I have recently finished two full days of training (approximately 6 hours a day) with Toby Threadgill. He was back with us, here in NZ and was in top form.
I managed to train both Saturday and Sunday, but there was a Friday night open seminar and more training on the Monday for those who could take time off work.
So what was the training like? Well, those attending were members of TSYR. The Hamilton dojo members were the most experienced with the Auckland study group joining us. Threadgill sensei was in good spirits and was showing some great stuff, his expectations of us were high.
Saturday morning session was dedicated to Tachiai Kansetsu Waza - Katate. Sensei gave some great tips on how to refine our technique. I found this training to be a mixed bag of experiences. If I ended up practicing with one of the less experienced members of the group then I felt I ended up teaching more than refining my own technique. If I was partnered with someone of experience then I could really explore some of the ideas sensei was suggesting. Either training helps improve the quality of the students in general, so I didn't mind.
The afternoon session started with batto (sword-drawing). This training is tough because Threadgill sensei wants precision in these techniques. It is a matter of repeating movements over and over again and adjusting small sections of the draws. Sometimes by millimetres. It was only the second time I had even been tutored by sensei directly about my batto and it was great.
After critiquing our batto, sensei asked us to move into the first set of the Shoden kumitachi. He asked myself and one other person to demonstrate each kata before critiquing us and then letting the rest of the class practice. I can tell you that it is a very humbling experience to be asked to demonstrate a technique knowing full well that everyone is watching and sensei is most likely going to find fault in what you are doing.
Sunday morning saw us back with the Tachiai Kansetsu Waza. This time the Gyakute set. I really enjoyed the tips and advice sensei gave for these techniques. I came away feeling like I had made improvement on many of the techniques. I am finally getting to a point in my training that I can make the corrections sensei asks for sooner than I used to. My body control is much better and my structure is improving.
After lunch it was onto a further two Batto techniques. Again, sensei has a very high standard when it comes to sword work and we were pushed hard.
Following the sequence from the day before we moved into kumitachi and sensei put me and the other guy back in the spot light. The second set has some very difficult techniques and we were beat on about those ones.
Despite the high level of training, I remember some positive moments. While practising our sword cuts, sensei spotted me after one particular cut and said "Dean, that was OK." Believe me that is good praise from sensei. At the end of that afternoon sensei also said to us that "you are starting to look like swordsmen." Again, high praise, coming from sensei.
When Threadgill sensei visits it is an opportunity for him to see us improving as a group. It is important that he can see improvement and that we are not wasting his time by inviting him out to NZ. I believe he is happy with our progress and we now have 6 months to put his recent advice into place and improve some more. I felt that he really started to push us this time and he even played around with some freaky jujutsu from time to time, it involved advanced sensitivity and body mechanics. That stuff is mind-boggling but inspiring at the same time. One thing he said more than once is that we needed to start adding flow to our taijutsu techniques. We had the 'big dots' so now we had to start putting them together in a smooth sequence.
All in all he pushed us right to the edge of our abilities and that can only promote growth.