Watchet Seminar Group 2013
I enjoy teaching at kendo seminars. They offer the opportunity to try to make to make a difference to the kendo of a group of people from various dojo in a short period of time. As I mentioned in last week’s post, this was the weekend of the annual Watchet seminar and the theme was “making opportunities to attack”. Obviously this is a broad subject and encompasses the whole gamut of shikake and oji waza. I was privileged to work with the senior group and I and Terry Holt sensei ran through numerous drills, making the connection to how these techniques fit into the sansatsuho.
As there is a grading examination on the second afternoon, the seminar lasts for a day and a half and includes kata practice and keiko as well as warm-ups and basic kihon. The second morning is mostly a reprise of the first day with a chance to work on any problem areas. The timetable allowed us an hour to run through the whole range of men, dou and kote techniques, trying seme waza, osae and harai waza and then progressing through debana , suriage, kaeshi, uchiotoshi and nuki techniques. Although we had spent a more leisurely three hours on these on Saturday, the review session felt like it was happening in fast forward and the students did a great job to keep up with the pace.
Some waza were new to some people and old favourites for others. In some cases different instructors bring a slightly different approach to techniques that you already know and that sometimes is the catalyst that turns a never used technique into a favourite. In most cases the biggest improvements happen when you take the seed of technique back to your own dojo and work on it. Although kendo associations try to combine seminars and grading examinations for convenience, a seminar held three months ahead of an examination would probably show the best results.
The one thing that I am sure was obvious to most people is that in kendo, as in the rest of life, you have to “make it happen”. Shikake waza does not work unless you break your opponents centre and oji waza is effective only if you control your opponents timing and pull him into your counter attack. I am delighted to say that everyone bought whole-heartedly into this concept and the quality of kendo in the keiko sessions and the examination lifted accordingly.
Posted in Kendo seminars | Tagged kendo seminars, oji-waza, sansappo, sansatsuho, shikake-waza, Watchet | Leave a Comment »
I have been asked to put some thoughts together on the theory of creating opportunities to strike in preparation for next weekend’s Watchet seminar. With kendo being such a well-trodden path this requires very little creativity from me; it’s more a question of opening the kendo books on the correct page and reading what our predecessors had to say on the subject.
The whole spectrum of attacking opportunities in kendo is summed up in the Sansappo (or Sansatsuho) , which translates as “the three methods”. These are:
- Ken wo korosu – kill the sword
- Waza wo korosu – kill the technique
- Ki wo korosu – kill the spirit
While these terms sound suitably esoteric, if you rearrange the order and group the techniques that represent these categories, you get a basic common-sense list of which waza work in which circumstances.
- Ki wo korosu – equals seme. Using your whole body and more importantly your mental strength (kizeme), you push firmly into your opponent’s space and destroy his mental composure, creating the opportunity to strike.
- Ken wo korosu – You break his kamae by moving his shinai with your own. Ways to do this include harai, osae, uchiotoshi and maki waza. Effectively you sweep, push, knock down or twist his shinai away from his centre, leaving the door open for your attack.
- Waza wo korosu – This covers the whole range of oji waza. You make him attack and take the opportunity to destroy his technique and beat him with your own. To do this you can select from a menu of debana, suriage, kaeshi and nuki techniques. Which you use depends on how advanced his attack is before you strike. Debana waza is used when he starts his attack, suriage waza when his shinai is on it’s on its way down and kaeshi and nuki techniques when his cut is almost there.
Using the sansappo to order techniques in this way helps me to put them into a framework, but there are a number of other useful ways to understand the theory of timing and opportunity. The concept of Sen, Sen no Sen and Go no sen is equally effective. This relates to striking before your opponent does, as he starts to strike and finally after he starts his attack.
Another way to think about it is by putting yourself in your opponent’s place. In this case the Shikai or four sicknesses of surprise, fear, doubt and confusion (kyo, ku, gi, waku) can be exploited as attacking opportunities.
With kendo’s long history, successive generations of teachers have given us the basis to understand how and why we do things. The challenge for most of us though is not to understand the theory but to put it into practice. In this case the answer is “more keiko”.
Posted in Kendo opportunity to attack | Tagged debana waza, kaeshi-waza, Kendo timimg, Making opportunities in kendo, nuki-waza, ojiwaza, sansappo, sansatsuho, Shikai, shikake-waza, suriage waza | 3 Comments »
Brits over the age of 40 and die-hard fans of vintage TV sitcoms may remember Trigger, the dim road-sweeper in the comedy Only Fools and Horses. Trigger’s boast was that during his long career as a road-sweeper he had only used one broom, although it had had 17 new heads and nine new handles. I have a pair of kote with a not dissimilar history; I have had them for over 20 years. They were originally a present from Shinji Kawato, a bogu maker friend in Osaka. To be fair both to Trigger and to Kawato-san, I have used the original futon consistently since then, although the atama or hand parts have been replaced at least 5 times and the futon have been washed and re-dyed.
