Things are settling down now, but it’s hard to put into words. There is the higher/closer position at daisan, which turns out to be less exaggerated than I thought, in part because my arms are long enough to make it work. Also a bit more hineri on the right, leaning my hips a bit forward to create a more stable base, and then, once in kai, just expanding into zanshin (often with some visualization) without giving any (or much…) thought hanare. When all this comes together, the result is pretty good. The tsurune is noticeably sharp, a completely different sound.
The things I need to work on are that my body often jolts just a little bit forward at hanare, instead of being rock-steady, and the right arm sometimes doesn’t extend as far as I’d like. No doubt these are intimately related. Also sometimes the hanare is too fast. It’s a bit of a paradox there. How to train myself so that hanare doesn’t happen too quickly if I’m not thinking about it? Maybe I need to think about it just a little. Or something. The experiments continue.
Meanwhile one of the teachers (I have to be vague) talked recently about being a judge at a shinsa. The 6-dan and below were good, but she said that the people testing for 7-dan almost put her to sleep. Of course, they are last, and it was a long day, but she said they were so おとなしい (gentle, quiet, subdued). I asked what you had to do to keep the shinsa judges awake, and the answer was kiai. It reminded me of some comments from one of the judges at the All-Japan tournament, who wanted to see more vigor and spirit in the participants there. Technical perfection is a given at that level, so he wanted to see something more.
Interestingly, my teacher also talked about two kinds of kiai, one is on the surface, something that a person watching can see. The other is within and, I suppose, something that a well-attuned observer instead feels. Naturally I’m most curious about the second. It seems like you can psych yourself up to produce a kind of visible energy. Sometimes I do that. But that quieter, internal kind that wakes up the judges from within… that’s what I’d like to find.
Oh, also, I found that by taking a quick break and having some serious green tea that someone brought (a mixture of sencha and matcha) after the first hour or so really perks me up for the second. Must get some of that tea…