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Archive for the ‘Kendo reigi’ Category

old-tsukiLast week’s post prompted some interesting questions. Tsuki as a technique is as important as men, kote and dou. As with attacks to all of these targets ippon is generated by a sharp, accurate on-off strike. Debana tsuki like debana men is made just as the opponent starts an attack. You should strike just as he starts to lift his hands, so it is up to you to step-in and hit the men dare.

Mukaetsuki is a tsuki that meets your opponent’s forward movement as he steps in to attack. Not only are you holding him off with the shinai’s point, you are increasing the force with which you receive him by pushing your hands forward at the same time. This is not only bad behaviour, it is dangerous as the shinai can cause damage if it slips under pressure and goes under the tsuki dare.

Daniel made reference to some kodansha hitting the target and releasing the tension in this situation. He also mentioned holding the shinai against the attacker’s dou mune.  To make sense of this, it is essential to realise that practice between juniors and seniors is different to that between peers. This hikitatgeiko is similar to jigeiko or gokakugeiko, but the senior takes the lead in encouraging good strikes and in using his own technique to pre-empt or block bad ones. This holding (but cushioning) kamae against a forward moving kenshi is normally done to teach the student about distance and timing.

As for walking away after striking, kodansha develop bad-habits like everyone else, although this could be an initiative by sensei to move you back to the right spot for keiko and to avoid leaving you in a space where you might bump into other players. Senior level zanshin may well be on the spot and not involve excess movement, but the strength of the attack and kiai and manifestation of kigamae would make it very clear that sensei had made a successful yuko datotsu.

Sumi sensei’s show of dropping into sonkyo after kaeshi  dou is as suggested a humorous way to emphasise a point. I have seen him do this too. He is not alone in concluding keiko in this way. Arima sensei of Osaka police was well known for taking kote or tsuki and immediately squatting, but he amplified the effect with his distinctive high pitched kiai as he wrapped things up by calling out something along the lines of “otsuki, otsuki, sainara (sayonara with a Kansai accent).

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Chiba JodanThank you Martin for giving me two topics to write about this week.  When I started this blog quite a few years ago, I was warned that a blog written by a seventh dan was doomed to failure because kendo’s respect system would kill debate. This has not been the case and Kendoinfo has received close to 2000 comments. Quite a few of these have been challenging, but nearly all  were good natured.

I don’t usually respond to comments, but commenting on the “stupidity” of someone’s view is not in line with kendo etiquette. It is also worth bearing in mind that the topic is kendo, not tameshigiri. I also can’t see how you made the assumptions that I advocate taking your eyes off or turning away from your opponent. The whole theme of my post was that zanshin is vital to kendo, and awareness of your opponent is the essence of zanshin.

Keeping these points out of the equation, our key disagreement is over the correct zanshin for hiki waza. You have suggested that keeping your shinai raised is both “furikaburi” and jodan.  Furikaburi means to swing up, not keep up, and jodan requires a great deal of hand foot coordination that goes beyond pointing your shinai skywards.  I remember Chiba sensei’s advice to a casual jodan player who asked him how to do better jodan. The answer was “stick to chudan”.

“Hit men as you step back and return to chudan” is not my invention. As part of the research for “Kendo a Comprehensive Guide” we looked at the writings of numerous famous sensei and they all advocated chudan as the end position for hiki-men. Looking at the available English language references, in both Ozawa sensei’s definitive guide and the AJKF’s Fundamental Kendo, the instruction is hit men and return to chudan. The AJKF’s “Official Guide for Kendo Instruction” takes things a step farther and cautions against hikiage as “an unacceptable action following a strike, such as exaggerated posturing after scoring a point in a match. This can result in the point being rescinded by the shinpan.”

I have always made a point of approving all comments to this blog and I thank you for contributing and look forward to hearing from you again. Please though, let’s keep within the spirit of kendo’s reigi.

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International reigi

 

Kyoto asageiko

Kyoto asageiko

My “Kendo Ritual” post prompted some enlightening contributions from a number of people. Hakan’s last comment was particularly thought provoking.

I wrote the original post from the perspective of someone who‘s formative kendo years were spent in the Japan of the 70’s when many of my teachers brought pre-war values to the dojo. Even then zokin-gake was not a fixed part of adult kendo practice, but was a daily ritual for many high-school and university and kendo clubs. There were however a number of duties that seem strange to some of my western kendo friends that I viewed as an earned privilege.

Being asked to take care of a very senior teacher’s sensei’s bogu, washing his back in the communal dojo bath, even being one of the select few who were invited to bow to his departing car or taxi, were signs that you were accepted as a student and not the non-person who had spent months or years waiting to gain acceptance.  In those days, even with an influential introduction, most new members had to prove themselves before becoming part of the group.

Thanks to the efforts of FIK in internationalising kendo and the fact that many senior Japanese instructors teach seminars around the globe, kendo in Japan now seems to be far more accessible to foreigners. Nevertheless the format of reiho is still uniquely Japanese. The importance of correct reigi is underlined by the AJKF in the syllabus for the Kyoshi examination and there is an emphasis on imparting kendo’s values as well as its techniques both at home and abroad.

I have had numerous discussions with friends who think that my attitude to dojo etiquette verges on fundamentalist. They believe that a more localised approach would give greater encouragement to new students. I can see the value of both points of view but I am obviously a product of my own experiences.

I am perhaps softening with age. At Mumeishi dojo where my co-instructor is Japanese, my bogu is invariably impeccably tied and whisked away to the changing rooms at the end of each practice. In Shion dojo in Spain where I teach from time to time, I take care of my own kit, but very often the keiko ends with a round of applause and a hug. Both scenarios are very different, but each serves the same end in demonstrating mutual respect. Put it this way, I always come home from kendo in a good mood. Perhaps that’s a reflection on being part of a vertical society.

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Following on from my last post, it’s worth looking at what we should and should not do when visiting other dojo. The best option is to go with a regular member who can explain the system and tell you who’s who. If you do visit alone, then here are a few tips on how not to make the wrong impression. The key however is to watch what others do and to follow their example.

Start by getting there on time or slightly early. Bow correctly when you enter and if you can introduce yourself to the shihan or dojo leader and ask if you may practice. The instructor will usually ask your grade and help direct you to the right place in the line. If you are left to your own devices sit in the lowest position.  Being asked to move up is flattering; being asked to move down is less impressive. Pay particular attention to the “gorei” commands at the beginning and end of the session. If everyone bows to showmen make sure you are facing the right direction.

If the dojo practices motodachi- geiko, then queue for the most senior person and work your way down the line. It goes without saying that in any kendo practice you should give it your all. This is particularly true if you are training in a new environment. In jigeiko, unless you know for sure that you are the senior grade, always defer to your opponent over who takes the kamiza position. Most people will put up a show of resistance and go through a “no please, after you” discussion. Politely refuse and make sure that you stay on the lower side. I have been in situations where I have had to physically push my opponent across the dojo. During keiko if you are given advice, acknowledge the it with a quick yes or “thank you”. Do not ask questions or get into a discussion.

After practise, quickly cross the dojo to thank all the instructors that you have trained with, starting with the most senior and working your way down the line. Then repeat the process with opponents on the shimoza side. If advice is offered, accept it gratefully, but again, do not ask for a critique or make excuses. If you can, take some tenugui from your dojo and present them, ideally with a business card, to the senior dojo members.

Pay attention to the after practice showering or bathing routine, in some dojo it is the custom for sensei to go first, always defer to seniors. Finally if you are invited to go for a drink after practice, say yes; you have probably made some great new kendo friends.

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