Excruciatingly long. That is how I would sum up yesterday’s kendo practice for several reasons. It was physically, mentally, and emotionally draining for me. Training lasted for almost four hours — at least for us who arrived at the dojo early.
I left home early so I would be at the dojo before 5:00PM for our 6:00-8:00PM practice. But traffic was heavy so I arrived at about 5:05PM. Sensei was already there. I had to rush through my pre-practice routine. I had to hurry and change into my gi and hakama, set up my bogu, and stretch. I had to skip footwork practice since sensei called us to gather around the dummy.
Big Men Dummy Practice
I felt good doing this drill. I thought that maybe I was doing it right. Sensei did not call me out to correct me even once. It was either I was indeed getting the hang of it or he just did not see me when I committed mistakes. All in all, I was happy with how I approached this basics practice. My focus was intense. My mind was quiet. And my spirit was strong. I felt like I was “in the zone”.
This drill was introduced about a month before I had my two-month hiatus from training. It was a variation of the haya suburi. In haya suburi, the footwork is still there but focus is more on the speed (i.e. at least that was how we were doing it). On the other hand, the “suicide” version is like jumping in place while swinging the shinai in typical suburi movements. For some reason, it is more tiring than haya suburi. Maybe because each one of us had to count to ten while doing it. We had to keep at it until everyone is done. Multiply that by the number of attendees and you have a killer warm-up.
Yesterday, there were more of us than last time. It was the first time that I was almost at the end of the rotation. This is when the mental aspect of my old training resurfaced. I dug so deep to get me through without cheating on myself. I just wish sometimes that there is someone I could find inspiration from. Someone I could emulate and encourage me by setting a good example. Instead, I just had to focus on finishing the painful exercise with the goal of not slacking off.
This is where the emotional aspect reared its ugly head. There were instances when I felt so frustrated and angry — emotions that have no room in kendo practice.
Frustration #1 – One of the club’s biggest kendoka hit my men so hard. I felt like a nail being hammered down. It was painful. I usually let painful blows slide. But last night’s abuse on my head was just too much. I wanted to cry and just walk out from there. I have always wondered why we do not seem to care about this. I feel like I am the only one worried about it. And raising the issue seems like I am a complainer. But it concerns my head. I am less worried about the pain than its cumulative impact to my brain. Is it really safe to receive painful blows like that repeatedly in a span of one or two hours of training? I feel that we are too focused on advancing and doing all sorts of more complicated techniques that we overlook the importance of learning tenouchi properly. Some may think that I have a low threshold for pain since they do not seem to mind at all. But I know how it feels to receive the correct strike. If there is a correct way of doing it, we should be learning that. I am aware that I have not learned tenouchi well either. That is why I either try to control the power behind my strikes or I ask for feedback if I am hurting my partner.
Frustration #2 – I used to have a hard time doing kote-men even before I stopped training for two months. We did not do it often before. But it seems like it is part of the regular drills lately. I knew right from the start of last night’s kote-men practice that I was not doing it right. My confidence was chipping away fast. One of my partners who was a senior member of the group was obviously frustrated that I could not receive kote-men properly when I was motodachi. He did not seem to realize that I was having a hard time. He said I was doing it wrong. I was waiting for him to teach me how to do it correctly but he did not. What was the point of telling me I was wrong if am not told how to do it right? Is this how we are supposed to deal with our partners in uchikomi-geiko?
I am just glad that I survived kakari-geiko, especially since I was already reaching the end of my limits before we started it. I somehow managed to get hold of my emotions and carry on.
The club’s president said we have an extra hour for kata practice. When I asked him who will teach us, he told me that it would be self-practice. I explained that I have not done kata before and that I do not know how to do it except from what I have seen on videos. I also asked him if it would not be better if we could practice with a partner. In the end, he agreed to teach us. I practiced kata 1 (uchidachi and shidachi) for the remainder of the allotted hour.
General mood in yesterday’s practice: Good–>pissed–>resigned–>sad