We've had our last training of the year on thursday. The mechanics of the lesson were simple enough; we began with a few rounds of kirikaeshi, followed by jigeiko for the rest of the night.
As usual the kirikaeshi felt pretty wooden. I still have this thought of basic ki-ken-tai when doing the exercise but just as before the more fluid I become on this exercise the less correct my arm movements become. The footwork is ok when doing it that way, but then suffers when I focus on correct armwork. Indeed ki-ken-tai also breaks quite a bit while focusing on correct armwork as well as it becoming slow and tense. I'm still convinced that I can solve the speed and fluidity issues by putting the correct armwork into muscle memory with a large ammount of suburi. This will likely be my main focus over the course of the chistmas break suburi.
The jigeiko fights were, for the most part, of the same quality as Tuesday. Lots of too fast for thought reactions to opponents shinai movements, minimalistic as well. Had a very nice practice with Humm sensei, the first I've had since returning to Hizen. The only thing I can remember from the match was focusing on not losing my head; it's all too easy for the ohshitimfightingthebigbad7thdanoshit to take over, but fortunately it didn't. During the practicing the sensei stopped us once for feedback on all our fighting. What he said was that while we were in chudan we pawed our feet around like cats do before they sit down, and we're doing too much with our shinai's as well. He then went on to talk about all the unnecessary movement, and about how the less you do the less you give your opponent to read, specifically little 'comfort patterns' we all fall into from time to time. Later that night in the pub I was told (by a kendoka that managed to intercept my cuts A Lot) that mine is 'harai -> move'. I'm not sure if he's talking about form chudan, harai>cut, or little tap in chudan > step. Either way the message is clear. Do less in chudan. Well I'd guess more specifically, 'each action in chudan should have purpose'. Any thing else shouldn't be happening really. For the rest of the night I was much more still in chudan, as there was now a gap open to be filled with intention rather than semi conscious faffing about.
So what then, should I be doing in chudan? My first reacton to this is that I need work getting the proper decision trees into the muscle. I've noticed I test things out a lot in chudan, and I'm realising more and more that there's not much time for repeated testing like that. Opportunities are fleeting, I've got to be able to act on the ones that arise when they arise, not when I'm lucky enough for them to happen again. The other side of this is also going to be observations of people's own stance, and being able to pick up on holes, and cut through them. I'm not too sure beyond these two main themes, and they'll become a main focus during practices over the coming weeks/months.
Once we were through with the jigeiko, Humm sensei took a few minutes to talk about the larger arc of learning kendo. He talked about how his sensei a long time ago jokingly said he'd never be any good at kendo becaue he passed too many gradings. What he was talking about was that after kyu grades and 1st dan, the prrogression stops being so quick and smooth, and that it can be a pretty rude awakening for people. He talked about how after that time, things like doubt start to creep in about weather or not this is what you want to be doing etc. etc. The what he was getting at was not allowing our 'sense of expected progress' to mess with our heads. In the end what he said was "Kendo is about your life... sort yourself your life out, and your kendo will follow."