I have just spent 6 days with Chiba sensei who came to the UK to run a most enlightening seminar for our higher grades.
As you would expect from a kendo teacher with Chiba sensei’s reputation, he showed us some great techniques and drills. Overall, the instruction he gave was about correct cutting, posture and ki-ken-tai-ichi. The way he gets there though, is in my experience, unique.
He constantly stresses using a light touch in tenouchi and keeping a natural posture. Whereas many teachers maintain that the torso should be square-on to the opponent, he emphasises that although the balance between left and right hand should be 50:50, the right shoulder should be slightly forward of the left. He disagrees with the commonly held notion that in cutting men, the path of the left hand should follow an equal distance from chudan kamae to 45% back from the front of your head and then down to the target. Chiba sensei’s view is that it is quite acceptable to allow the shinai to be pulled in almost flat above your men as part of the upswing, to give the wrists added flexibility, allowing more snap.
Not unlike other top instructors, his overall view of cutting, is that small is good and that in oji waza the block or sweep up and the downstroke should be done in one movement. He also asserts that these counter techniques should be a result of pulling the opponent in with our own seme. Where he does challenge conventional wisdom, is with his view, of how to hit dou. On this point, he makes it clear that it is acceptable for the cut to be parallel with the floor.
As I was assisting at the seminar, I had the chance to listen and watch his demonstration and did manage to discretely try some of the drills with Matsumoto sensei. My biggest revelation came at 2.30 yesterday morning, when Chiba sensei completely adjusted my kamae whilst we were having a nightcap. It just goes to show that people who excel at what they do, never take time off.