Archive for the ‘Taiatari’ Category

Tsubazeriai and beyond

Coincidental to my last post on tsubazeriai, I was asked some interesting questions stemming from an incident that happened at the Mumeishi 3’s Championship last weekend.According to an eyewitness report, there had been a controversial shiai, where one kendoka, had through a succession of  taiatari shoves, put his opponent on the floor and then hit him across the back. I was asked for my view on the legality of such an attack and my view of the reaction of the referees. Now the Mumeishi taikai is quite popular with 3 courts and this year, 84 teams. My job was as shinpan shunin for Court A and this happened on Court C, so having seen nothing of the incident, a considered opinion was impossible. Still, thanks to the wonders of the internet and the digital camera, someone had captured the action and posted it on YouTube. 

Having held back for as long as possible, I trawled youtube and found the offending match. Surprisingly, I had no problem with the attack on the floor. It looked as if the attacker had aimed for men, and if the referees had not called yame, this was perfectly legal. What did attract my attention were several taiatari attempts where the culprit was pushing at chin height and it was the last of these that “decked” his opponent. In my view this is unforgiveable. Taiatari should be at waist height and if you happen to nudge the opponent out of the shiaijo then good for you, but pushing to the face to either disorientate or weaken your opponent is just not kendo.

I do not know what the referees decided as the the video showed them stopping for gogi. I did not see a hansoku given, but that may have been because of the video rather than the shiai outcome. Had I been shushin however, I would have penalised each of the pushes with hansoku.

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Going Straight!

taiatariOn Sunday after the Dublin Open we ran a kendo seminar. It took the form that most people would recognise, with lots of work on basics in the morning and moving on to more technical waza practice after lunch. I taught suriage men as part of a series of oji techniques. As you may have seen in previous posts , my view on suriage waza  is  simple – You create the opportunity, slide up the shinai and cut down in one movement and without moving back or to the side, go forward to your opponents centre as you finish the attack.

After spending some time practising this, Henrik, one of the senior Dublin members, asked the question, “what happens when you try this and you have 150kg of Noel bearing down on you”. Now to be fair to Noel, he does not really way 150kg, but he is significantly bigger than Henrik. Rather than just explain, I demonstrated how it would work against Noel. As expected, he came forward strongly for shikake men, but stopped when my technique hit. I was able to finish my attack going forward, without moving from the centre line.

The logic is simple.  As long as your distance is correct, you keep your point forward and stick to raising the shinai and hitting in one continuous movement, the strength of your attack will break your opponent’s forward motion. One other tip to bear in mind is that if your opponent is coming forward, you can use their movement, so you do not have to step in as deeply as for shikake waza.

So, problem solved, but then thinking about it after I realise that many people are reluctant to commit to aim for their opponents centre in a spirit of sutemi (sacrifice), whether they are initiating shikake or oji waza. This is particularly true for smaller people, who may fear injury from a collision with a bigger person.

 If this is a concern, I have two suggestions. Firstly, seme – If you truly break your opponents’ centre, they have nothing left to hit you with. Secondly learn correct taiatari. If you keep your weight down and your hands low, you should be able survive clashes with opponents of any size. I can’t guarantee that you will not be the one who bounces back, but you can do it with strong posture and balance, safely ready to make the next attack.

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I have been trying to illustrate my posts with photos, but I have had no luck in finding a half decent picture of taiatari done correctly. This perhaps illustrates my point that we do not do enough of it.

Certainly in Europe, there is a reluctance to teach taiatari, as many instructors believe that it destroys correct form. Very often kirikaeshi and kakarigeiko are taught with the explanation that hands should just touch lightly in chudan after shomen and that kakarite should then move on to the next waza. In some ways this leads to a vicious cycle, where people do not do taiatari because they cannot do it correctly and they cannot do it correctly because they do not practice.

Certainly bad taiatari is to be avoided, particularly when the action is to push from the upper body at shoulder height, catching motodachi in the chest, or worse, the face, but taiatari is an essential part of Kendo. You often need to make taiatari to set up hikiwaza and to benefit from jogai hansoku in shiai.

I have practiced with a number of senior sensei, who regularly teach butsukarigeiko. At one dojo in Kansai, they make it a regular part of any training session.

I believe the secret to successful taiatari is not to compromise your posture. After hitting, keep your arms and shoulders relaxed, drop your hands into correct tsubazeriai, keep you balance between your feet and slightly drop your hips forward. This should be enough either to move your opponent, or at least to put you in safe, close distance ready to make your next move.

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