Back in the days when I started kendo, heavy emphasis was placed on the “shibori action” on completion of each cut. If you don’t know, shiboru is the verb meaning to wring out a cloth or napkin. When you visit a Japanese restaurant or coffee shop you are greeted with an oshibori; a hot or cold, depending on season, damp cloth to wipe your hands and face.
In kendo, shibori is the action of turning both hands out in a wringing action on the point of cutting as part of tenouchi. Interestingly I have not seen shibori taught or demonstrated by any of the leading Japanese kendo teachers for many years. In fact the only mentions that I have heard of shibori have been disparaging.
Some time ago I witnessed a kata demonstration where one of the participants squeezed so hard that the tsuka of the kata sword disintegrated and the blade disappeared in the direction of the audience, fortunately without collateral damage. This could on many levels be described as overkill.
Clearly shibori is out of fashion in modern kendo. My guess as to why, is not that the concept is fundamentally wrong; or that the fault lies with those who originally taught this method, but it is more likely that at some stage, someone saw an exaggerated demonstration and passed it on as the “the way to do it”. As I understand it, shibori should be made by slightly turning out both hands at the point of tenouchi. Where it appears to have gone wrong, is that many people over emphasised the movement, almost turning the palms of the hands from facing up to facing directly down. This stops the forward motion of the shinai on or before it reaches the target.
Chiba sensei teaches us to cut through the men to the level of the opponent’s chin and to gently squeeze with the little and ring fingers at this point. In so doing we continue the cut with the flexibility to hit the men cleanly on top of the datotsu bui rather than choke the shinai’s movement and strike the mengane.
In my own, somewhat surreal imagination I equate the shibori action as that of someone trying to choke a chicken. This may well have a place in the preparation of Kagoshima’s favourite breakfast food, but it is not a necessary part of modern kendo. Then again my view of shibori is based on the information I received rather than the probably more subtle instruction that was originally passed on by the sensei who deemed this an integral part of every technique.