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Posts Tagged ‘Kendo Floors’

Most of the comments on my last post dealt with the subject of making good fumikomi. Andrea is not unusual in having problems with this and everyone who came back with suggestions added a lot of value to the debate. I touched on fumikomi in previous articles and talked more generally about footwork in http://wp.me/ptBQt-gZ  but I think that it is worth exploring this a little further.

Andrea’s sensei’s point that a cut without audible fumikomi is not ippon, I imagine, was made to emphasise the importance of ki-ken-tai-ichi. Technically you can score ippon without fumikomi by sliding your right foot into place with as you strike; you can also successfully make a strike from chudan when you pull your left foot up into position. Footwork is the device you use to ensure that your body is in the right distance and posture to strike correctly, after all it is ki-ken-tai-ichi or mind, sword and body as one; not mind, sword and foot as one. Still it is true that a loud slapping sound made on the point of cutting is satisfying and it certainly helps confirm to shinpan that all the necessary elements are there.

David’s comment about the quality of dojo floor was insightful. Training in custom built kendojo in Japan is kinder to the feet than some of the hardwood and composition floors we have to make-do with in other countries. I see more Japanese visitors wearing heel pads than I do locals, who are used to slamming their feet down on un-sprung oak over concrete.

I also liked Ken’s suggestion about training with a slipper or flip-flop. I confess that I got a bit fixated on this and went on to extemporise about the possibility of borrowing from the sub-aqua club and trying it with flippers. Taking my over-vivid imagination out of the equation, it clearly pays to practice how to make correct fumikomi.

Like Andrea, I also have a very high instep, but do not find that it affect s my footwork if  I do things correctly. My favourite tip comes from Chiba sensei. This was taught as part of the drill to strengthen seme, but has a highly beneficial effect on fumikomi. Starting from long distance you step into issoku ito maai and then whilst holding your opponent in a state of tame, you slightly bend your right knee. Your opponent suspecting that you are about to launch an attack will start an attack of his or her own, giving you the opportunity to make debana men.

The side effect of bending your right knee is that the sole of your foot is now parallel with the floor and if your weight is focussed on your left foot, you simply push off from the left and throw your right foot forward, (do not lift your right knee up). As your right foot remains parallel throughout the movement, you make contact with the floor with the maximum amount of foot area and even if your heel hits, it should not hurt as you create a cushion of air between foot and floor. It is the expulsion of this air that makes the slapping sound that should wake up the doziest of referees.

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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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