|Kabuki Theatre in Ginza. From Japan 2008|
In the 2 weeks I spent in Tokyo, I went to Nittaidai twice and Rikkadai 3 times. In Rikkadai, Ozawa Sensei taught me Kihon apart from training with the (few) students there. In Nittaidai, the class was huge, filled with a pool of about 60 students majoring in kendo. Ozawa Sensei told me they are the top level kendo students in Japan. Certainly their kendo foundation and speed are above me, especially the 3rd/4th year students. What impresses me is that they have what Senseis would describe as "正しい" (proper; righteous) kendo: strong centre, good posture and straight kendo. The students in 1st/2nd year are however less so. One can thus see how the kendo of the students progresses in time.
In Rikkadai, first Sensei taught me one way to strike men that I have seen but never tried before myself. It's between the usual small-men and big-men cut, so he used "medium"-men to describe it. When raising the shinai to strike, the left hand lifts until the nose-level, and the right one is in front of the forehead. The kensen points about 30-45 degrees backwards. When striking, simply strengthen the elbows and snap out the wrist to apply tenouchi. I think this way of striking is good for practising the wrist snap and tenouchi.
Yamanaka Sensei also was present in one of the trainings. After a couple of minutes of jigeiko, he made me strike men continuously to practise my footwork. I was very tired in the end, along with my cold, and still couldn't get it right :(.. He told me to move my lower abdomen forward instead of up and down.
I practised some kihon with Suzuki Aki Sensei while Ozawa Sensei was teaching. This is truly a rare chance to get some feedback from a high grade sensei, since she can sense the mistake from the opponent's point of view. On the kote-strike, she told me that I should push my hip forwards more and use my left hand, both during the strike and the zanshin afterwards.
The students in Rikkadai, of course, are not as strong compared to the Nittaidai kendo-major students. This was only good for me, since I could be more determined to win (In principle I shouldn't think differently I know..). I enjoyed very much practising with the 4th Dan students, Ishizu-san and Shimizu-san.
In Nittaidai I could sense a strong solidarity amongst the students. When doing kihon and waza-geiko, the students waiting in line shout out kiai to encourage the other students. The senior students give genuine advices to the junior students after the keiko. I think solidarity is very important for people from the same dojo. One can be mentally stronger and more determined knowing there are a bunch of people supporting you regardless.
With the more junoir students I could get points, but my posture was no way as beautiful as when they make points on me. They gave me the examples of how to be a strong kendoka doing proper straight kendo.