right, step first with your right foot followed by left. The movement is a circular one as if your opponent is a fixed point in space and you are rotating around them while still maintaining striking distance – so it’s not a straight step to the right, but one slightly up and right with the feet (and rest of the body) turned slightly left. The step to the left begins with your left foot, again it’s a rotation around the circle but this time the left food ends up being the forward foot and the right foot is behind. If none of that made any sense to you, there is a short but decent demonstration here. Thank you digital age.
We did the usual kihon-geiko which included practicing kote-men which is an example of ni-dan waza or two strike waza. In competition, you would use a ni-dan waza if the first strike (this case kote) didn’t land successfully, so then you immediately strike another target (this case men) to try and get a point. I noticed some of the more experienced players were using very quick and small movements when striking. For the beginners, we were told to keep our movements large in order to obtain good form.
The last new thing we were taught this past week is a technique known as Harai-men. Harai-men falls into the category of waza known as harai waza. Harai waza is a way to create an opening when your opponent does not present one for you (whether on purpose on not). In the case of Harai-men, we start in chudon no kamae trying to maintain center. Our opponent is doing a decent job on maintaining center (and so are we) but we want to strike so we flip our opponents shinai out of the way using a flick of our wrist and go in and strike Men. The majority of the flick motion should be done using your left hand. If you put too much power into the right you risk pushing your own shinai too far to the left making it difficult to bring it back up to center and strike men. If you use your left hand to flick your shinai it is much more controlled and stays centered well.
It feels good to be practicing with the main group and I particularly enjoy uchikomi-geiko practice at the end. It’s tiring, but good. I’ve noticed that my reaction time is not very fast. When the motodachi gives me an opening it takes a second or so to recognize which strike to perform. I realize this will continue to improve with practice so practice I must continue.