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Grading v. Non Grading Years - Is your Kendo Different?

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  • Grading v. Non Grading Years - Is your Kendo Different?

    Something I've been wondering lately and hoping that some of the more experienced Yudansha - or even those who don't try and ascend the ranks of kendo as fast as possible...

    Is your kendo different in years not immediately preceding a grading as compared to those years where you are focused on the shinsa 9 months away?

  • #2
    Probably varies from person to person. As for me, no I don't think my kendo really changes too significantly before a shinsa although I may work on a particular aspect of my kendo leading up to shinsa (like I might be doing more kaeshi do or more dekote or whatever if it's something I want to tune up). Overall though my kendo and my approach to kendo remain pretty much the same.

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    • #3
      I spend a lot more time practicing for myself than teaching in the months leading up to grading. But on the whole, if your kendo is not changing as you approach grading, why are you grading? Each grade requires a different sort of kendo.

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      • #4
        Neil, I would say that your kendo should already have changed from the previous shinsa as opposed to changing FOR the next shinsa. Maybe it's just my outlook or maybe we are saying the same thing in different ways. Basically I like to go into a shinsa feeling that I am already practicing at the level I am trying to grade for as opposed to trying to step up my kendo for that rank (if that makes sense to anyone). It's hard to put into words accurately and every time I read what I have written it seems not quite what I am trying to say..lol

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        • #5
          I agree with you Mike.

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          • #6
            I don't know if approaching 4th dan count as a senior grade, but even so, the main feeling is a sense of panic now that the grading is only 2 months away!
            The biggest change for me, is doing everything in chudan, which in itself has been a valuable lesson...but certainly the intensity of the practice and what I want to get out of each practice increases.
            I worry a lot less about getting hit (a good thing) and worry a lot about hitting at the right time...and I fret a lot about my lack of ability to create clear opportunities.
            I also suddenly focus a lot on the small things. Stuff I really should do automatically, like make sure that the himos are straight, tweaking my bowing & sonkyo.

            I think as a whole, gradings are good for making you sharpen up in areas where, especially outside Japan, it's easy to become complacent as you start be on top of the hierarchy.

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            • #7
              In my experience there's a process where you grow into your grade after you've passed it, then everything falls to bits and you feel like a total numpty (this is especially the case in iai). After that it's how you put it back together again that is part of being ready for the next grade. Of course, you train more intensively the 12 months before a grade so it should affect your performance, but the time before that is good for trying things out and generally learning for learning's sake. And making mistakes!

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              • #8
                Cliche, but I have the feeling that the more I know/the higher I grade up, then the more I know I don't know stuff. Which thus leads me to think more about doing proper kendo or trying to do kendo that I think fits the next grading. Even though it is a few years away, I feel like I won't have enough time so I keep working on what I think I may need for the next grading.

                Not sure if that makes sense, but the feeling of not having enough time before the next grading is basically what I am saying so I think about the next test even though it is really early to be worried about it. So my kendo doesn't seem to change, at least that is my perception of it, since I feel as though I am constantly thinking about what I need to fix for it.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Gideon View Post
                  Is your kendo different in years not immediately preceding a grading as compared to those years where you are focused on the shinsa 9 months away?
                  I think it is different, for me at least, but it probably shouldn't be.

                  Isn't there a saying that is something like that? "Test as if it were practice, practice as if it were a test?"

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                  • #10
                    i agree with Martch, this is how i have experienced the time after grading. however, moving from nidan to sandan, i more actively think about grading during regular practice. at least to the point that it reminds me to always strive for that intensity that is necessary for good keiko. when i slack, i think, "this is not how you are going to obtain sandan".

                    i realize that i am not that high ranking, so my opinion may not be what you are looking for. but, this is the first time that i do not have a grading right around the corner, so the question was intersting to me.

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                    • #11
                      I've heard from quite a number of people, yondan and higher, that as soon as you pass one grade, you prepare training for the next, even if it's years off because that's how long it takes to get ready. I feel something like this though I haven't graded in kendo and only have very low kyu grades in iaido and jodo so maybe it's cos at the moment my gradings are (generally) only six months apart but I pass one grading, start training for the next. I missed one mid this year cos of the injury that prevents me doing any more kendo or iaido but since I passed my last jodo grading, every time I pick up the staff I have my nikkyu grading in mind. Knowing I can't do iaido or kendo though, I still do sitting men cuts every day and still try to get them 'right' so I'm not sure, in practise, what difference it makes.

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                      • #12
                        I like taking a bit of time off after a grading and just have fun with it. When I passed my 4dan in judo and tkd, I took about a year off from "exam training". I just went to practice and to competitions for fun. That was probably the most fun period as I didn't have to study for coaching classes or anything either. When I passed 4dan, I had to start taking coaching classes as well so it wasn't quite the same afterwards. I passed my 5dan but stopped practicing both as work was too busy...

                        I started consciously preparing for kendo sandan about a year after passing nidan. I will be able to challenge yondan in June 2009 so formal test preparation starts around this coming January. Test preparation for me means that I need to work on kihon on my own time and then apply it during class. It's a pretty intense period as I need to work about an hour on my own on my off days and then try to use this stuff on peoiple who are just as intent on hitting me as I am on hitting them...

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                        • #13
                          I'm only nidan, so maybe my opinions doesn't matter as much, haha. But, when I have shinsa, I would focus my kendo more towards basics and forms and improving my kendo and not worry about winning. When it's close to shiai time, I practice more on winning and practice more that way in ji-geiko.

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                          • #14
                            To me, it doesn't matter if it's a "grading year" or not, the main thing is whether I have well-defined goals.

                            Things like passing a shinsa, winning a taikai, etc., are easy goals for us to accept because they are defined for us. They are difficult goals to use because the process of exactly how to achieve those goals is not well defined. Different people need to do different things.

                            I've found that I gain a lot more through the use of much simpler goals that I can easily verify for myself. Early on, they were things like, "I will not allow my left heel to touch the floor." Now they are things like "I will not move until my opponent moves."

                            When we go into keiko with appropriate and concrete goals for ourselves, we are more sure to improve. Showing up to keiko with the idea of "I wonder what we'll do today?" hasn't helped me get better.

                            I agree with the idea that the best way to pass a shinsa is to go in knowing that we are already at the level we are testing for. It takes the pressure off to think of the shinsa as a formality where we can show the judges what we already know.

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                            • #15
                              Good post, Jonathan.

                              To address the original question only from my own perspective, I think I can honestly say that I didn't do anything different training-wise or practice-wise leading up to 1.kyu all the way through my *second* attempt at 3.dan... that is to say, that I was never really consciously working towards some goal (...which really reenforces the idea in my own mind that I was maybe pretty lucky to pass 3.dan)...

                              Maybe a year after 3.dan did it really sink into my head that I needed (and wanted) to actively work on my kendo. Simply prepping for 4.dan has dramatically changed not only my style, but my whole approach (mentally) to practice. And this is something I did not experience in the past.

                              As Jonathan alluded to this, now I regularly have a specific goal(s) in mind when I practice. I want to have nicer, cleaner, better kendo, period. If I prepare for taikai, then -- for me -- that disrupts the goal. So with that in mind, I want to practice kendo as if I'm always about to go for shinsa. This keeps things in proper perspective for me, because as Neil said previously, each level requires a different kind of kendo. I am 3.dan, but I am trying to practice as a 4.dan, mentally and physically. Passing 4.dan, to me, would only confirm that I've been doing things right (in a sense, have already been at 4.dan level) and I'm ready to start playing 5.dan-level kendo. By doing this, I hope to be in a constant mental state of kendo "betterment"....

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