Most of the comments on my last post dealt with the subject of making good fumikomi. Andrea is not unusual in having problems with this and everyone who came back with suggestions added a lot of value to the debate. I touched on fumikomi in previous articles and talked more generally about footwork in http://wp.me/ptBQt-gZ but I think that it is worth exploring this a little further.
Andrea’s sensei’s point that a cut without audible fumikomi is not ippon, I imagine, was made to emphasise the importance of ki-ken-tai-ichi. Technically you can score ippon without fumikomi by sliding your right foot into place with as you strike; you can also successfully make a strike from chudan when you pull your left foot up into position. Footwork is the device you use to ensure that your body is in the right distance and posture to strike correctly, after all it is ki-ken-tai-ichi or mind, sword and body as one; not mind, sword and foot as one. Still it is true that a loud slapping sound made on the point of cutting is satisfying and it certainly helps confirm to shinpan that all the necessary elements are there.
David’s comment about the quality of dojo floor was insightful. Training in custom built kendojo in Japan is kinder to the feet than some of the hardwood and composition floors we have to make-do with in other countries. I see more Japanese visitors wearing heel pads than I do locals, who are used to slamming their feet down on un-sprung oak over concrete.
I also liked Ken’s suggestion about training with a slipper or flip-flop. I confess that I got a bit fixated on this and went on to extemporise about the possibility of borrowing from the sub-aqua club and trying it with flippers. Taking my over-vivid imagination out of the equation, it clearly pays to practice how to make correct fumikomi.
Like Andrea, I also have a very high instep, but do not find that it affect s my footwork if I do things correctly. My favourite tip comes from Chiba sensei. This was taught as part of the drill to strengthen seme, but has a highly beneficial effect on fumikomi. Starting from long distance you step into issoku ito maai and then whilst holding your opponent in a state of tame, you slightly bend your right knee. Your opponent suspecting that you are about to launch an attack will start an attack of his or her own, giving you the opportunity to make debana men.
The side effect of bending your right knee is that the sole of your foot is now parallel with the floor and if your weight is focussed on your left foot, you simply push off from the left and throw your right foot forward, (do not lift your right knee up). As your right foot remains parallel throughout the movement, you make contact with the floor with the maximum amount of foot area and even if your heel hits, it should not hurt as you create a cushion of air between foot and floor. It is the expulsion of this air that makes the slapping sound that should wake up the doziest of referees.