Thursday at fencing I had my first electrified bouts. During the practice we were fencing dry, and I did well enough to win a bout against a senior student. Once we got electrified I wasn’t sure what was going on anymore, and my newness became much more apparent. Often times I would hear the buzzer go off and look and see that I had been touched, and I never felt a thing. Which is frustrating, because I was looking at it expecting it to register the touch I felt my blade make on my opponent. The worst part of all this is just not knowing what is going on. The rules of right of way are not too hard to get in theory, but when you’re out there flinging the blade around it’s very easy to lose track of who’s legally attacking. It’s frustrating to come flying in with the blade, feel the blade bounce off the opponent’s head, and then find out that it wasn’t my turn to attack and I’ve lost from a touch to my arm that I didn’t even feel.
I’ll figure it out.
One thing that may end up giving me problems from kendo is fumikomi, the foot stomping. In kendo you time your blade to land at the same time as your right foot lands during the forward attack motion. You also time it with your kiai, your shout. I haven’t had any issues with suddenly erupting in “woooOOOOOOOOOOOTHR!!!!!!!!” during saber fencing, but it was pointed out to me that I’m stomping my foot while the saber blade lands. This is problematic in that when the forward foot touches while lunging, that signals the end of your attack phase and you lose right of way. In the dry bout it caused me to give up a touch, but that was the only instance. It’s something to think about, and a habit I don’t know if I’ll be able to get over.
One thing that I have figured out about saber fencing that crosses over from kendo is the aggressiveness. Saber is an aggressive weapon style, I’m told, more so than epee or foil. So what happens is that from the words “ready, fence!” the two sabreur typically come flying at each other straight in to see who can initiate the attack first. Kendo taught me that when in doubt, let go of everything else but coming in for a men strike. What happened more often than not last Thursday was that we would close and end up with simultaneous strikes, mine to the opponent’s head, the opponent’s to my side. I think this helped me get comfortable with bouting, and have some confidence in it. I don’t hesitate to strike, and I think that alone has gotten me some of my points.
In kendo on Thursday I had a really good night. Monday I had felt a little discombobulated, but I think Thursday I had a firm grip on my ki. It was one of those rare practices where everything seems to go right. I was very happy in that I managed to score a do strike to an opponent’s left side by putting pushing his hands above his head from tsubazeriai (hilt clashing contest), and then stepping diagonally and slashing his left abdomen. I even remembered zanshin and fumikomi, something I typically can’t bring together in a do attempt. That was my one golden moment for this week. Maybe even for this year. Drakey sensei showed me this move a few weeks ago when Anton had got me to show sensei what turned out to be an illegal move I had used on him. Sensei showed me this proper technique to achieve similar results, and it’s been rattling around in my head ever since, and Eunmok sempai(sensei?) even had used it against me a couple of practices ago at KU. I’m jazzed that I could pull it off finally.
Busy budo weekend coming up: today meeting and dinner with iaido folk, tomorrow Greater Kansas City Japan Festival with kendo and iaido demonstrations and workshops, and meeting with representative from Des Moines kendo folk, Sunday iaido practice and fencing at KU. Egan sensei is coming to Kansas City this weekend for the GKC J-Fest iaido demo, and I’m looking forward to meeting my sensei’s sensei. It will be a good weekend all around, I’m excited by all of it.