Sumi sensei stopped over at Mumeishi dojo on his way from Edinburgh to the Ukraine. He spent the first hour of the two hour session taking everyone through a kihon lesson that yet again demonstrated his unusual, creative approach to teaching the basics.
This drill was geared to taking the students through the permutations of distance and timing for shikake and oji waza. With everyone working in pairs with shinai and without men and kote, he started with what he called “shadow hitting”; both partners facing each other from opposite sides of the dojo and moving forward with a big approach step and striking men with fumikomi footwork, This was done at a distance where neither partner came near to each other.
The exercise was then repeated with a small approach step and then a medium size step. The size of the cut was then changed to reflect the approach step; big step, big cut; small step small cut and so on.
After both partners had worked through these permutations in turn, sensei brought them together and had motodachi run through the sequences from the necessary distances to strike men correctly. Kakarite was asked to respond with nuki dou. Emphasis was put on striking the correct part of the target and using hiraki-ashi.
The drill was then expanded to include oji-kaeshi dou, men suriage men and men suriage kote. As people tried this it was pointed out that an active right hand was important to make the suriage effective and that suriage only works if your hands are in the centre of your body and you do not bring the point of the shinai back towards your face.
Each pair was then instructed to move into issoku ito mai and shown how to make kote kaeshi gote. This is a particularly difficult technique to achieve because of the need to create distance between blocking the cut and making your own strike. Sumi sensei made the point that you need to show your kote to prompt the attack and then block and return. If you start by showing the omote side of your shinai your opponent will not attack.
It is a lesson that takes a lot of concentration and on a hot evening people were sweating heavily even before putting on their bogu for keiko. There was an obvious improvement in most of the participants in the hour that they had been practising. With Sumi sensei’s permission, I may steal this drill and use it in some of my own lessons.
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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.
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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 |
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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”.
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After many years of ignoring harai waza, I am slowly warming towards harai-gote.
I have never found harai techniques to be particularly effective. My main experience with both harai men and harai-gote has been to practise them in drill form; and no matter how helpful motodachi tries to be, he knows what is going to happen. Typically he responds with a soft grip that allows his shinai to return quickly to the centre.
Even when I have been successful in this situation, I have felt that it was more the result of motodachi’s kindness than the effectiveness of the harai strike. I faithfully tried to hit the shinai upwards if he has a high kamae or downwards if the kamae is low, but neither of these has given me the breakthrough to make me a dedicated harai convert. Conventional kendo wisdom tells us that harai is likely to be more effective if your opponent is moving forward. This is true, but I still find the outcome to be hit or miss and prefer to try for debana men.
The one opportunity that does seem to work for me is to attack harai-gote as my partner is retreating, either because I am making a strong forward seme, or because I have just failed in another forward attack. Under the circumstances, he is often on his back foot and does not have complete control of the shinai. In this situation, harai-gote is easier to apply than men, as even though I am already in close distance, I am able to strike the shinai at the tsuba end of the jinbu, which has maximum effect in moving the point from centre. Also harai to the ura (kote side) of the shinai has more effect as you are knocking the shinai out of the grip of your opponents right hand; (you are hitting in the direction of his open fingers from the back of his hand). With a harai strike to omote for men, you are pushing the shinai further into his right hand.
So harai-gote has now been added to the keiko tool kit. Harai-men unfortunately looks like it will be a work in progress for another few years
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