Friday, 20 November 2009


At the time, going to practice felt like a huge mistake, and in a short term sense, it was. Foot hadn't healed enough to handle the oractice and I spent an evening doing horribly compromised kendo. Left heel on the ground for the entire practice. We started off with kirikaeshi in pairs, which to be honest felt great. Good speed and felt like a a nice warm up for a good practice. Then we did a bunch of half kirikaeshi, followed by men hiki men, men hiki kote, men hiki do (just what we were doing. the previous night). At this point I promptly tore off the lyer of skin that had been exposed before, which sealed all hope of doing any real kendo. The remainder of the night was an exercise in simple perserverance. Indeed I don't recall ever experienced that level of pain before.

The rest of the night was spent in motodachi lines, doing rounds of:


Now I'm not sure about you, but when I'm in unusually high levels of pain my muscles get tense fast. Bad Bad Bad. Tense muscles are very bad for a few reasons:

1: They burn up oxygen just like a muscle you're actually using.

2: They get sore/fatigued just like a muscle you're actually using.

3: They stop you form moving your body properly. Literally. When you hold your arm still your body executes that by tensing both opposing muscle pairs.

So this means that I was absolutely knackered by the first few exercises. On top of that my efficiency of motion was completely screwed by not being able to plant my left foot correctly. This means poor kendo in all respects. Feet not going forward with the rest of you means you're leaning forward with your weight (which I have much more of than during previous years of practice) overcommited.

This also brings to light how much the mind has to do with the kendo you're doing. Now it's easy to confuse not thinking about one's kendo with mushin. It's not. The reason is that mushin is a state that allows your mind to be exatcly at the pertinent place at any given moment due to not being 'stuck' anywhere in particular (this is commonly called "thinking"). When your mind is completely stuck on the red hot coal burning its way through your foot, it's unavailable to be put to what you should be doing at any moment. Now at shodan level there isn't enough kendo in you for it to come out properly without a certain ammount of mental effort. When that's not there then one's practice collapses.

Was going last night a real mistake then? After a bit of thought I'd say no. The reason for this is that over the course of kendo you end up dealing with a lot of pain.One of the things about kendo is that when done correctly it shouldnt be hard on the body in any damaging sense. this is why people can and do practice well into their 70's or 80's, and mop the floor with any young whippersnapper that comes along. So this means that often when you feel pain in kendo its from using the body correctly to its fullest and you're safe to push through it and it really becomes an honest exercise in will. This is the good kind of pain. The bad kind of pain comes from genuine injury (usually from Doing It Wrong). When you've got an injury then often you're forced to compromise what you're doing to the point where what you're doing can hardly be called a practice in any meaningful sense. So last night my foot condition changed very quickly from the good kind of pain to the stupid kind. At that point all I felt was left in the practice was not giving up torn up foot or not. What I took from the night beyond pride for not giving up, is the ability to judge correctly how much practicing in rough condition will actually benefit ones kendo.

Skin heals, and it's worth limping for a few days for a better understanding of that grey area between injury and normal wear and tear. It's also a lot better than wondering forever if I would've been able to handle that practice.

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