Kendo has a repertoire of set techniques and there is a very strong ethos that students should learn each correctly before they move on to the next. Correct distance, timing, posture, foot placement, size and angle of cut, hasuji and zanshin are prescribed for each waza at each learning stage. Little or no room is allowed for self expression or personalisation. In essence the way we do each kendo technique is set in stone.
It stands to reason then that if we study and practice kendo diligently and correctly, we should each perform every waza in exactly the same way as every other kendoka. So much for logic!
My post before last covered learning styles, and as often happens the comments I received took on a life of their own and moved on to discuss the best way to approach kaeshi dou. Ken Kuramoto sent a great link to a video of Baba sensei’s version of the technique which was excellent. He executes the technique very quickly, barely raising his shinai from chudan and striking dou with great force.
Having said that, I have looked at the kaeshi dou of other hachidan sensei, particularly the well known Hanshi and most do excellent kaeshi dou, and almost all are different. Chiba sensei makes a more obvious block and hits with flatter hasuji. Ohta sensei lifts the left elbow more and tends to complete his zanshin on the same side as the technique, and I could continue to point out the differences that many other kendo meijin demonstrate with this technique. Which is correct; in my humble opinion all of them. Who you eventually copy is a matter of which teacher you have most exposure to; or if you are lucky enough to have the choice, which approach best suits you.
I stress eventually, because for most kendo students, struggling with the complexity of blocking at the right time, at the right distance and returning the strike to the correct target with the appropriate hasuji, does not really allow you to explore the subtlety of which sensei’s approach is the most effective. So if you are in the early stages of learning kaeshi dou, or any other technique, the only option is to follow your teacher’s instruction and continue to repeat the technique until it starts to work. I personally like the idea of breaking waza down into component parts; In this case block – then return striking dou,- then repeat with correct zanshin. That is my view, but I repeat, you should do whatever your own instructor guides you to do. This is the “shu” stage of shu-ha-ri
As for picking up on and adopting any of the subtle differences that different kendo masters bring to kaeshi-dou or any other technique, that is “ha”. Finally we can start to innovate and stamp our own personality on our favoured waza (ri). But for most of us that is a long way in the future.