Yesterday I observed that everyone went into their first kirikaeshi in a rush. As I mentioned to you all, this had the effect of ruining your kirikaeshi and possibly putting you in a negative frame of mind for the rest of training. Cuts and footwork were not synchronised, cuts were off target and generally the effect was that everyone's kirikaeshi looked terrible and left them feeling like their kendo was also terrible. This can be easily avoided.
It is important to start slowly, even if others around you are rushing.
When you are only training once a week (or less!), it is very important to get the basic movements correct before you attempt to do them fast, each and every time you start training. If you are training three times a week or more then you can start each training at full speed. But less than twice a week and you need to re-learn the movements briefly at the beginning of each training. By the end you will be back "up to speed", but at the beginning you will often be rusty.
In the beginning, do your cuts, and especially kirikaeshi, as slowly as you need to, in order that each and every cut lands on target and your whole body is moving in unison. This takes conscious effort, especially if others around you are going quickly. You will need to force yourself to slow down.
Slow versus sluggish
Going slowly on purpose is different to feeling sluggish. Sluggishness is when your mind wants to move quickly but your body doesn't seem to be responding.
Moving slowly, on the other hand, is when your intention is to move slowly. This is a good way of warming up a sluggish body. Don't try and go fast, but allow your body time to respond.
Slow versus fast technique
Sometimes we feel good in our bodies, and yet our technique seems to be worse than normal. This is also when starting slowly can help. The phrase Shingitaiitchi (心技体一致) means "mind, technique and body as one". So it means getting the technique, the energy in your body and your intention all to match up. If any one of those things is lacking, if one is racing ahead of the other two, then nothing will work. After you have integrated the three aspects together you will be able to speed up your overall movement.
Practice at home
If you practice at home, you improve the rate at which you develop skills at training. Even though you have no training partner, doing suburi or even just footwork drills can help enormously. Then when you are back in the dojo, things will flow much better for you.
Perfect practice makes perfect
It's true. Don't practice mediocre technique. It just means you are training to become mediocre. Make sure when you are doing things over and over that they are the best you know how to do. Even if you are not sure what's wrong, you should ask if you feel like your technique is not working as it should. Check yourself regularly. Imitate the people whose kendo you admire. Aim for the ultimate swordsmanship. That's the way to develop your kendo.