Archive for the ‘NiTo’ Category

I was happily browsing through the new Official Guide for Kendo Instruction; nodding sagely at the explanations of things I knew, when I reached the section on yuko datotsu. Having refereed internationally on many occasions and attended all the regional referee training courses, I like to think that I have a fairly clear idea of what constitutes ippon. My confidence started to waiver a little when I read the description of yuko datotsu for nito, particularly the explanation of ippon for the shoto.

Forgive me if I do not give the exact quote, as I am travelling without the book at the moment, but to score with the shoto the daito must be holding down the opponent’s shinai whilst the arm holding the daito (the long one) is fully extended. Now just to clarify this point, it means that the opponent’s shinai is being suppressed at a distance equating to the length of the arm plus a 38 shinai when you strike with the shoto (the little one). Now I am very far from being a nito expert. I have never tried it and have no intention to do so, but if I am not missing something, the rule makes it impossible to score with the shoto unless the player has a two metre arm or a telescopic kodachi.

I wrote about nito before http://wp.me/stBQt-nito and mentioned that I have never seen ippon given to a kodachi strike. I have also heard a variety of explanations from referee instructors and shinpancho about the difficulty of making yuko datotsu with the kodachi, because nito is “different from mainstream kendo”, but this makes it patently clear that the shoto is not meant for scoring with.

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13 WKC
The current level of interest in Nito is probably higher than it has been  in the past 5 decades. This, I assume, is because of the success enjoyed by Nito players in the USA and Canadian teams in the last World Championships.
Many kendoka who have not yet mastered Ito kihon are keen to move up to two swords and a quick look at You Tube shows a disproportionate level of interest in what is a clearly minority aspect of Kendo.
Nito is in effect born again. After the post war reintroduction of Kendo, Nito was excluded from high school and university competition in Japan and therefore went into decline. A number of pre-war exponents picked up where they left off and I personally had the privilege of practicing with the late Kasahara sensei of Tokyo, Arai sensei of  Itami Airport dojo and Yamamoto sensei of Nishinomiya in Hyogo.

Yamamoto sensei was particularly helpful to me in my early days in Japan. As a fluent English speaker, a former Fulbright, Harvard Scholar and a fellow student of Matsumoto Toshio sensei, he took enormous pains to help me understand the historical and philosophical aspects of Kendo. He was a pre-war member of the Tokyo University Kendo bu and  a strong campaigner for the reintroduction of Nito. He asked for my support which I gladly gave in publishing some articles in English to help his cause.
Let me make it clear. I have never tried to practice Nito, but as you may have gathered, I have great respect for some of the older generation who did it well.
The theory with Nito is that the seme is applied with the kodachi and the strike is made with the long sword. I was told at the recent European referees seminar that ippon is never given to strikes made with the kodachi as  Nito is a “special”  form of Kendo. Reading between the lines, this means that it has been included against a great deal of debate and that there have been some necessary trade-offs to warrant its reintroduction.
As I mentioned, I have been privileged to practice with some of the pre-war greats and as in all encounters with great kendo sensei, I was overwhelmed by the strength of their seme. The kodachi was not used to physically trap the opponent’s shinai but to manifest kizeme to destroy the opponents composure.
Of course their are some strong Nito players at the moment. Toda sensei comes to mind immediately. Okamoto-san (I forget his personal name) from Osaka, was an outstanding  young Nito player, I hope that he has continued in his path. On the other hand, there are people practicing Nito in a way that I believe, is diminishing kendo.
Incorrect tsubazeriai, using physical force to close in and trap the opponent, overly close maai etc. have all recently been used extensively by Nito players in shiai. This may afford an easy win, but does nothing to build on the achievements of the great Nito players that went before.

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