2017 Jan 03 : Practicing alone versus practicing with a partner.
It's hard to practice two things at the same time. In kendo there are so many different things that we have to learn, which is one of the reasons why we have lots of different types of practice, and different ways of practicing each one. But no matter what type of practice you are doing, always try to be clear about what you are trying to improve. Be as specific as possible. Focus on one thing and try to do it as close to "perfect" as possible.
As you try to focus on one thing, of course you lose focus of other things, and sometimes those things will get 'worse'. Hopefully this is only temporary. Try not to worry about it. It's common to feel like one thing is improving while five or ten other things are getting worse. But by practicing consistently, by focusing on many different things, and by always being very specific about what you're trying to improve, eventually (hopefully!) all of the different things will come together in a balanced way. But it does take time.
In general, when you are practicing alone ("un-partnered") - either at home or at the dojo - turn your gaze inward and focus on feeling what your body is feeling:
Clean, correct movements.
In general, when you are partnered with someone, turn your gaze outward and make watching your partner your primary focus:
How are they feeling?
How are they holding their body? Relaxed? Tense? Leaning forward? Back? Settled?
Is their shinai the same feeling or different?
How are they moving? Can you feel the rhythm of their movements?
In other words, watch them carefully. Watch them with a natural, relaxed feeling, without making the connection feel "casual". At first, try making the connection "strong" or "close" - almost as if you are allowing yourself to experience the same pleasure your dog feels when as you are gently petting them, or fully enjoying the beautiful smile on a loved one's face when they are truly happy. In other words, try to make an intimate (i.e., "deep" or "intense") connection with your partner. Try to open yourself up to their feelings and see (read) them at an energy level. This may be hard to do but if we can do this consistently then we will become very good at fighting others, each of us in our own unique way.
Please remember that kendo is a form of communication between two human beings. It is not "just fighting", and certainly not a simple activity that "happens" between two emotionally disconnected people. Our intentions and what we choose to create are very important.
These are just guidelines. Actually, during practice, we intentionally move our focus around to many different things. This is natural.
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