Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Putting into Practice

I recently missed a week of practice after the Chiba sensei seminar due to a boozy stag do in Albufeira (Portugal). I was fearful that missed training combined with excessive drinking would kill off my kendo fitness but I managed some satisfying sessions on my return.

My focus was to try and put into practice some of the techniques taught by Chiba sensei, mainly relaxing the body. I made a concerted effort to loosen the hands and arms and not choke the hell out of my shinai when attempting te-no-uchi, it's early days but I felt like i've made an improvement. During kihon I managed to remain relaxed and relatively energised compared to a few dojo mates who were tiring due to increased arm/shoulder power. I also received some encouragement from seniors during jigeiko, I think improved relaxation allowed me to concentrate on the opponent rather than fight my own body to perform techniques.

In conjunction with this I am also reading 'The Inner Game of Tennis' by Timothy Gallwey which a dojo mate recommended I buy. You may wonder what tennis has to do with kendo? I did... however, the premise of this book is to define a mental approach to training which can be applied to any sport. You can probably tell from my posts that I suffer a degree of self doubt and over analysis of my kendo (maybe this blog is a product of it? Oops).

'The Inner Game' splits a person's personality into "Self 1" and "Self 2". Self 1 is the term given to the conscious ego-mind which tries to control and dictate Self 2. Self 2 is your subconscious ability, muscle memory, waza 'toolbox' and your fighting personality. In other words, Self 1 is the "teller" and Self 2 the "doer".

You can see Self 1 and 2 in action when you observe people cursing themselves after a wayward cut (or tennis forehand, poor shot on goal in football or pulled golf swing for that matter). This is the conscious ego-mind Self 1 chastising the 'doer' Self 2. This internal conflict means that Self 1 tries to take over the action, resulting in tightened muscles, clenched teeth and increased spent effort in trying to mentally drive a certain technique though (a.k.a 'trying too hard'!). We've all done it, mentally instructing yourself to "cut faster", "draw up left foot quicker" or "straighten back" etc... usually resulting in another part of your cut going wonky.

It seems more effort does not necessarily mean better results.

The aim of the book is to quieten Self 1 and trust the internal ability of Self 2, thus reducing conflict in the mind and aiding relaxation. One method Gallwey suggests is to try and remove self judgment from practice (e.g. "my kote is shit" or "my hiki waza is ace"). By removing emotive 'good' and 'bad' judgements means reviewing performance is based purely on facts (e.g. "my kote needs to be performed from greater distance to improve success"). This then leads to a clear plan of action for kihon. There's much more to this concept which is explained in the book.

I'm only a 3rd of the way though the guide so far but it's like it was written for me. It's very insightful. I feel it has helped me start to clear my 'ego-mind' during jigeiko which in turn has improved concentration. I'm no way there yet, but its definitely boosted my enjoyment during the past week. The trick is to retain this methodology and not fall back to my old ways.

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