gwalla (gwalla) wrote,

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Kendo, day one

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.
Tags: diary, kendo, martial arts, whining

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