A beginners’ course has just ended, which means we’re now moving into a new phase in training. Those of us who started in this intake in July will be moving into a new phase of training – rather than just trying to get things right, we’re now trying to do it well. This will mean that you’ll start to get more individual feedback on your kendo, and often it’ll be feedback that takes a little while to really absorb into your kendo.
Why/when do I give feedback?
Obviously the big answer to that question is – I give feedback to try to improve your kendo! Usually I’ll aim to give each person only one or two things to think about. More than that and you end up not really taking it in properly. So even if you have four or five things you could be working on, I’ll just pick one at a time to look at and improve.
The important thing for this is the time scale – if you get some feedback then that’s something to work on for a few weeks, not just a few minutes. We need to make sure that when you improve something in your kendo you really build it in to your muscle memory, so it stays improved even when you start thinking about something else. The best way to do this is to incorporate it into your suburi at the start of training. Suburi is when good habits are built, so we may as well build them!
What if you don’t get feedback?
Firstly, take it as a compliment! If I see you do some kendo and don’t immediately jump to fix something, that’s a good thing. Perhaps I’ve given you some advice previously and I can see that you’re still actively working on it, so I’m happy to just give you space to work. Maybe you’re at a stage of kendo where you just need to get the physical motions nice and fluid so it’s more important to just get the reps rather than over-thinking. Either way, a lack of feedback doesn’t mean I’m ignoring you and it isn’t anything to worry about.
What if you get conflicting feedback?
If I look at your kendo and think you’re using your right arm too much, I’ll probably tell you to straighten your left because that forces you to use the left arm for power. If a visiting sensei thinks that your shinai is too vertical when you strike, they may recommend that you bend your left elbow a little bit to get better extension on your blade. That sensei and I don’t really disagree on anything, but from your point of view it can certainly look like we do! The best thing to do in this scenario is just ask for clarification. Either at the time or after the session (or at the pub), just explain the situation to the sensei and ask their advice. Chances are you’ll get told of a different way to work on something so we can remove any conflicts. Even if not, at least you’ll get a bit more insight into why different sensei give the advice they do.
How to deal with group feedback?
This happens a lot. We as a group do a drill all together, and I’ll see an issue that applies to about 50% of the group. It’s not worth me giving the same advice to all these people individually, so I give the advice to the whole group – but how do you know if it applies to you?
The simple answer is: it always applies to you. Even if you’re not one of the 50% that I originally spotted, you can still benefit from focusing on whatever aspect in detail. When I give out advice to the group, I make sure I spend some time focusing on that in my own kendo afterwards – we can always benefit from some conscious practice.
What if you want more feedback?
Just ask. You don’t have to just wait for feedback, you can always ask for a bit more advice or pointers. We always have time after training (or at the pub!) to have a chat about your kendo and share some advice. If you prefer though, feel free to ask for advice just after we’ve done a drill (“was my footwork okay there?”) or just before (“would you mind checking my footwork during this?”).
Ultimately, it’s up to you to improve your kendo. I can help to highlight the areas of improvement and guide you on how to improve them, but you’re the one who has to put it into practice. Make sure you’re taking on board the feedback you get and applying it in every session, and you’ll definitely see your kendo improve.