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  • Drills Vs. Shiai

    Hey everyone

    I'm almost at the end of my third year of kendo and let's just say this past year has been...interesting. My strikes, footwork, waza, and kikentaiichi have significantly improved, but only when it comes to drills. I've even been complimented on this many times.
    The problem is in shiai or keiko, my skills really break apart. I tend to hit too close, not get a proper strike, have slow footwork, have a broken zanshin, etc.
    Has anyone else faced this problem before? If so, how should I go about fixing it? I assume it is a problem with my mind, so does anyone have any mental advice they'd like to share? I've been told before that I might be scared of being hit, proved by certain habits I tend to do (i.e. retract my shinai). I don't consciously feel scared, but it would seem to be that way. Any advice on facing that fear and kicking out old habits?

  • #2
    Originally posted by silthas View Post
    Has anyone else faced this problem before? If so, how should I go about fixing it?
    Probably the best piece of advice I can give is that when you do jigeiko, don't worry about getting hit. Rather, just try to make a good strike, and if you get it, so be it. People who worry too much about getting hit tend to have a hard time in jigeiko. But you have to keep in mind that it's a process. Getting hit is a learning opportunity to figure out what you did wrong.

    Also, read this excellent article by Honda sensei and take the lessons to heart.
    http://kendo.org.uk/articles/attitudes-to-ji-geiko/

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    • #3
      Another piece of advice I'd give is to go to as many shiai that you can. Of course, we all have lives outside of kendo, but the more shiai you go to, the more you'll be able to deal with "the nerves".

      We all experience this. Shiai is intense and you do get the feeling that you are putting your money where your mouth is, but those nerves can be lessened through increased shiai attendance.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by silthas View Post
        Hey everyone

        I'm almost at the end of my third year of kendo and let's just say this past year has been...interesting. My strikes, footwork, waza, and kikentaiichi have significantly improved, but only when it comes to drills. I've even been complimented on this many times.
        The problem is in shiai or keiko, my skills really break apart. I tend to hit too close, not get a proper strike, have slow footwork, have a broken zanshin, etc.
        Has anyone else faced this problem before? If so, how should I go about fixing it?
        I have a very, very similar issue. I'm interested to read the same advice. For me I am not sure whether it is too much concern at being hit or too much concern to hit. I had a sempai say to me (paraphrasing) "stop thinking about ippon too much - just execute the cut/waza." I haven't quite internalized the lesson yet.

        I like that article by Honda sensei btw. I've read it half a dozen times. But in the middle of keiko I have trouble applying its wisdom.

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        • #5
          This is quite common. There are many people who can do beautiful kihon geiko but struggle during jigeko and shiai. this is because being able to do drills in kihon geiko and applying them to a moving and attacking opponent are quite different things. In jigeko or shiai I think it's important to learn to first compose yourself before attacking. If problem persist it's more likely to be technical than just nerves

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          • #6
            ask your instructors if you can practice in a more 'realistic' way, rather than basic kihon all the time. Because the difference I find is that in kihon you generally know what you are going to be doing in advance, so your brain has time to get itself together with regards to timing, and technique and zanshin. However when you have an opponent who is responding different to how you might expect, you have to be able to change what you are doing on the fly, which takes practice.

            So for example, try do some drills where the opponent has two options to respond to your seme, such as move forward and strike men, or step back holding chudan. So rather than knowing what you are going to do, which makes it easy to execute it, you will get more accustomed to having to adapt in response to your opponent. Also drills where if you miss the technique you keep going until you get it, e.g. with a hiki-waza. Happy to give more examples if you think it might help.

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            • #7
              I do ok in kihon.
              I do ok in jigeiko.
              I fall apart at taikai.

              hehe.. that's just how it goes for me anyway... In team competition, I think I'm like the Vice President of hikiwake.

              I really like Paul and Scott's responses above.. In the meantime, I'll continue to go to shiai for opportunities to keiko with anybody... the beer keiko after the taikai, that is...

