Queen Mary Kendo Club

Session #9: Watch and think

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A big welcome to our four newcomers, who coped extremely well with being thrown straight into the deep end.

The emphasis this week was on using your eyes and brain.

Kendo is extremely difficult and as a beginner, you can make up for lack of experience with lots of energy and enthusiasm. But that doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to expend energy without evaluating your actions. After every kendo session, you should feel both physically and mentally exhausted!

(1) Eyes

  • Watch the important part of the demonstrations: This might sound obvious, but make sure you are watching what the coach is highlighting, sometimes you will need to watch the feet, sometimes the wrists, sometimes the whole body movement.
  • Watch the people training around you: When you’re stood at the end of the rotation waiting for your turn, look out for those with good form or look out for common mistakes (such as landing the foot before the shinai). The more you can recognise good/bad kendo in others, the more you can recognise the same things in your own kendo.
  • Watch yourself: Recognising postural mistakes in yourself is very difficult, but there are many things that you can easily start to look for, such as:
    • Is my chudan too high/too low? Is my shinai extending towards my opponent’s throat?
    • Am I actually hitting the target on the correct spot?
    • Is my right arm too straight?

(2) Brain

  • Evaluate what you’re seeing: Following on from above, stay focussed and make sure you’re actually thinking about what you’re seeing; it’s easy to get distracted in training.
  • Choose only one thing to work on each session: In each session, you will hear a million and one comments on what you can do to improve your posture, movement, spirit, and so on, but don’t be overwhelmed. If the coach tells you specifically to work on one thing (such as relax your shoulders), then try to work on that one thing. If you haven’t been told anything specific, then it’s up to you to choose something to work on. Concentrating on one small point is more effective than trying to change everything at once.
  • Ask questions at the end of the session: Feel free to ask the coach after the session if you don’t understand something, or you have an injury you can’t explain, or you just want to get a deeper understanding of a particular point. Speaking is not allowed during the session because we want to keep up the flow of training and get as much done as possible in the limited time, but after we get out of the sports centre there’s all the time in the world for questions (and drinks, of course)!

Author: Sybil Wong

PhD student in Molecular Oncology at Barts Cancer Institute, QMUL

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