The futon are now showing distinct signs of wear but are still holding up. They were recently reinforced so there should be some more mileage left in them. I have not been to Osaka for a while and I have not had the chance to take them to Mr Kawato for their regular atama replacement, so the palms have been patched in numerous places. This in itself is not a problem but now the tsutsu (wrist joint) , is starting to fall apart. Nevertheless I am still reluctant to end my 20 year relationship with them.
I have tried all sorts of kote over the years, including the Hasegawa type with changeable hand coverings. All kudos to Hasegawa for developing something new, but they remind me of gardening gloves.
Why do I love my old kote? Let me count the ways. The futon are of original Japanese hand stitched 1bu construction made from traditional compressed cotton and antique wool felt. They still do a great job in protecting me from over-enthusiastic beginner’s hits. They keep the correct tube shape while allowing me to get them on and off quickly. The hands (and their predecessors) are big and comfy and I feel completely relaxed in them. The downside is that they now look distinctly scruffy.
I have other newer and smarter kote but none that I enjoy wearing as much. My love for these relics may well be reason for their impending demise. I regularly think about spreading the wear, but it is these old favourites that invariably get packed for keiko.
I plan to get some more good kote this year, and have seen lots of desirable products in the bogu booths at taikai and on the internet. Nevertheless I still think that the old models will find their way back to Mr Kawato for some new hands and some TLC.
Posted in bogu | Tagged Bogu repairs, Bogu. Kendo armour, Hasegawa kote, Kawato Budogu, Kote, Tezashi | 5 Comments »
With Ishida sensei in Kyoto
To quote Marshal McLuhan “The real news is bad news”. Whilst we had a wonderful 15th European Kendo Championship with some excellent kendo and a great deal of good fellowship, one of the most discussed aspects of the event, certainly amongst people who did not attend, was a single example of rough play. I can understand why people are concerned about this type of behaviour as it has a detrimental effect on kendo, but maybe the time has come to think about the more positive aspects of kendo.
For those of us who follow the kendo groups on Facebook it would be difficult to miss that the All Japan 8th Dan Championships were held recently. Thanks to the AJKF there are many clips of shiai from this taikai on YouTube. For many years I have felt that this competition gives us some of the best examples of kendo that we could wish to follow. Whether it is a “chicken or egg” phenomenon, I do not know the answer. Either the sensei who achieve 8th Dan did so because they display a perfect understanding of “riai”, or as 8th dans they are conscious of their positions as kendo role models and perform accordingly in the shiai-jo. Either way I think that this is the sort of kendo that we should aspire to.
Tani sensei on left sitting
There are lots of great examples from this year’s taikai but the final between last year’s winner, Tani sensei and Ishida sensei says it all. Not only do both fighters display fantastic awareness and kihaku throughout the shiai, but they are ready to attack instantly at any opportunity. Their distances throughout the match are text-book and on the few occasions when they get close, they separate by mutual consent without losing mind contact and concentration. There is no wasted effort, only real opportunities are taken and when they are, the action is clear and decisive. Ishida sensei’s single winning point is a great example – he explodes forward to nearly take men and as Tani sensei tries to recover is kamae he comes forward to do it again this time with a clear target and unanimous ippon from the referees. If you haven’t done so already take a look.
Both of these sensei are in their fifties and there were some equally impressive shiai from competitors well into their sixties, so this taikai holds particular interest for oldies like me. I think however that kendo of this kind should be what we all should aim for in our long term development.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged 8th dan, All Japan 8th dan Championships, Example of good kendo, Ishida sensei, Kendo role models, Tani sensei | 1 Comment »
There was some discussion on this blog last week and considerably more debate on the Facebook kendo groups about an incident that took place at the European Championships in Berlin, where a competitor allegedly threw his opponent in an illegal and premeditated manner.
Although I was a referee at the event, I was unable to offer an informed comment, as I had been concentrating on my own court at the time. Like many of the people who wanted to discuss this issue, I only briefly saw it on the YouTube clip through Facebook.
Opinion was divided. A few people expressed the view that kendo was a part of budo and that we should be prepared to man-up and take a few knocks for the benefit of our spiritual development. The majority felt that it was reprehensible to put another person’s health and safety in jeopardy to win a shiai.
I was about to write that “kendo has a violent history”, but on reflection this is incorrect and certainly so following kendo’s post-war reintroduction. Kenjutsu has a very violent history where the aim was to take life with a sword. Gekken or “exhibition fencing” which was introduced in the Meiji period after the sword ban incorporated a range of taijutsu techniques. But as the ZNKR has it, “The concept of Kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana (sword).” In line with, this trips, throws, arm-locks and strangles are illegal in modern kendo.