              On a more serious note, I remember Kato-sensei (8.dan in NYC) tell a story of when he was competing in his youth, and when he would win, his sensei would tell him, "Yes, but your kendo is very BAD!" ..and when he would lose, sensei would say, "Yes, but you showed very good kendo!" It's funny to hear him tell it, but I can now see the wisdom in all that.

              Taikai-keiko, to me, is a real chance to really 'let loose' with you kendo... all the things you really can't get away with in shinsa, you can get away with in taikai... things you simply would not dare to attempt in shinsa (for whatever reason), you let it fly in the taikai and see if it floats... For me, that's part of the fun in shiai/taikai...
              and then, again, more fun at the beer-keiko afterwards, nevermind..

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              • #8
                I have the same problem (though my kihon is crap it's at least better than what comes out during jigeiko). I was told that during jigeiko I should imagine my strike before carrying it out so that I am conscious of what I am about to do. If I go with just habit/instinct I won't be able to efficiently incorporate the things I learn in drills into jigeiko. As long as I'm the one on the offense (at least from my POV) I can manage to do this imagination method. Not worrying about getting hit is one of the ingredients. It's hard mental work though.

                As for shiai, I don't think about mechanics as it's not really a time where I feel I could correct any bad habits. I try to be alert but relaxed. Habitually I don't duck from strikes but I wouldn't be above blocking them in a way I wouldn't in keiko. The main thing I tell myself is to go forward and make ippon which means not wasting time on multiple crappy small strikes from a close distance (but being careful of the aite being able to score from this distance). Later on I'll reflect on what worked and what didn't.

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                • #9
                  Try showing up at other dojos? You may get the same sort of jitters from practicing with different partners that you might get in competition. Probably won't be to the same degree.

                  Alternatively, ask your dojo to put on in house tournaments. Its great shimpan practice for the more advanced people and gives newer people some shiai practice.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    To do better in shiai, don't care about winning/losing/being hit. "Be selfish" in the sense that you don't care so much about what your opponent is doing and focus on what you yourself are doing. Drills are to internalize concepts and muscle memory. Shiai is a time to just do your best and try to let instinct kick in. Look for opportunities to attack, make them if you can, and then just tell yourself HIT and let your body automatically do what it thinks it should. If you need to think about anything, think about your zanshin so you finish strong. Eventually this mindset will become automatic and you can start to let the strategic thinking aspect come back into your shiai experience. Everyone is different, but it took me about 6 or 7 years before I internalized this and actually started doing well in shiai.

                    This is just my own personal experience, but the less you care about winning, the more natural/relaxed you'll fight and the better you will do.

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                    • #11
                      I also have had trouble with this, and at best my tournament performance has always been inconsistent. I think that shiai is interesting in that in addition to the kendo, there is a bunch of other stuff associated with it that doesn't get as much attention, but is pretty important.

                      Things like what is your routine on the day of a shiai? what do you eat? when do you eat? when do you warm up? How much do you warm up? What do you do to warm up? How much other things are you thinking about (are you in charge of organizing? chaperoning? coaching? timing/scorekeeping? refereeing?) How do you clear your mind?

                      Normally during a practice we're doing gigeiko after 45 minutes of stretching, warm up, kirikaeshi, waza, and there is a lot of time to both get physically in the "zone" as well as mentally focused. During a shiai, I've never found that to be the case.

                      I think it is important to think about what is happening in the court while you fight, but I think its also worth thinking about the stuff around the fight, because doing kendo at a shiai isn't really the same situation as doing kendo at the dojo.

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                      • #12
                        Keep in mind that during drills, the motodachi is usually being more compliant. This depends somewhat on your level but if I'm facing someone at my level or higher, I do the drills more like jigeiko in spirit. That is, if we're practicing kote, I make them open kote rather than just present the target to them. If we're practicing men-debana kote, I really try to score men. Discuss this with your senpai/sensei first but it might be time to change the way you do kihon practice.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by hl1978 View Post

                          Alternatively, ask your dojo to put on in house tournaments. Its great shimpan practice for the more advanced people and gives newer people some shiai practice.
                          This is very good advice as well.

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