The days leading up to our Kendo grading had started becoming a little stressful I have to admit. Despite our sensei telling us not to worry it was very difficult to push the doubts out of my mind. Even the minutes leading up to our grading were spent clarifying certain techniques or movements. I was confident in my ability to correctly perform the required Kihon-dosa but I lacked confidence in understanding a new language and was afraid I would incorrectly interpret an instruction.
It was a great start to the afternoon as I got to watch my 2 children perform their grading. I was very happy to see that our efforts at practicing everyday (despite their objections) had paid off.
As our group (group 2) was called up my anxieties were at their highest yet the moment sensei instructed Tai-to (placing your shinai at our left waist) all that anxiety simply melted away. All of a sudden I was in a very familiar space. Everything that was asked of me in the grading I had done many many times before and thus I had become very comfortable in my surroundings. If it weren't for all the little errors I was making you could almost say I was starting to enjoy the experience.
I noticed early on that my left heel early on was not raised enough and was impacting my movement. Remaining focused was important and concentrating on staying upright, correct posture with square shoulders, feet 2 fists apart and heel to toe. As I started correcting these small errors I began to feel more confident and focused on performing rather than trying to remember everything. When it was time to perform Fumikomi-ashi I was in a very good place mentally as I enjoy these Kihon-dosa. My focus here was not to have my shinai reach too far back before I went to strike and to slow my movement down. Sensei has reiterated many many times to slow everything down to perform it well, not to try and create power through speed. This advice really helped me. It's amazing how quickly you can forget the little details that help to build a strong and correct technique when trying to be fast. 1 small error can easily affect other aspects of your form. I still need to work on stamping my right foot and using the left foot for power, committing to forward movement.
To be asked to perform Bokuto Kihonwaza Keikoho 1 was a surprise as these waza are new to me but I felt very good about this one. Caleb (my son) had insisted on practicing at home as many forms of Kihon-waza as we could remember and it turned into a little game. Although everything went well I was aware of little things I wished I had done better. I was relieved and happy when we had completed our grading because I felt I had performed my best on the day and it was very satisfying. I am very grateful for all the advice and guidance from our sensei's, senpai's and fellow students who have all helped to answer or demonstrate any questions I had.