Queen Mary Kendo Club

Session #11: Returning after a break

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I was happy to see such a great turnout at our first session back. Three new beginners came to try kendo out (though whether we’ve scared them off is yet to be determined).

Our coach ran a more relaxed session, emphasising the importance of easing yourself back into practice and not pushing too hard straight off the bat, as that’s how injuries can occur. Snapping the Achilles tendon is not that uncommon an injury for kendoka!

As pretty much all of us at the club have taken some time off kendo over the holiday, I thought I’d note down some of my personal aims on returning after a break of 6-8 weeks. Maybe you’ll find something you can relate to below.

  • Relax my shoulders and upper arms
    I always find myself especially tense on my first sessions back and I have to keep reminding myself before and after every cut to stop hunching up my shoulders.
  • Don’t worry about the speed of my cut
    Speed comes with eliminating muscle tension in the cut, so unless if I can relax my shoulders, arms and wrist, it will only make matters worse to try to make a faster cut with brute force.
  • Focus on pushing with my left leg
    Kendo footwork is an unintuitive thing, and after a break, my legs always feel like lead. However, this is also a great time to throw away all my bad habits from before (well, I can’t move my legs anyway) and start consciously trying to do the correct thing (so pushing off with my left leg and not pulling with my right).
  • Breathe in when I lift my arms to cut
    This is something I only remembered after almost crashing out at Hizen last night. I don’t breathe in enough. Sounds silly doesn’t it? I was doing motodachigeiko (paired practice with a senior) as a junior, so I tried to put in 100% effort in every cut, and after 5 cuts, I could barely lift my arms to finish half a set of kirikaeshi, and I was gasping for breath like a drowning swimmer. What I realised was that by trying so hard to do my best cuts and loudest kiai, I had completely forgotten to breathe in and hence my body couldn’t really function for more than a minute. Next time, I’m going to tell myself explicitly to breathe in every time I lift my arms to cut. Hopefully it’ll become second nature someday.

Author: Sybil Wong

PhD student in Molecular Oncology at Barts Cancer Institute, QMUL

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