Posts Tagged ‘hiki waza’

HikimenHaving spent the past two weeks discussing the correct forms of zanshin for hiki waza, Olga reminded me that we have not looked at hiki waza as a technique.  Rather than start from scratch I have borrowed an excerpt from my book “Kendo a comprehensive guide. I have included Katsuya Masagaki’s excellent illustration for hiki men, which explains the technique far better than words alone. This is just one of a number of illustrations around the subject, which would make it worth looking at the book itself:-

Hiki waza fall into the category of shikake waza but are almost a class of technique on their own. Hiki waza are techniques made going backward from tsubazeriai. Men dou and kote can be done in this way. Only tsuki is not a viable hiki technique 🙂

To get to tsubazeriai in the first place we normally push into close distance with our opponent using taiatari, so it is probably worth briefly describing how this should be done:

If after making a forward attack, your opponent is still directly in front of you pull your shinai towards your body and push forward using your hips. 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 your 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

In tsubazeriai the omote side of the jinbu of the shinai should be crossed at the point above the tsuba. The shinai should not directly touch your opponent. Any variation to the above is classed as a tsubazeriai infringement and would earn a hansoku in shiai.

Hiki men

From tsubazeriai push your partner’s hands upwards. As he responds by pushing down he exposes his men. Lean back slightly and step back with your left foot, making sure that you create sufficient distance to strike the men with the datotsu bu of your shinai. As you strike men you should pull your right foot back, making fumikomi.  Zanshin should take the form of you continuing to move back to safe distance, keeping your shinai in chudan position.

Hiki gote

This time push your opponent’s hands to your left so that he pushes back to your right, opening his kote for attack. Moving in the same way as for hiki men, step back and strike kote. Remember that as his kote moves forward into kamae it is closer than men, so you will need to create sufficient distance.   2.28

Hiki dou

Again the process is the same. This time push his hands down and hit dou as he forces them up against your pressure.


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Chiba JodanThank you Martin for giving me two topics to write about this week.  When I started this blog quite a few years ago, I was warned that a blog written by a seventh dan was doomed to failure because kendo’s respect system would kill debate. This has not been the case and Kendoinfo has received close to 2000 comments. Quite a few of these have been challenging, but nearly all  were good natured.

I don’t usually respond to comments, but commenting on the “stupidity” of someone’s view is not in line with kendo etiquette. It is also worth bearing in mind that the topic is kendo, not tameshigiri. I also can’t see how you made the assumptions that I advocate taking your eyes off or turning away from your opponent. The whole theme of my post was that zanshin is vital to kendo, and awareness of your opponent is the essence of zanshin.

Keeping these points out of the equation, our key disagreement is over the correct zanshin for hiki waza. You have suggested that keeping your shinai raised is both “furikaburi” and jodan.  Furikaburi means to swing up, not keep up, and jodan requires a great deal of hand foot coordination that goes beyond pointing your shinai skywards.  I remember Chiba sensei’s advice to a casual jodan player who asked him how to do better jodan. The answer was “stick to chudan”.

“Hit men as you step back and return to chudan” is not my invention. As part of the research for “Kendo a Comprehensive Guide” we looked at the writings of numerous famous sensei and they all advocated chudan as the end position for hiki-men. Looking at the available English language references, in both Ozawa sensei’s definitive guide and the AJKF’s Fundamental Kendo, the instruction is hit men and return to chudan. The AJKF’s “Official Guide for Kendo Instruction” takes things a step farther and cautions against hikiage as “an unacceptable action following a strike, such as exaggerated posturing after scoring a point in a match. This can result in the point being rescinded by the shinpan.”

I have always made a point of approving all comments to this blog and I thank you for contributing and look forward to hearing from you again. Please though, let’s keep within the spirit of kendo’s reigi.

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Kote Uchi ZanshinEvery kendo technique ends with zanshin. It is that piece at the end of an attack where we move clear of our opponent to regain the initiative to attack again if the first attempt was not successful. In the old days of mortal combat it would be a matter of moving yourself to a safe position to check that either the job was successful or that you still needed to finish your opponent off.

Zanshin is still an integral part of scoring in kendo. The instructions for making or judging a successful yuko- datotsu always end with “followed by zanshin”. The concept is quite simple – you hit the target, take three or four steps past your opponent and turn forwards as you assume kamae and the readiness to strike again if necessary. This is by and large the formula.

There are of course exceptions. If your zanshin follows a technique where you move to a diagonal position with your opponent, it may be sufficient to stay on the spot, regain your kamae and simply look confident. I regularly see people try to adopt the 3 steps though approach at the cost of compromising their posture.

