Anyone who has practiced kendo for at least a few years has, hopefully, done a few rounds of kakarigeiko. I for one feel I haven’t done nearly enough of it recently and last night’s practice reminded me why we have kakarigeiko and its importance in regular practice.
Last night we were fortunate enough to have a visit from Shozo Kato Sensei, who recently passed the hachidan shinsa this year. This was the second time he visited our dojo and I was eager to have jigeiko with him again.
Naturally, we had quite a few visitors from other dojos which made for a tight squeeze but everyone managed. Following warm-ups we went right back to basics: men sankyodo. After several rounds we moved on to a brief introduction to the bokuto ni yoru kendo kihon waza keiko ho. A brief article on this can be found on Kenshi247.net. Due to our limited amount of time, we only practiced the first form but it was quite an eye opener, at least for me, to see how many details get glossed over when practicing kata.
After taking a brief water break, Kato Sensei called for men-tsuke and we all quickly lined up for jigeiko. I was 5th in line so I had the great fortune of having some great mitorigeiko. One of the visiting yondan, after about a minute of regular jigeiko, was pushed to do kakarigeiko for what seemed like an additional full minute, marked by 10+ men-hikimen and kirikaeshi. This made me think of two things: first, I wanted to do kakarigeiko and second, I knew if I did I would probably run out of steam quickly. When my turn finally came, to the best that I can remember, jigeiko lasted no more than 15 seconds and immediately became kakarigeiko. Not only did Kato Sensei have me do successive men-hikimen, he kept pushing me closer and closer to the edge of the floor by closing the distance to the point where I couldn’t hit anything and had to muster up all remaining energy just to taiatari him back enough to hit men. When I thought I didn’t have anything left, Kato Sensei stepped quite a distance away saying, “Suriashi! Suriashi!” With no choice, I dredged up everything I had left and shuffled my way closer to him, nearly crossing the whole width of the dojo floor before he stopped and allowed me to hit men. Twice more and Kato Sensei was satisfied and ended our session.
After we bowed out, I went to thank Kato Sensei for practice and I was half expecting him to say something along the lines of, “you need to push yourself harder,” but all he did was nod, gave a Japanese “nn” in approval, and bowed. It took me a moment to realize that, in his own way, Kato Sensei, may have just given me his seal of approval on that night’s practice, but there’s no way I’ll be able to figure that out.
With last night’s practice in mind, I’ll now be putting more efforts into asking my sensei for kakarigeiko in future practices. One of my dojo-mates commented that my greatest weakness is my endurance and she’s completely right. I’ve never had great endurance and relegated myself to sprints and other short-burst type sports to compensate. The times I have tried to participate in endurance sports, such as basketball, I would always run out of energy before the game ended. If I’m going to last during longer and harder practices, which I definitely want and need, then it’s time to buckle down and build my endurance with more kakarigeiko and supplement that with other cardio workouts.