We had 16 students at beginner's practice tonight. Sensei Bob decided that is the absolute max we can have in the community center and still practice safely. If our group is going to keep growing like it has since I've started back up, we may have to look at finding another place to practice. We worked on basic waza tonight as well as teaching the mudansha (non-black belt students) how to enter a tournament match.
Kendo is definitely a formal sport. While they will overlook errors by the newer players, it's always better to understand the etiquette of the sport. It shows you respect your opponent enough that you've taken the time to do things right. Sensei had the beginners enter the kenjo (a 9m x 9m square), move forward, bow in properly, move to the center, begin the match, end the match, have them bow out and exit properly. Then he had a few of the senior students enter and hold a mini-match (to one point), so they could see what it looks like at a higher level of skill.
We had a guest tonight. Edward was a visiting Sandan from Ottawa, Ontario. He's been practicing Kendo off and on for 13 years and it definitely showed in his game. I'd never watched a handicapped person play kendo before (Ed lost his left leg . . . didn't ask, figured if it was important, it'd come up), but there was NO doubt he earned his sandan. His moves were precise and he had very little wasted motion. Even though he couldn't follow through after a hit like I might, he would whip his shinai around and either immediately threaten to hit you again, or (in my case) just do it.
I was his target dummy a few times (Ed hadn't brought his bogu on this trip), and let me say, he hits cleanly, precisely and hard. I had forgotten to put on my wrist pad that I wear under my right hand kote and he made me pay for my mistake. I think I'm likely to have a pretty good bruise on my wrist come morning. I wish he had been in armor though. It might have been fun watching some of the senior members of our dojo sparring against him.
Later on, we moved into the advanced practice and there were 13 of us who stayed/arrived for that. It was again, just about max capacity because the advanced students tend to take advantage of more space when they fight. We did basic waza tonight also to start, but unlike the beginner class, the receivers were supposed to accept three of the five passing attacks, but at least twice, we were supposed to time our opponent and try to do something to counter their attack.
It was interesting to try and do the oji waza especially once we started doing 5 strikes, but we didn't know what they were going to hit. The initiator of the attack was supposed to feel/see the opening that the receiver had and attack it. The receiver could accept the attack or counter it, depending on how we felt. I got in some good shots and I got in some good oji waza also, so I was feeling pretty good there.
Then, Sensei decided we needed to work on our tourney skills also. I was matched up against one of our eikyus and while I think I might have taken him, he fights with an unorthodox style that was confusing. It felt like I was controlling parts of the match, (which I should being a grade higher), but I could never figure out where his next attack was coming from, nor could I really influence his attacks either. It was like he would line up, make a decision and attack, whether there was an opening or not. I'm sure that's not quite what he was doing, but I was off-balance after spending a lot of my practice fighting people more senior to me.
For some reason, even though I don't score many points (and take more of my fair share of hits), I prefer to fight people senior to me. I feel like I'm "stealing my kendo" from them by seeing how they hold themselves, how they hold the shinai, etc. Going up against newer students in jigeiko is a good lesson for them, but I'm not confident in my own kendo enough yet to be a good teacher for them. I can't quite read some of them yet. Some I can spot things that they are doing and suggest corrections before they become bad habits, but others are much harder to read and discuss things with.
We continued doing mini-matches until the last fifteen minutes of practice and then we did some more waza drills. I was very proud of myself when I got a debana kote on one of our nidans. He's a very tall guy and he likes to launch an attack from way out of my range. However, I was watching him as the Sensei had been preaching all night and when he moved back a step beyond the tip of my sword, I just knew he was going for a men shot on me. So, I waited for just a split second after he started moving and lifted my shinai and tapped him on the wrist as he brought his sword down toward me. Startled the heck out of him. He missed the next two attacks on me completely and I didn't to anything to block or avoid him. *grin*
I made it up to my last pass with him when, of course, something happened. I had just made my attack, started to turn to face my opponent when I got a charlie horse in my right calf. It figures, two minutes before the end of practice and my body has to pull this kind of crap. And I was hydrating all weekend and today just to get ready.
Had a nice visit with Edward after practice and then Sempai Chris dropped me off at the house. Had an exciting evening dinner of Ramen, Tylenol and more water.
Now, I get to sleep in a bit later in the morning tomorrow before heading down to Bowie State for my writing test. Write an essay for two hours, I think I can handle that. Just need to get there early enough to get a visitor parking pass and get to the 2nd Floor of the MLK Building by 0900.
So, off to bed to dream of finishing a Kendo practice, an upcoming test and an upcoming tournament. But, mostly off to bed to sleep.