It’s very common for people to move to the side of their opponent in kendo. They either stand up from sonkyo and take a step to the right, or when they attack men or kote, they do so in a diagonal line, so that after striking they pass their opponent on the right. There is probably a biological reason for this. It might be because many of us feel that the right side of our body is stronger than the left, but that’s just speculation on my part.
There are however some obvious kendo specific reasons why people move this way. Those in the habit of veering to the side after hitting, usually do so because they fear a collision with their opponent, injuring either themselves or the other player. What they fail to take into account is that the other party will more often than not, automatically move out of the way after being hit. If he doesn’t they can always use taiatari to finish the forward movement safely.
When you stand from sonkyo, unless your opponent has a very weak kamae, it is unlikely that you will see an opening to attack. Many kendoka somewhat misguidedly think that by moving away from the centre they will have a side-on view of an exposed target. Unfortunately this does not happen as your opponent needs to turn only slightly to face you in your new position.
One of the key things that we have to do to move up the grade ladder is to learn to face and dominate our opponent. When we rise from sonkyo we need to firstly take the time to feel and read our opponent’s mind, then to take the appropriate action to make a striking opportunity. This can be done by pushing forward and breaking your partner’s kamae, by moving his shinai out of the centre with either a harai, osae or makiotoshi technique, or by forcing him to move by showing an opening and beating him to the punch with a debana waza.
This concept of drawing your opponent out is called hikidasu. This can be done in a number of ways. You can slightly raise the point of your shinai, or move your right foot forward, or just slightly bend your right knee. You can also use any of these in combination. Once he commits to an attack you respond with debana, or oji waza if his movement is more advanced.
So don’t be tempted to step to the side. Hold the centre and demonstrate courage and confidence.
Read Full Post »
I have written about seme and tame several times since I started this blog and I feel motivated to do so again. These are difficult concepts for many people to understand and it is even more difficult to translate them into physical action.
We have had numerous conversations about seme at my local dojo and before writing this I scanned some of the comments on the web relating to this subject. I came across a very interesting thread on Kendo World Forums that started with a post about making seme and waiting for the opponent to react and how this did not work against more experienced opponents. Obviously the poster is on the right track but perhaps the clue to why it’s not working is in the word “waiting”. The missing ingredient is “tame”. If you step into striking distance without maintaining the spirit to attack then it is more than likely that you will be the loser in the encounter.
Thinking through the whole process, you should take a big breath in and let half of the air out as kakegoe before stepping into your opponent’s space. Your attitude should be confident and aggressive with the aim of breaking his physical and mental defence (migamae and kigamae). Posture needs to be correct with your hips engaged and you should swiftly pull your left foot up as soon as you step forward with your right. The left heel should be slightly off the ground throughout and there should be a feeling of tension at the back of the left knee. The right knee should be slightly bent. If while doing this your opponents kamae breaks under the pressure, don’t wait, just attack.
If on the other hand your opponent maintains his guard, you need to take further action to create an opportunity. This is done by keeping an attacking mind and centring your breath in your abdomen. You maintain the pressure in your left foot and knee and by moving the tip of your shinai very slighty invite him to attack. As soon as he starts an attacking movement, you can push off from your left foot and make a small sharp strike to whichever target he shows .Use the remainder of the air in your tanden to make a big kiai as you strike either kote or men. Welcome to the world of debana waza.
The Kendo World thread went on to say that it was difficult to make effective seme against more experienced kenshi. Duh, why wouldn’t it be! They have been doing it better and for a longer time. You will also find it difficult against beginners who not yet refined their basic technique to a level where they can make “mind contact”.
With these less experienced players you can practise tame by building pressure then relaxing it for them to attack you. With seniors if all else fails, do kakarigeiko.
Read Full Post »
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 on May 13, 2013 |
3 Comments »
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”.
Read Full Post »