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Article 12

 

RulesI got home last night from the weekend’s European Referees’ Seminar in Brussels and we were discussing what we had learned from the ZNKR instructors during the car journey home. My kendo colleague John O’Sullivan suggested that I use my blog to reiterate the summary that the seminar’s leader, Iwadate Saburo sensei made on what is and what is not yuko datotsu, or ippon.

I made the point that I have written similar posts on numerous occasions and John’s reply was that the information needs to be constantly repeated because there is still a great deal of uncertainty from referees and competitors alike as to what constitutes a successful strike.

During his summary sensei referred several times to article 12 of the ZNKR’s “Regulations of Kendo Shiai”, the section that defines yuko datotsu. I won’t repeat or paraphrase this here as every kenshi should read it themselves, instead let me try to summarise Iwadate sensei’s instruction while it is still fresh in my mind.

Dou – Hasuji should be correct. It is not ippon if the point of the shinai slips down after hitting. You must have both hands on the tsuka of the shinai at the time of striking and of course the monouchi of the shinai must hit the correct target on the side, not the front of the dou.

Men – You must hit the men buton, the top of the men, with the mono-uchi. There is a tendency, particularly with hiki-men to make too shallow a cut, striking the mengane. It is also important that the zanshin for men has the shinai at the level where the strike finished. It should not be raised in the air in celebration.

Kote – You can’t score kote if you move across in front of your opponent to hit it. If you do this your posture crumbles and the point is not valid. Instead you should attack kote in a straight line and you should finish with the toes of your right foot in line with the toes of your opponent’s right foot. (Sensei made a general point at this stage about the importance of good posture to yuko datotsu.)

Nothing was said about tsuki.

In his closing remarks Iwadate sensei stressed that the only way to develop refereeing skills is to practise, not just as a referee, but to do lots of keiko. If you can’t do it yourself then it is impossible to judge the actions of others.

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IMG_0036I returned last night from the French Open Championship in Paris where I was acting as a referee. This is a very big and popular taikai with Individual and team matches held over two days.  As well as competitors from all over France I saw players from Sweden, Italy, the UK and from Japan

Events like this are great opportunities to catch up with old friends, and in Paris there is the added bonus of good food and wine to finish each day.

From a referee’s perspective,   it is interesting to work in different environments with referees from other countries. Although of course, wherever you are, the basics of judging yuko-datotsu do not change.

Referees on my court were from France, Belgium, Japan and the UK. Over the two days we raised our flags for hundreds of men and kote and quite a few tsuki ari. We also saw numerous attempts at dou for which we gave only one ippon. Talking this over with my colleagues, the reasons for not awarding a point to most dou attacks, is that they do not have correct hasuji, or they hit with the wrong part of the shinai.

As with men and kote, it is essential that the datotsu bu of the shinai strikes the correct part of the target. That is to say the top third of the jinbu should hit the right side of the dou with the bottom take making contact. Most of the unsuccessful attempts we saw were “hira uchi”, where the side of the shinai hits the dou. There were also a number of occasions where the front of the dou became the target. Normally this is not intentional, but happens because the cut is made as the opponent is coming forward and there is not sufficient distance between you.

My pet theory as to why so few dou succeed is that most people view kaeshi dou or nuki dou as a reactive technique. If your opponent has already launched his attack and you attempt dou, you will be too close to complete the technique successfully. If on the other hand you force him to attack men and then hit dou just as he starts his attack, you should be able to hit the correct part of the dou with the right part of the shinai.

It helps to think about punching forward with your right hand while directly in front of your opponent and in turning your right wrist in so that the bottom take connects. Then you can move elegantly past your opponent and watch all three flags go up.

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Many people, who can confidently hit men and kote, continue to have difficulty with dou. This is not surprising, as whilst men and kote are obvious targets that only require you to raise and lower the shinai in a straight line; dou is harder to see and hit.

There is some confusion over what part of the dou constitutes the target. Chiba sensei expresses the view,  that the whole of the dou plate is a valid striking area. Where the confusion starts is that ippon is rarely given when the front of the dou is hit. The reason however, is not that it is not a correct target, but because posture or hasuji is usually incorrect when contact is made.

Having recently been shown dou by both Chiba sensei and Sumi sensei, I was relieved to see that even though their kendo styles and approach to teaching are very different; the key point on dou-uchi made by them both, is absolutely consistent.  “Your right hand must be pushed forward so that it is directly in front of you at the point of impact”. This is regardless of which timing and opportunity the attack takes and the direction of your footwork.

If we look at the chances to strike dou, we can occasionally make a successful shikake dou attack, this could be as a debana or hikibana technique when your opponent starts to lift his arms to hit men , or as a hikiwaza if he pushes his hands up to counter your downward pressure in tsubazeriai.

Dou however, is more likely to be successful as an oji waza; either as nuki or kaeshi dou against a men attack. With nuki-dou, you move your body diagonally to the right to avoid your opponent’s strike whilst at the same time hitting his dou. In this case it is crucial to push your right hand straight forward as you hit, even though your body is moving away from the centre. If you do not do this, you will have to drop your hands and shoulders as you cut across the front of the dou.  This will make you lean over to the side and force you to cut down diagonally with bent arms, achieving no power behind the cut.

For kaeshi dou against men, you need to block and return the attack in “the timing of one”, whist directly in front of the target. Only after making the strike should you start to move through to your right. One of the points that Sumi sensei makes, is that it is also perfectly acceptable to move through to your left (opponents right), to take zanshin for kaeshi dou.

Chiba sensei’s unique spin on dou-uchi is that the path of your cut should be parallel with the floor, so that you strike with the bottom take of the shinai.

Whether your preference is for kaeshi or nuki dou, if you move through to the right, you need to either release your left hand or slide it up the tsuka as you move through. You should also keep your eyes on your opponent until you have finished the attack.

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