I am taking my first tentative steps back into kendo after time off nursing my broken wrist. I still do not have a full range of movement and it hurts if I put too much pressure on it or try to extend my hand in anything more ambitious than an up and down motion. However having reached new depths of boredom and frustration through lack of practice, I decided that there must be something I can do in the dojo.
Whilst I have always found kendo practice much more enjoyable than going to the gym, trundling along on the treadmill has at least given me some cardio-vascular exercise during my time away. Bobbing up and down on a machine whilst watching MTV is still, to my mind, no replacement for keiko, so I am itching to get back to my normal kendo schedule.
It is easier to list the things that I can’t do than the things I can. I can’t risk receiving tai-atari, I can’t turn my wrist to receive kiri-kaeshi or perform kaeshi waza and I can’t hit dou, which is especially frustrating as my favourite technique is kaeshi-dou. Tsuki is also not feasible, so I am left with the options of attacking kote and men. Under the circumstances, jigeiko is not possible, so it is a good chance to get back to basics.
The most obvious way to do this is through prearranged yakusoku geiko type men and kote drills, which I would incorporate into any session, injured or not. The bigger challenge is – what to do when the rest of the class are enjoying jigeiko. I can still be of some use as motodachi, offering opportunities to hit in controlled uchikomigeiko, but when it is my turn as kakarite, I am dependant on the experience of my opponent to stretch me, but not take me out of my safety zone. As many of my dojo mates are less experienced, it is unfair to give them this responsibility, therefore my best strategy is to perform kakarigeiko.
As I am sure you know, whereas in uchikomigeiko motodachi offers you the opportunity to attack, in kakarigeiko, you make your own opportunity and timing. Typically too, kakarigeiko is harder, faster and continuous. Of course you need to make allowances for age and physical condition in kakarigeiko, but to be of value it has to be done with full commitment and spirit. Thinking back to my time as a young kendoka in Japan, I can remember gritting my teeth and praying for the drum to signal the end of each kakarigeiko session. Now I can only think how much more fun it is than watching MTV from a treadmill.