Kote should be one of the easiest techniques in the kendo repertoire, but it still baffles a lot of people. Like all waza it has its own timing and distance and these determine the most appropriate cutting action.
If your opponent has a strong chudan kamae, it is impossible to hit kote unless you break his or her centre. You can do this in three ways:
- Knock his shinai over to the right to open the kote by using harai or suriage to ura.
- Use osae to push the shinai over from omote and then hit the kote as it opens when he pushes back.
- Force him or her to attack men and then take degote as they start their technique. This in my view is the easiest and most effective way to hit kote, but that is personal choice.
It is important to remember that kote is much closer than men, so there is no need to make a deep seme or to step in closely to strike. Most people can make the distance easily from a point where the two kisaki are barely crossing. My own favourite approach to kote is to step into this distance and slightly squeeze the shinai so that the point moves up and to the right, prompting your opponent to attack men and then take kote.
In terms of the mechanics of cutting, you should remember that although kote is a small technique, your left hand should still do most of the work in lifting the shinai. You need to raise your point no higher than it takes to clear your opponent’s shinai. Logically, to hit the target it also needs to move only a shinai’s width to the left. When you finish the technique the shinai should be parallel with the floor. The feeling should be of hitting forward rather than down, in a motion that Sumi sensei compared to a chameleon’s tongue flicking out to catch a fly.
Footwork is much the same as men, just push off from your left foot and make fumikomi with your right. The only difference is that at the point of striking your right foot should be in line with your opponent’s right foot rather than his left.
Finally zanshin should as always be in the centre, but because moving forward you are in danger of making an inadvertent tsuki, you should raise your shinai above you opponents shoulder and move forward quickly into taiatari position, so if you miss you are still in a safe distance.