I just got back from a weekend seminar and grading in Stoke on Trent. As an instructor and grading panellist it is interesting to see whether a hard day and a bit’s training and coaching before a grading examination makes any difference to the outcome. Like everything in Kendo, there is no easy answer.
Certainly, if you have a major physical technique problem that is causing you to fail gradings then you can’t fix it in a few days. You need to train repeatedly until doing the movement correctly becomes instinctive. On the other hand small corrections to kamae and timing and the understanding of opportunity can be understood and acted on quickly. One candidate had some advice on changing his seme and went on to do a great job of passing 4th dan.
Everything you learn at seminars or from visiting sensei is useful. The question is whether it is useful at the time you learn it. If you have a problem of hitting men correctly then the recipe for the perfect gyaku dou or kaeshi hikigote is not going to solve it. On the other hand memory is a wonderful thing, in that it files away information until you do need it. I occasionally have flashes of enlightenment about advice given to me 20 years ago when it made no sense at all. Now having learned some of the bits in between, I start to see the point.
In terms of preparing for grading you need either your own game plan or a sensei that has one for you. I have to thank Yanai Norimitsu sensei, (now in New York) for making me practice only debana men twice a week for a year in the lead up to my passing 7th dan. Somone once said the more you do of what you do, the more you get of what you’ve got. So the rule is listen to advice, isolate the points that are holding you back and get help to fix them and practice until doing it right becomes second nature.