2017 Jan 17 : In order to improve, the concept must be clear

It's common for educators nowadays to acknowledge that people possess 'many different kinds' of intelligence - or to put it simply, that all of us are 'smart in different ways'. If we believe this, I think this is a good reason why it's important for you to completely understand all the concepts and movements that I try to explain in class. If you understand the concept and understand the reason why we are doing something a certain way, then you can easily use your own unique thinking process and imagination to analyze and consider what we are trying to learn in many different ways. Once you understand something, it's easy to keep thinking about it in order to make it clearer and clearer - you can 'play' with ideas, compare them to other similar or dissimilar things, develop them into more complex ideas, and so on. You can't really do all of these things if you did't quite get what I was trying to say in the first place.

This is why I hope you feel comfortable asking me to explain things in a different way, or to clarify what I say, if feel like you don't totally understand something. I'm more than happy to try to do this. It might seem like it makes things go slower, or that we're spending 'too much time' on something, but you have much, much more thinking time outside the dojo compared to the time we spend together in class. Take this morning for example, I saw you for one hour, but we will have almost 48 hours to ourselves for thinking and individual practice (!) before we see each other again. So I think it's important that we all be as clear as possible about what we're trying to learn before leaving class, every class.

If we hold the fundamental logic and reasoning of our practices in our minds at all times, then all of us can use every bit of our thinking powers to improve. If you don't understand what you're trying to practice, the only thing you can actually do is to try to follow my instructions. This isn't as good. Doing this too much will turn you into one of those kendoists that only look like you're doing kendo, because you're doing all the movements of kendo.

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Today's important points:

• When doing suriashi, try to do all of the movements with the feeling of 'natural, ordinary walking' in your legs and feet. Hold this 'walking' feeling in your legs and feet even when you are stepping in for your attack. This is very important.

• When striking men, make sure the arms and hands feel as if they are 'settled down' at the completion of the cut, with the shoulders also relaxed and as little tension as possilbe. Of course you have to use some muscles and strength to make the shiani go up-and-forward, but the amount of 'physical effort' used should be minimal. The whole motion, from beginning to end, should feel natural, easy, smooth, and efficient.

Especially at the moment that you begin your step in to attack your opponent (suri-ashi or fumikomi ashi), try not to change the feeling in your body. The beginning of the movement should start with your left foot & leg pushing your whole body forward (not your right foot/leg); your kensen should rise up & drop forward with no extra movements. It's more important for you to make the start of the motion clean and effortless feeling, rather than fast or 'sudden'. And of course, always, always, always maintain proper posture and good balance.

• Whether you are attacking men, kote, do, or tsuki, make the beginning of the attack look the same for all. By doing this your opponent will not be able to tell what you are attacking, and as I mentioned today, it's impossible for anyone to defend everything at once. By learning to hide your intentions, we force our opponents to 'wait and see' - which means we've effectively nullifying some or all of the speed advantage they may have over us.

Do you think that some (all?) of the above points might actually be counterproductive to mounting a successful attack? I'm claiming that practicing like this will, over time, allow you to defeat younger, faster, stronger opponents, but is this really true? Please think about how these elements would translate to an actual fighting situation and if something does not seem quite right, or doesn't seem to make sense, please ask me about it.

~ jks

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