Tonight’s session included a group of junior kendoka training under Fukuyama-sensei, in preparation of this weekend’s taikai in Düsseldorf. This made for a pleasantly busy training.
The normal group was led by Kiwa-sempai, in absence of Heeren-sensei. After warming up (which included running for a change) the rest of class was spent on kihon. Why stick to the basic movements in kendo? Because the focal point of tonight’s training was footwork and seme.
Using the mawari geiko system, we went through all the kihon you can think of: ookii men, ookii kote-men, ookii ai-men, chiisai men, chiisai kote-men, ookii dou and chiisai dou. In all of these exercises two key points were emphasized:
- Solid footwork. Once you have stepped in, do not fiddle with your feet, but solidly kick of with the left foot. Your right foot should “float” forwards low above the ground, only going up for fumikomi when your strike is about to connect.
- Seme. Our practice was split roughly half’n’half between motodachi providing an opening and motodachi sensing when aite was “ready” to make the strike (and only then opening up).
Common mistakes in footwork when striking include:
- Lifting and setting down your left foot again before jumping (“feeling for your footing”).
- Stepping through with your left foot before jumping.
- Swinging the right leg backwards before going forwards.
- “Horse stepping” with the right leg, making a high step instead of a low float.
Class was closed with the following remarks:
- Roelof-sensei is disappointed that in jigeiko people still persist in ignoring the day’s lessons. Instead of practicing the kihon and waza we learned today, people still treat jigeiko like shiai geiko: focus on defending, focus on scoring points. This is not how it should be.
- Roelof-sensei also remarked that, in jigeiko, a lot of people show disturbingly little seme. Instead of setting proper posture, building tension and pushing inward, people simply bash into each other.
- Kiwa-sempai reminded everyone that the footwork practice we did should also show up in jigeiko. This was a great time to practice it more! She also urged everyone to pay attention to eachother’s kendo during mawari geiko. In the motodachi system your teachers will point out mistakes or points of improvement, but in mawari geiko it’s your own responsibility.
- Fukuyama-sensei encouraged the juniors to give their best at the Düsseldorf Cup. He acknowledges that a shiai (especially your first one!) can be very scary and that people get nervous. That’s completely normal. Don’t let your opponent intimidate you. Enter the shiaijou promising yourself to show your best kendo, because when your kendo is at its best, you have the best chance to win.