gwalla: (Default)

Swine Flu - ATTACK
by *Quasimanga on deviantART

Coming down from a nasty cold. I skipped Tuesday's kendo practice and probably should have skipped yesterday's, since I was perilously close to puking by the end. Having only one working nostril really kills your stamina.
gwalla: (team banzai)
I have been turning an interesting shade of blue lately.

Last week my kendo keikogi and hakama arrived, and I put them on for the first time Thursday. The traditional cotton hakama is dyed with indigo, and it turns out that indigo dye is not fast: it doesn't actually bond to the cloth. It's like a big blue cloth crayon. The indigo rubs off on everything, including (especially) me. My hands turned blue immediately, and I got blue streaks on my face from rubbing off the sweat. My legs were blue too at the end of class. I said it made me look like William Wallace in Braveheart but the general consensus was that I looked like a smurf.

Online there's all sort of advice about washing your hakama for the first time before you wear it. Soaking it for a day in a water/vinegar mixture is one of the most common. I tried this and hand-washing (it's not machine-safe due to the rigid back panel), which predictably didn't do much. If acid caused the dye to set they'd just do it during the dying process. "Hand"-washing actually involves puttign it in the bathtub with some Woolite and grape-stomping it. Then after it's been rinsed off, washing the tub to get the blue smudges off of the enamel.

At yesterday's class I was called on by sensei to demonstrate kiri-kaeshi, a hitting exercise. He even said "He's very new, but good." It would have felt great if I hadn't been afraid I would screw it up. I think I did all right, though in a later exercise I managed to bop myself in the face with my own shinai.

In other news, I started taking Japanese lessons last Wednesday. Evidently I remember more than I thought, because they bumped me up to Beginning 3. Apparently Beginning 1 and 2 devote a lot of their time to kana, which I still remember pretty well. Fortunately it's in the same time slot, but it does mean a review marathon through the book (which is not the one I used in college, so of course everything is in a different order. I'm gonna be a little behind when I start today, I think. So, mixed blessing.
gwalla: (smash my enemies)
Sensei complimented me on my form tonight. He said my new blisters are in the right places.
gwalla: (stop! hammertime)
Practice proceeds apace. I learned my first kata last Thursday, a dodge and counterattack against a strike to the wrist. And yesterday I was taught two of the other basic strikes besides men (a strike to the head): kote (to the wrist/gauntlet) and (to the torso/breastplate). This leaves, I think, the two sayū-men strikes (left/right men, to the temples) of the basic bread-and-butter attacks. I still get corrected frequently, but my men strikes seem to be getting better. I feel like I'm making serious progress. I'll probably be buying a keikogi and hakama soon.

Now if only I could get my kiai to sound more like a battle cry and less like an imitation of The Fonz...
gwalla: (flash eurgh)
Nothing makes you appreciate the skin on the soles of your feet quite like not having it anymore.

Ow.
gwalla: (told you i was hardcore)
Yesterday was my first kendo practice as a participant rather than an observer.

I got to practice late, due to stopping at home and voting in the stupid special election. Got chewed out a bit for that. The head instructor assigned one of the senior students to take me into another room and get me started. He showed me the proper way to bow (actually, it's basically the same in aikido), the basic stance, and how to move around in that stance.

While a lot of aikido movements are derived from sword work, there are very significant differences, which translates to a whole lot of habits I need to learn to break. For example, the stance is much narrower in kendo than in aikido (since there's no threat of being thrown): feet about one foot's length apart rather than shoulder width. Also, while the weight is supposed to be on the balls of the feet in both, in aikido the heels should be barely touching the ground ("just enough to slide a sheet of rice paper underneath" as one of my instructors likes to say), while in kendo it should be more pronounced. Aikido stance has the knees bent far enough that you can't see your toes, while kendo has the knees straight but not locked; along with the raised heel this made me feel like I was standing almost on tiptoe the whole time.

The instructor who was assigned to me said I was picking it up really quickly (it sure didn't feel like it!), so he also showed me how to hold the shinai—the bamboo sword—properly and had me practice the footwork while holding it, which makes it even harder since you have to have proper form in the arms as well as the legs and trunk, and you have to keep the sword from wobbling as you move. Apparently they usually don't have people start even holding the shinai on the first day, but I got accelerated a bit. Having some body awareness from previous martial arts experience helps a lot.

A ways in the head instructor called us both back into the main gym so the senior student could practice with the others. He had me continue to practice the footwork for the rest of class.

Class is two hours long. I was carrying my body weight on the balls of my feet for about an hour and a half straight with only brief breaks to check and adjust my posture, and sliding around like that with straight knees is the equivalent of doing a ton of calf raises. My feet and Achilles' tendons are not happy with me.

This group is a lot more formal than my aikido club. It's quite traditional. Which is good, because it's kind of a cultural lesson as well (and a change of pace). But it also means that if your form isn't good, sensei hits you in the offending limb with a shinai to make you shape up! "Straighten those knees!" *SMACK* "HAI, SENSEI". Also, bowing out at the end of class involves sitting in seiza, the traditional Japanese kneeling posture with the feet tucked under the butt, on a hardwood gym floor for what seems like ages. I'm used to seiza on mats, but a floor with no give is something else entirely, and my feet have lumps on top that don't straighten out completely. That hurt a lot.

So, to sum up: I got smacked around with a wooden sword, made the balls of my feet sore, wore out my calves, and crushed the tops of my feet.

I'm going back tomorrow.
gwalla: (Default)
I start Kendo next Tuesday.

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Garth

December 2011

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