Fighting for your Life
Now, I'm making it seem like I was in real danger, but of course I wasn't. On the next-to-last motion of Ran Ai, where the Jo side knocks the swordsman cut aside, my form was pretty bad and I could tell that he was pulling his attack a lot, generously choosing not to knock me on the head and kill me. He's just that kind of guy... :) But he yelled at me to be careful and told me to do it again. This time, he swung like he was going to break my skull and fortunately, I did the technique properly this time.
Then we switched weapons. With a jo, he is even scarier than with a sword. When the jo threatens the swordsman's eyes, he had that stick inches from my face. His control is good enough that I didn't feel like I was in any real danger while at the same time being scared witless, if such a thing is possible. Kind of like riding a roller coaster: you know that you're safe, but your body is telling you to be terrified.
Fortunately, we only had this intense practice for the last 5 minutes of class. I don't think I could have lasted for much longer. Afterwards, while waiting for the next train in the station, Mr. Shimizu bought me a bottle of water and we talked about jodo. It was kind of funny because, rather than get into some sort of deep conversation, he admitted that, "Sometimes, it's just fun to yell and swing a stick, and feel the impact when your stick hits the sword, and to get covered in sweat. That's a good practice." I couldn't agree more.