With the increase in recent interest in jodan and nitou, tsuki is becoming an important part of the kendo toolkit. Unfortunately, most of us are not particularly good at tsuki. This is probably due to the fact that we do not practise the technique often enough.
Reasons for not doing so are plentiful. You are advised not to try if you are a junior or kyu grade. If you are a dan grade holder, it is standard practice not to use tsuki on junior or inexperienced players. On the other hand it is considered disrespectful to try tsuki against a senior teacher, so targets for tsuki in keiko are, depending on your level, limited to kendoka of your own grade and slightly above or below.
You also see very little tsuki practice within kihon geiko and of course its use within kakarigeiko is a no no. Even teachers who are experts at tsuki do not always teach it; perhaps they rightly assume that most of us are not to be trusted to use it correctly. Tsuki is certainly my weakest technique, which is logical when I realise that of my total lifetime kendo practice, probably less than 2 or 3 percent has been devoted to tsuki.
I have however, in the spirit of better late than never, started to include tsuki in my own kihon practice and I can’t confidently say, teach it, but I include it in basic drills for my students.
In terms of technique, there is the choice of kotatetsuki and morotetsuki. The former gives you more reach, but needs work to ensure that you do not compromise your posture and that you keep your body square. Simultaneously pulling your right hand back to your hip as you strike is perhaps the best way to maintain your body line.
With two handed tsuki, the challenge is to ensure that you hit with ki-ken-tai ichi and do not just push out with your arms. With either version it is important to make the technique sharp and hit and instantly pull the point of the shinai back. The cardinal sin is to make tsuki as your opponent comes towards you. This is known as mukaetsuki, which is dangerous and regarded as disrespectful.
Certainly, tsuki is a valuable technique, not only is it effective against jodan and nitou, but it works against strong chudan, where it is difficult to make a successful men or kote attack. Done correctly it is also a beautiful technique. If you are lucky enough to see Eiga san’s tsuki or that of Arima sensei, I am sure you will agree with me.