Many years ago I naively asked an elderly Japanese sensei “what is the difference between debana men and degashira men”. I was told that “it depended on whether your opponent had a big nose or a big forehead”. Logical really, when you consider that debana refers to the forward movement of your opponents nose and degashira the same for the front of the head.
Whatever the terminology, debana men is the “holy grail” of kendo. It is the most desirable waza to display in high dan grading examinations and enbu. In my view, the reason why it is such a special technique is that it requires the ability to attack instantly, without conscious thought in the spirit of “mushin”.
To effectively achieve debana men, your preparation needs to be perfect. You must be in your own issoku ito ma, have a feeling of pressure between your kisaki and your opponent’s, have your left heel off the ground and a 60:40 distribution of weight between your left and right foot. As soon as your opponent starts his attack, you should push forward from your left foot and strike in the “timing of one“. Effectively, you are making the down stroke whilst your opponent is starting his upward raise.
This is clearly a technique that calls for repeated practice. One simple drill for this, is working with a partner, move into issoku ito mai. Both hold the strongest chudan that you can and build up a feeling of pressure. Ensure that your feet are in correct kendo position and that the left heel is up and the weight balance is as described. Motodachi should wait until the feeling of pressure between you is palpable and then quickly lean slightly forward whilst lifting the shinai to the right and moving the right foot forward by just a few centimetres. As soon as he does this kakarite should attack men instantly.
I include this drill in most kihon sessions and although it encourages small men strikes, it can be taught at most levels as long as big kihon men is practised in the same session for more junior kendoka. I believe that it is worth doing this on a regular, ongoing basis. It is worth sweating over to achieve the “wow! Did I do that” feeling when you make debana men is shiai or keiko.