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Posts Tagged ‘Fumikomi’

Floors

Old Noma Dojo

Old Noma Dojo

We had a disappointing day on Saturday. Having booked a venue for a taikai we were moved at the last minute to another venue because of a double booking. When we got there, we found that the floor was solid concrete with a thin vinyl coating which meant the shiai did not happen.

Clearly concrete is an unacceptable surface for kendo, but thinking about it I have practiced on a lot of surfaces that have not been much better!

Traditional Japanese dojo floors are of course ideal for kendo and no matter how old or dilapidated the building, the floor always seems to give the right amount of bounce to make fumikomi painless. In some cases dojo floors seem to improve with age, as witnessed by the example of the late Noma dojo. A number of similar facilities have been lost in recent years. The old Oji dojo in Kobe was replaced by a magnificent multi-purpose gymnasium and although kendoka no longer had to change outside or be at the mercy of the winter winds as they blew through the open walls, the original floor was sadly missed.

Certainly in the UK, we are limited to whatever floors we are able to rent at our local schools or sports centres. All of these are designed for sports played in trainers. At best, we have sprung basketball courts at worst solid hardwood or composite surfaces. These I am sure, account for the high incidence of foot and knee injuries suffered.

I never experienced problems of this kind in Japan but having returned to the UK, soon developed plantar fasciitis. After years of treatment I moved on to various other achilles and knee troubles. At times, I feel that I am personally supporting the rubber industry through my ongoing investment in knee and ankle supports.

Of course I could try to do kendo without full-on fumikomi, but until I reach 70, I will try to keep that option for the future.

Here’s a picture of the old Noma floor

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Kata on the beachI touched on the fact that Kendo footwork is very different from that of other martial arts in my last post. Thinking about it, the whole left foot / left hand idea is alien to most sports. I think this is one of the reasons why beginners find it so hard to learn Kendo.

Successful kendo attacks must have ki-ken-tai-ichi or spirit /energy, sword, and body (read hips and feet), working together and whilst this can be done with sliding footwork, most people rely on strong fumikomi, (stamping footwork) to make the point. Watching many students practice, I beleive that quite a few find this to be particularly difficult.

The most common errors are to lift the right foot too high, not to maintain a correct distance between the left and right foot, to keep one or both heels too far off the ground or even worse to keep the left heel on the ground.

Poor footwork used to be expected from westerners by some sensei, who rationalised about “tatami seikatsu” or the fact that Japanese kendoka had stronger legs based on a lifestyle of sitting and sleeping on tatami mats. This is now largely irrelevant, as most Japanese now sit on chairs and sleep on beds. My personal theory is that bad footwork stems from hard gym floors, incorrect training and instruction and also from low expectations.

If we concentrate on our footwork in training, it will of course get better. To practice we should ensure that when we move into distance, the left foot should immediately follow the right. The left heel should be about 15 degrees of the ground. There must be a slight bend in both knees, not too great in the left, otherwise we lose pressure from the left foot and of course the left foot drives us forward. Once you are in position, be careful not to move either foot until you start the attack and then just throw the right foot forward so that it lands on the ball of the foot as you hit the target. Simple!……..OK it needs a bit of practice.

On my trip to Norway, we tried practicing Kata on the beach, not good for footwork, but great fun! see above.

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