One of the regular members of our Thursday session is an aspiring jodan player. He started using jodan because of injury and has continued with it for a year or so and is getting obviously stronger using this difficult kamae.
The obvious challenge for kenshi who use anything other than the standard chudan kamae is finding correct instruction. When I am asked for advice I have to put my hands up and say that I know nothing about jodan. Obviously my friend is welcome to use me as a target and I enjoy testing my seme and timing against him, but I do not have the knowledge to teach what is almost another form of kendo.
The best suggestion I could make is that he learn from a jodan expert and if one is not available then find some written or video instruction. I have a copy of Chiba sensei’s Perfect Master book and DVD and although the instruction is mainly on chudan techniques, he devotes two short chapters to jodan. Now obviously as one of Japan’s most famous post-war jodan players, if anyone knows about jodan he should, so here are some key points from his book. I am sure that he will forgive my inaccuracy in paraphrasing.
- Kamae should be held at one fists distance from the left forehead with the shinai leaning back at a 45 degree angle.
- As kote, tsuki and dou are all open to your opponent, you should not take Jodan if you do not have the confidence to do so.
- When you strike, the motion is as much based on the action of pulling your right had back as of throwing your left hand forward. It should be done with almost the same feeling as doing “flys” chest exercises where you pull both arms and shoulders back.
- Your men strike should finish with your left hand at chest height. Higher and the grip position will be wrong.
- For kote it is impossible to hit if you are square in front of your opponent, as he will probably take hirasegan. You need to step to your diagonal left so that you are square on to his kote.
- You should make him think that you are going for men by pulling your right hand down towards your left hand as you make the step and then attack kote.
- If your opponent goes for tsuki, do not block by dropping your hands, as this will expose your men. Instead knock his shinai down as you strike his men.
- If he attacks kote then go for degashira (debana) men.
- Jodan has its own maai which is difficult to find. Too close or too far and it won’t work. You need to continually practice to get it right.
- To break your posture to avoid being hit is tasteless. You should face your opponent as if you are prepared to die.