Yesterday’s class in Amstelveen again put focus on te-no-uchi training and the left hand. After the usual suburi and warming-up, we were again instructed to practice men strikes with motodachi. Five repetitions of fifty shomen, followed by two repetitions of thirty doubleshomen. Heeren-sensei reminded us that it’s not just an exercise to make our arms tired, but that we’re really here to practice our left hand. Like before:
- The left hand goes over the head pretty closely.
- The left hand moves straight up and down through the center.
- For the purpose of this exercise on should always tap the buttocks on the upswing.
When it comes to breathing, don’t try to stick to a rhythm of in-and-out breathing that attempts to match your striking pattern. Instead, take a deep breath and keep on breathing out until there’s no more. Then breathe in again. Heeren-sensei always tries to get in as many strikes with one breath as possible.
We were all reminded that breathing should not be done “high” in the lungs, but “low” and from the “hara“. In both Japanese and Chinese arts, the “hara” (or the “lower dantian“, 下丹田) is said to be the seat of your energy and to be the physical center of gravity of your body. (more here) By breathing from the hara one ensures at least two things:
- You are regulating your breathing and getting enough oxygen without hyperventilating.
- You are building force in both your body and your kiai/kakegoe.
A way to check that you’re breathing right, is to tie your hakama himo pretty tightly around the hara, which ensures that you feel yourhakama tightening when breathing in. A very clear difference was presented, between a “high” and a “low” kakegoe. The one produced from the hara was louder, solid and rolls over your opponent.
Our left-hand training continued after seiza, with kirikaeshi interval training and normal kirikaeshi after jigeiko. In both exercises we were told to pay close attention to aite’s left hand. It should not be going sideways or wide, but through the center line. “Helicoptering” should be avoided at all costs. Even in kirikaeshi, strikes will be straight for the most part only swerving left or right close to the end. If you feel that aite’s left hand is straying, drop your shinai so he will hit your men thus alerting him of the problem.
Twenty minutes of jigeiko were had. Heeren-sensei impressed upon us the importance of practicing the lessons from kihon keiko injigeiko.