I took a spill a few weeks ago and have been out of commission, but went to the dojo last Saturday to spectate practice. My dojo is a bit small, being built in the middle of a tight residential neighborhood in Tokyo. The changing space (I don't say changeroom because it's really more of a hallway - you pretty much have to spread up against the wall like you're getting arrested if anyone wants to get by) is upstairs. The floor and surrounding area becomes so busy during practices that people who visit often end up watching from above.

I spent most of my time watching sensei, and due to the layout of the place I was located pretty much right above him. Kendo is interesting from above.

First thing I thought was 'huh,' and then I thought, 'shimpan should fully be suspended from the ceiling from harnesses'. Kote, men and tsuki strikes are so clear from above, and do strikes aren't exactly hidden either.

Sizing up kamae from on high is also a new game. Watching the shinai-work and the right feet creeping out ominously, I wished I had a still camera on the floor below with me holding a remote switch above. All the mechanics of seme seemed really apparent, and details stood out that were otherwise elusive. The fight for chushin (centre-line) was especially interesting. Awareness of centre has always been a bit troubling for me, but exactly who had it and how it was being guarded was so plain to see. The whole scenario had me feeling very omniscient, but the memory of getting walloped the last time I practiced was fresh enough to keep things in perspective.

That said, my elevated vantage point also stripped the spectacle of some of its more human elements. I could see how the various kenshi were pressuring each other physically, but it didn't translate as well as it does on the ground. Watching kendo on the same level that it takes place, you can feel the contest, see the faces, and maybe most importantly, imagine yourself being involved. From above, it gets abstracted. You notice details that otherwise you might not, but it loses intensity. Anyways, it was interesting for a while.

Check out this tune if you have 8 minutes. It's kind of painful but I think it might make you stronger, like a vaccination.