With the Easter holidays here and many of our kendo friends taking advantage of the school break to escape the British winter weather, attendance at keiko sessions has been a bit thin. This has led to the need for some creativity to ensure that the few people who have made the effort to get to the dojo enjoy their training as much as in busier times.
We had a grand total of five people at the dojo on Thursday and although it took a bit of extra effort to get psyched up at the start of such a practise, once we got going everyone agreed it was worth putting our bogu on.
The minimum number of people required for kendo training is two. I have been made aware of this on several occasions when I have visited Uegaki sensei in Yoshino and he has opened the dojo for just the two of us. There is something very rewarding and at the same time terrifying in having your own private eighth dan teacher for an hour. Come to think of it if you are prepared to settle for just suburi and footwork exercises then you can train alone, so in comparison five is quite a crowd.
Our Thursday sessions usually last for two hours and we normally spend at least half of that time on kihon and waza geiko allowing about 45 minutes for jigeiko. I believe that all keiko should be intense. If you spend too long in jigeiko with one partner you soon lose your focus and momentum, so on this occasion we cut the session down to just over an hour. We devoted forty minutes to kihon and twenty minutes to jigeiko with another ten or fifteen minutes for warm up and suburi. Both the kihon and jigeiko elements were practised as mawarigeiko and as we had an odd number, on every fifth turn we each got to take a break and watch the others.
Just through working on kirikaeshi and uchikomi-geiko, we put as much emphasis as possible on achieving our best technique. I tried to get people to consciously slow down the speed of their attacks so that they could concentrate of correct posture and cutting action. Only when this was achieved did we build back up to normal attacking speed. When we moved into the jigeiko session we also took special care not to compromise on the technical elements of our keiko.
So we came away with the feeling that we had put the evening to better use than we would have if we had just gone to the pub instead of training and then going to the pub and it was a lot less scary than an hour’s one on one with Uegaki sensei.