Before the war there was a legacy of hand-to-hand combat in kendo. Trips were common; men were removed and strangles applied. You can still see photographs like the one above showing this type of kendo and there is a clip of Mori Torao sensei using trips and ankle sweeps from an early US TV show. One or two Japanese universities still have special occasional practices where physical contact is allowed and I know teachers who have been known to introduce the odd “deashibarai” into kakarigeiko with favourite students. The throws of this type that I have seen, have always been below waist height and the recipients were supported as they fell.
From another perspective there has been some controversy over the levels of discipline imposed by seniors of Japanese university clubs on junior kendo students, which in several notable cases resulted in fatalities. Stringent action was taken against the kendo clubs concerned.
Whether we view kendo as a sport or martial art, we have a duty of care towards those that we teach or train with. We practise on hard floors and kendo bogu is not designed to accommodate break-falls. I would suggest that we concentrate on striking ippon correctly and leave the rough stuff to our friends in white pyjamas.
Posted in Kendo Violence | Tagged Deashibarai, Kendo trips, Kendo violence, kumiuchi, Throws in kendo | 50 Comments »
Fisher and Dubi
I am just back from Berlin and a very successful European Kendo Championship. As the EKF’s Vice President said in his closing speech “the event was run with typical German efficiency”.
I always come away from these competitions with mixed feelings. It is always good to catch up with old friends from other countries and I very much enjoyed watching what matches I could, but after three long days on court as a referee, I went to Sunday’s sayonara party with almost a sense of relief.
For those of you not familiar with the EKC, it is a big event, as the European Kendo Zone also covers the Middle East and Africa. This year saw the first time inclusion of Mozambique and Georgia making a total of 30 countries. When you consider that within the three days there are team and individual competitions for juniors, men and women; that’s a lot of shiai!
With the differing experience levels between established and newer countries, some of the early matches showed obvious contrasts in ability, but once out of the pool rounds most of the shiai were very close and hard to predict. Although most of the countries in the medals table have been there before, their positions have changed. The French men’s , German ladies teams and the French Junior team won their events, with a very strong second from Belgium in the men’s event. Romania came second to France in the Junior team and individual events with Russia and France in third place. Fadai of Germany won the ladies title with Van der Woude from the Netherlands in second with Momcillovic form Serbia and Boviz from Hungary coming third. Giannetto of Italy beat Nakabayashi of France in the men’s final with Fisher from GB and Dubi from Hungary third.
I was thrilled to see Stuart Gibson of the UK beat the seemingly invincible Mandia of Italy before losing in the quarter final. Other highlights for me were to see a single middle aged competitor from Georgia coming out for his first international competition with the EKF’s Pekka Nurminen acting as stand-in manager and first timer Matavele of Mozambique getting two ippon and a fighting spirit prize.
There was a general consciousness this year that the most important job was done by the volunteers on the organisation team, without whom, the athletes would not have had the chance to shine. My own vote of thanks goes to the GB Team Manager, Sean Starr who left me little to do other than turn-up and referee.
Posted in 25th EKC | Tagged 25th EKC, 25th European Kendo Championship, European Kendo Championship 2013, European Kendo Championships | 4 Comments »
With less than a week to go to the European Kendo Championships in Berlin, one can sense the collective energy build-up amongst prospective competitors. Team selection has been finalised, last minute training sessions have been held and messages of support are going out as I write this. All that is left for the athletes to do is to stay focused. The referees are as good as they are going to get before next week, so it is just a matter of packing t
he white shirts, flags and rule-books. The only people with a really big job to do this week are the organisers!
From my experience of playing a small part in the administration of the 13th EKC and a bigger part in organising the 12WKC, the German Kendo Association has my sympathy and admiration. The effort that goes into organising an event of this scale is enormous. Arranging the shiai venue, organising transport and accommodation, fighting for sponsorship; these are all daunting tasks. Most crucially making the budgets work, particularly in the current economic climate must be a real challenge.
Any country kendo association prepared to take on responsibility for such a major event deserves credit, particularly the smaller groups who have done such a good job in previous years despite having had to risk the financial stability of their associations on the success of these events.
In all cases it is as a result of the generosity of volunteers that makes these events possible. Thousands of hours of planning and administrative work must have already gone into this 25th EKC and a lot of the physical work is still to happen. While the rest of us are checking that we’ve packed our socks, I imagine that the organisers are running through a host of last minute checks on facilities, security and transport and of course making sure that everything works to plan within the stadium.
I am looking forward to doing my best as a referee and seeing some great kendo over the three days. Hopefully there will also be a chance to see the sights of Berlin and to enjoy a few beers when it’s all over. When we get to the Sayonara party lots of competitors will be ready to let off steam after giving their all in the shiai-jo, but no-one will deserve their celebrations more than the organising team. So only another week to go guys, gambatte and thank you in advance for all your hard work.
Posted in 25th EKC, Uncategorized | Tagged 25th EKC, 25th European Kendo Championship, Berlin Kendo Championship, European Kendo Championship 2013 | Leave a Comment »