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Posts Tagged ‘harai-kote’

Kote is a great target. It is closer than men and does not require the attention to hasuji and tai sabaki required to make a successful dou attack. The only cloud on the horizon with kote is that if your opponent is in correct chudan kamae it is impossible to hit.

Of course kote-uchi is perfectly achievable as a kihon drill. So, for reasons I will go into later, it’s worth ignoring my initial pessimism and practising this on a regular basis.

As we said, kote is closer than men, so you should start in ai-chudan with the kisaki (point) of your shinai level with that of your opponent. At this stage your shinai should be on the omote side of your partner’s. As you step in you should ensure that your left foot is in place with your heel off the ground. To strike you should push off from your left foot and push forward with your left hand to raise the point of the shinai just above the height of motodachi’s shinai. You should strike square on to the target, so as you step forward, you should angle your right foot over to your left so that your toes line up with the toes of his right foot, rather than the left foot as for a men attack.

Now for the disconnect with reality – motodachi has to open the target to allow you to strike. You in turn should strike the kote sharply in a forward motion. You should not cut down beyond the thickness of his wrist. Be careful with zanshin; your opponent’s body is very close, so you need to ensure that your shinai point does not cause injury. At the same time we do not want to compromise our position by pulling the shinai back. Instead we should move forward into a safe tsubazeriai.

So that’s how to attack kote. The challenge now is to turn it into an effective technique in jigeiko or shiai. The most obvious opportunity is degote – using your opponent’s forward motion as he starts to attack your men. You should encourage his movement by slightly lifting the point of your shinai towards his left eye and then hit kote just as he starts to raise his shinai.

Another option is harai gote. We hit his shinai towards the tsuba end and knock it to the right, opening the kote target. Harai is difficult against a strong chudan kamae, but much easier if done as your partner moves forward or backward. The harai and kote strike should be accomplished in one step.

So, great technique, but as always in kendo, timing and opportunity have to be correct.

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After many years of ignoring harai waza, I am slowly warming towards harai-gote.

 I have never found harai techniques to be particularly effective. My main experience with both harai men and harai-gote has been to practise them in drill form; and no matter how helpful motodachi tries to be, he knows what is going to happen. Typically he responds with a soft grip that allows his shinai to return quickly to the centre.

Even when I have been successful in this situation, I have felt that it was more the result of motodachi’s kindness than the effectiveness of the harai strike. I faithfully tried to hit the shinai upwards if he has a high kamae or downwards if the kamae is low, but neither of these has given me the breakthrough to make me a dedicated harai convert. Conventional kendo wisdom tells us that harai is likely to be more effective if your opponent is moving forward. This is true, but I still find the outcome to be hit or miss and prefer to try for debana men.

The one opportunity  that does seem to work for me is to attack harai-gote as my partner is retreating, either because I am making a strong forward seme, or because I have just failed in another forward attack. Under the circumstances, he is often on his back foot and does not have complete control of the shinai. In this situation, harai-gote is easier to apply than men, as even though I am already in close distance, I am able to strike the shinai at the tsuba end of the jinbu, which has maximum effect in moving the point from centre. Also harai to the ura (kote side) of the shinai has more effect as you are knocking the shinai out of the grip of your opponents right hand; (you are hitting in the direction of his open fingers from the back of his hand). With a harai strike to omote for men, you are pushing the shinai further into his right hand.

So harai-gote has now been added to the keiko tool kit. Harai-men unfortunately looks like it will be a work in progress for another few years

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