There is a common tendency for new kendo students to attack, raise the shinai, move past their opponent and then retake chudan whilst stepping backwards. This is incorrect. You should always turn forwards into chudan, in doing so both protecting yourself and regaining the initiative. As you go through the shinai should remain in the same position as your cut, so for instance at men height. It should not be raised in celebration or the outcome could be tori-keshi.

Even folk who make correct zanshin on forward technique fall into the habit of raising the shinai as they step back from hiki-waza. In my view this is dangerous. If the hiki waza didn’t work and your opponent is quicker than you, you are a sitting duck for a tsuki attack

The attitude of good zanshin should be one of kigurai and not boastfulness. You make your initial attack with 100 per cent commitment. Survey the results from a safe distance whilst retaining your physical and mental readiness to attack again if it is needed. It is definitely not the opportunity for celebration or show-boating.

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Tai-atari image from Kendo, a Comprehensive Guide

To mix a number of metaphors – The road to kendo satori is paved with conflicting advice. We have to choose, or more likely we are told, either to put our tenugui inside or outside our men before or after practice, to make our suburi bigger or smaller and to use or not use tai-atari as part of kirikaeshi.

The kirikaeshi question is an interesting one. For such a standardised, widely practised exercise, there is considerable variation between the ways it is taught in different dojo. Distance, speed and timing tend to vary, there are two schools of thought as to where the break in continuous breathing should be, but the key point of contention is whether or not to make tai-atari after the shomen strike, before starting on the yoko-men sequence.

If you are kendo student the chances are that you will have no say in how you do the drill. The way you go about it will be dictated by your instructor’s preference; having said that, a thoughtful instructor will take your experience and skill level into account.

Tai-atari in kirikaeshi replicates the situation in keiko or shiai when the opponent remains in front of you after your first attack. You need to move into tsubazeriai and push him backward and attack again either with a hikibana or hikiwaza technique. So it’s a useful thing to practice. On the other hand unless your posture is developed to a level where you can constantly keep your hips and centre engaged while relaxing your shoulders, making tai-atari immediately after a men attack causes you to lean forward and use your shoulders. This makes you unstable and therefore unable to move quickly to the next technique.

What I am trying to say in a rather long-winded way, is that if you can do tai-atari correctly, then do it. This means that your posture should be completely upright but when you make contact with your opponents’ hands you should lower your hips and push down lightly, not relying on upper body strength.

If on the other hand this is new to you, then the best way forward is not to push, but to remain in the position in which you hit men as your partner steps back into the correct distance for you to start the yoko-men sequence. In some dojo this is practised with an emphasis on motodachi creating as much distance as possible – to encourage kakarite to stretch to reach the target.

My personal view is that this no-touch approach will serve most people well up to 3rd dan level, but again, your instructor should know best.

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Gyaku dou

Helton asked for my thoughts on why it is so hard to score ippon from hiki dou. Wearing my referees hat (or blazer), I would say that of course every case is different, but more often than not it is because few hiki dou have sufficient sae or snap to justify ippon. If that is not the case, then it is because hasuji (angle of the blade), is incorrect.

When you make a hiki men, you do so in a straight line, stepping back to give yourself enough distance to strike with the datotsu bu of the shinai. You also strike in an up/down motion so it is quite simple to generate the momentum to make a strong, sharp cut. With hiki dou you need to ensure that the target is open, lift your hands up to strike, then adjust the hasuji and hit the dou with the correct part of the shinai whilst making one quick step back. In my view it is not easy for many people to do this, hence the poor ratio of successful attacks to attempts.

Dou in any direction is a difficult target. Most shikake or oji dou are unsuccessful because the attacker hits the dou whilst moving across in front of their opponent so that the strike is made with bent arms and is therefore weak. As we have discussed before, a good dou strike should be made directly in front of your opponent, with your right hand pushed forward. If you think about this applied to hiki dou, you have not only to be clear of your opponent from tsubazeriai, but you must give yourself enough room to punch forward with your right hand as you make the attack. So you need to generate significant propulsion from a standing start to do this in one step.

Gyaku dou is even more frequently doomed to failure. Whilst not classed as a hiki technique, the strike is usually made as you step back. With this waza referees are looking for a more powerful cut. The reason behind this is that samurai originally wore daisho (two swords) in their belt and that when the long sword was drawn; the kodachi usually remained in their belt. That meant that a cut to the left dou needed to be strong enough to cut through the hilt before it reached the target.

The only tip I can offer on hiki dou is to start in tsubazeriai by pushing your opponents hands down. He is likely to react by pushing his hands up in a reflex action, exposing the target. You should step back as far as you can starting with your left foot, keeping in a straight line and strike dou as hard as you can by pushing the hands forward, turning your right wrist so that your palm is parallel with the floor. Take another step back after hitting, keeping your shinai tip pointed at your opponents nodo to complete your zanshin.

The last step is to hope that at least two of the three shinpan like dou.

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