Many people, who can confidently hit men and kote, continue to have difficulty with dou. This is not surprising, as whilst men and kote are obvious targets that only require you to raise and lower the shinai in a straight line; dou is harder to see and hit.
There is some confusion over what part of the dou constitutes the target. Chiba sensei expresses the view, that the whole of the dou plate is a valid striking area. Where the confusion starts is that ippon is rarely given when the front of the dou is hit. The reason however, is not that it is not a correct target, but because posture or hasuji is usually incorrect when contact is made.
Having recently been shown dou by both Chiba sensei and Sumi sensei, I was relieved to see that even though their kendo styles and approach to teaching are very different; the key point on dou-uchi made by them both, is absolutely consistent. “Your right hand must be pushed forward so that it is directly in front of you at the point of impact”. This is regardless of which timing and opportunity the attack takes and the direction of your footwork.
If we look at the chances to strike dou, we can occasionally make a successful shikake dou attack, this could be as a debana or hikibana technique when your opponent starts to lift his arms to hit men , or as a hikiwaza if he pushes his hands up to counter your downward pressure in tsubazeriai.
Dou however, is more likely to be successful as an oji waza; either as nuki or kaeshi dou against a men attack. With nuki-dou, you move your body diagonally to the right to avoid your opponent’s strike whilst at the same time hitting his dou. In this case it is crucial to push your right hand straight forward as you hit, even though your body is moving away from the centre. If you do not do this, you will have to drop your hands and shoulders as you cut across the front of the dou. This will make you lean over to the side and force you to cut down diagonally with bent arms, achieving no power behind the cut.
For kaeshi dou against men, you need to block and return the attack in “the timing of one”, whist directly in front of the target. Only after making the strike should you start to move through to your right. One of the points that Sumi sensei makes, is that it is also perfectly acceptable to move through to your left (opponents right), to take zanshin for kaeshi dou.
Chiba sensei’s unique spin on dou-uchi is that the path of your cut should be parallel with the floor, so that you strike with the bottom take of the shinai.
Whether your preference is for kaeshi or nuki dou, if you move through to the right, you need to either release your left hand or slide it up the tsuka as you move through. You should also keep your eyes on your opponent until you have finished the attack.