Most kendoka know the difference between uchikomigeiko and kakarigeiko – in theory. Very few of us do enough of either to be able to perform them correctly. Both form an integral part of Japanese school, university and police training sessions, but in the UK we may do the occasional bit of uchikomigeiko, but seldom push ourselves to do kakarigeiko.
Just to remind ourselves, uchikomigeiko is the practice where motodachi offers kakarite the points to hit, either at his own discretion or in a pre arranged sequence. The objective of the exercise is to build the ability to attack correctly, immediately an opportunity arises. Kakarigeiko on the other hand requires motodachi to stay in chudan, forcing kakarite to make his or her own openings. Kakarigeiko calls for rapid, continuous attacks and if done correctly, cannot be sustained for much more than 30 seconds to a minute.
Motodachi’s role in kakarigeiko is to allow only effective strikes to hit. This can be done just by maintaining and relaxing kamae, or motodachi can take a more proactive stance by punishing unsuccessful attacks; normally using your own harai or osae techniques to knock or push the attackers shinai down, or to the side. This tough-love can be ratcheted up by the use of tai sabaki (moving the body out of line) as kakarite attempts to strike, or by responding to some of the attacks with ojiwaza. Other options are the introduction of taiatari (butsukarigeiko) and the ultimate tactic of responding with your own full on attacks, turning the practice into aikakarigeiko.
Both uchikomigeiko and kakarigeiko can be done in mawarigeiko format, with similarly graded players taking turns as motodachi. The other option is to make them part of shidogeiko where teachers or seniors continue to take the lead role throughout the session.
In Japan, free practice sessions between junior grades and senior instructors invariably finish with uchikomigeiko or kakarigeiko. The rule used to be that as the junior, you do your best to take a creditable ippon or two, but once sensei has swatted you four or five times, it is your signal to move into hyper mode and attack non-stop. Teachers do of course use discretion over the intensity and length of these sessions and will push a young fit advanced player much harder than they would a less experienced or older player.
Whereas in my twenties I was expected to exhaust myself before the end of every keiko, the hachidan sensei that I am now occasionally privileged to practice with me, let me off with a few token men-uchi.