We were practicing kihon men yesterday and I could not help noticing how difficult it is for many newer, (and some not so new) kendoka to hold the shinai correctly. There seem to be a variety of problems.
The most common fault is gripping too tightly with the front of the hand, causing the shinai to pull up at an angle when you strike. Other problems are:
- Using the right hand too strongly and letting the left just act as a pivot
- Opening the left hand at the point of hitting
- Keeping our arms too tight to the body, so we have difficulty in moving the shinai freely
- Turning the wrists out rather than in
Ways to fix these problems are to:
- Relax your arms and shoulders
- Let your elbows have enough flex so your arms clear your body as you raise the shinai
- Turn your wrists in
- Use just the ring and little finger to grip the shinai
There is no need to grip your shinai tightly, no one is going to steal it, unless your dojo is in a very tough neighborhood. Also it was common practice for instructors to talk about a “wringing” action at the point of cutting. This resulted in a number of people looking as if they were strangling a chicken, rather than hitting men. It is much easier to limit this tenouchi to a light squeeze with the left and an even lighter squeeze with right hand.
I have posted an old, much copied picture of Mochida sensei’s hands to show how it should be done.