I am back in the UK and am chasing Kendo practices where I can find them, as my own dojo is closed for August. At the weekend, at the end of a practice in London, I was asked for general advice for everyone and the first thing that came to mind was that many people were prepared to compromise the integrity of their kendo to avoid being hit.
By this, I mean that they were obviously blocking an attack without the intention to respond, or breaking there own timing mid-attack to avoid a counter attack. Whilst I understand the motivation behind this, even in shiai, it is not a good idea. Firstly an experienced opponent will have ability to hit another target, so if you block men, he will attack tsuki or dou, secondly you deprive yourself of the opportunity for your technique to flow forward to become renzoku waza and most importantly you sacrifice your own posture and balance.
Of course we are all human and therefore competitive, but keiko, both kihon geiko and jigeiko are learning experiences and as such, give the opportunity to learn from being hit as well as hitting. That’s not to say you should become an uchikominingyo type punch-bag. Of course you should start each keiko with full spirit and the intention of making shodachi, (the first strike), but whether you do or not, if you are hit, so what! Just carry on and try to take the next point.
Should you acknowledge your opponent’s strike? Yes to the extent that you should go back to safe distance and not attempt some irrelevant muri-waza directly after being hit, but unless you are teaching, overtly bowing or waving the bit that has been hit, is unecessary. This is particularly true when you are training with a significantly more experienced opponent. Telling someone who is four or five dan grades above you “that was a good men”, will generate the (hopefully not vocalised) response, in the words of Eddie Murphy “Tell me something I don’t know” .
Instead get to good distance, fill up with air, re-centre your ki and try again.
By the way, if you are competing in the upcoming 14WKC, you are allowed to duck a little bit. Good luck to all the competitors