With vaccinations rolling out in various parts of the world (not here in Japan though…) and rumour about kendo resuming in some places soon, I think it’s worth looking back and thinking how our non-dojo time was spent during the pandemic. Perhaps you did a lot of suburi? Maybe you took notes? Watched videos? No matter what you did (and I am sure it was frustrating at times), this hitorigeiko will almost certainly be good for your kendo going forward.
Here is a mini (and quite freely done!) translation by Inoue Masataka on the topic.
Hitorigeiko is also sometimes called “kage-uchi keiko” (shadow-striking keiko). It is a kind of training whereby you imagine an opponent in front of you and concentrate on (think about) things like techniques and body movement.
Nowadays (the book was published in 1986) nobody really bothers with it, but in the past it was often through self-practice where deep understanding of kendo was acquired. In the past shugyo-sha would sleep in the fields, walk in the mountains, stand under waterfalls, etc, as a way to forge their minds and bodies. Some even retired to caves and prayed to the gods, undergoing rigorous acetic discipline.
The dojo is the place where you take the things you worked on and thought about while practicing by yourself and apply them in a real manner (that is, against an opponent). That “keiko” is something that happens – and finishes – in the dojo is a common misunderstanding of modern practitioners. Dojo keiko is only a part of your kendo shugyo. You should be self-practicing before and after your in-dojo time, for example through mental rehearsal or image training.
The cycle of preparation (by oneself) -> dojo keiko -> review (by oneself) increases effectiveness. In particular, it is during the introspective stage where you can see whether or not your hard work and patience (shugyo) has payed off.