Ms. Leo Olton USA
My experience at the Shi Ku Kai dojo is what I would say is very humbling. Even though I knew about kiai, striking men, ji geiko and why I thought we did all of it, my understanding after attending the Shi Ku Kai dojo has completely transformed.
Kiai is not just a “battle cry” as I understood it as before, but a recharging of the spirit. Kiai must be constant and unyielding in order for one to keep fighting. Kiai is your own secret weapon; if your kiai is loud and comes from your diaphragm, your body and breathing will keep going steadily. Without right kiai, we cannot hit ippon, we cannot use proper ashi-sabaki, we cannot keep fighting well. If your kiai “melts” at the end of a hard practice, so does your Kendo. Your kiai is not just for your opponent, it is for you. Without it, you have no Kendo.
I learned what it means to strike the opponent and ippon correctly. We should not become desperate to hit your opponent. Even if we miss the target, we must practice hard and frequently to keep the swing strong, our backs straight, our foot work in conjuncture with our shoulders and arms, and our concentration not broken. It can still be a good strike even if it misses. We do not just hit men, kote, tsuki, or do, we must strike our opponent’s heart and spirit. To do so, we must not warp or change our own because of frustration or fear.
At Shi Ku Kai, we practiced mainly kirikaeshi and men uchi. By doing these basic drills over and over, our bodies will learn what it means to do the right thing when the time comes. We do not need to know complicated techniques to do Kendo, but we must know how to hit men correctly in order to do Kendo.
Lastly, I came to understand what each part of practice meant. Jigeiko, I always understood was essential for every practice for all the wrong reasons. We practice basics so that our bodies will attain muscle memory. Jigeiko is to help our spirits become strong, for we can only be strong when presented with a difficult situation. Even if defeating the opponent seems impossible, we must show our best spirit and fight hard and “never mind” getting hit. Basic practice will help improve our jigeiko, but only if we practice basics correctly and often. We do shiai geiko so that we can “check ourselves” with others and that is all. All rank tests will simply show how you have practiced. We do Kendo so that we understand our own pain and difficulty and by doing so, we may understand other people better.
What I learned the most from Shi Ku Kai: we must be brave in times of difficulty, and press hard even when we are afraid we might fail at something. We do ourselves a big injustice when we do not try our hardest, for we practice with other people, and because we are not true to them, we would not be true to ourselves.
The children and adults that I practiced with at Shi Ku Kai dojo were truly inspiring, for even though sometimes they were very tired, they would not succumb to their tiredness. All the sensei that were there were very kind, and did not let big mistakes go unnoticed. Through the hard practice I feel I have a better understanding of correct Kendo, even though I cannot quite do it myself yet. This is something priceless, and a gift that I can take back with me to Oklahoma.