As well as escaping a week of the British winter for the sunny south of Spain I had the pleasure of meeting Nagamatsu sensei from Hyogo Kendo Federation who was on the second stop of his teaching tour of Spain, which takes in Madrid, Malaga, Valencia and Santander. Nagamatsu sensei is a hachidan, former Hyogo police instructor who is now shihan of Kwansei Gakuin University.
I was able to take part in the first of his teaching sessions in Malaga which took place at Shion Dojo’s Estepona location. After an introduction where he talked about correct rei , sonkyo and posture, sensei spent much of the two hour session looking at everyone’s basics and made a number of very interesting observations after watching men suburi.
He stated that the weight of the cut should be in the shinai’s monouchi and that we should aim for maximum extension using the shoulders, elbows, wrists and tenouchi in that order. He also made the point that the feet and abdomen should play a key part in the striking process, using the analogy, ichi-gan, ni-soku, san-tan, shi-riki. (first sight, second feet, third abdomen, fourth power / waza).
Sensei was emphatic that the shinai should be raised to only at a 45 degree angle and not allowed to go back beyond that. I have heard this many times before and always try to give the same advice myself, but Nagamatsu sensei’s explanation of why was enlightening. His view was that 45 degrees is the natural extension angle of the shoulder joint and that if we reach back beyond this point then we have to change our grip.
By keeping to the 45 degree rule we are able to lift the shinai and strike in the timing of one (ichibyoshi). If we go beyond that point, we follow a timing of two, as the movement is broken as we rearrange the positions of our fingers on the tsuka.
We then had a jigeiko session where sensei took great trouble to work with people on their individual strengths and challenges. Some tired but happy kenshi then headed for some very welcome beer and tapas at a local bar. Unfortunately I only had the chance to attend one of the three sessions before my own travel schedule took me in a different direction, but for me it was a much appreciated learning experience and I am sure that my friends in Malaga will make some real progress on the back of Nagamatsu sensei’s teaching.