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Posts Tagged ‘Kigamae’

old-tsukiLast week’s post prompted some interesting questions. Tsuki as a technique is as important as men, kote and dou. As with attacks to all of these targets ippon is generated by a sharp, accurate on-off strike. Debana tsuki like debana men is made just as the opponent starts an attack. You should strike just as he starts to lift his hands, so it is up to you to step-in and hit the men dare.

Mukaetsuki is a tsuki that meets your opponent’s forward movement as he steps in to attack. Not only are you holding him off with the shinai’s point, you are increasing the force with which you receive him by pushing your hands forward at the same time. This is not only bad behaviour, it is dangerous as the shinai can cause damage if it slips under pressure and goes under the tsuki dare.

Daniel made reference to some kodansha hitting the target and releasing the tension in this situation. He also mentioned holding the shinai against the attacker’s dou mune.  To make sense of this, it is essential to realise that practice between juniors and seniors is different to that between peers. This hikitatgeiko is similar to jigeiko or gokakugeiko, but the senior takes the lead in encouraging good strikes and in using his own technique to pre-empt or block bad ones. This holding (but cushioning) kamae against a forward moving kenshi is normally done to teach the student about distance and timing.

As for walking away after striking, kodansha develop bad-habits like everyone else, although this could be an initiative by sensei to move you back to the right spot for keiko and to avoid leaving you in a space where you might bump into other players. Senior level zanshin may well be on the spot and not involve excess movement, but the strength of the attack and kiai and manifestation of kigamae would make it very clear that sensei had made a successful yuko datotsu.

Sumi sensei’s show of dropping into sonkyo after kaeshi  dou is as suggested a humorous way to emphasise a point. I have seen him do this too. He is not alone in concluding keiko in this way. Arima sensei of Osaka police was well known for taking kote or tsuki and immediately squatting, but he amplified the effect with his distinctive high pitched kiai as he wrapped things up by calling out something along the lines of “otsuki, otsuki, sainara (sayonara with a Kansai accent).

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Samurai with scrollI am always grateful to the people who take the time and trouble to send in comments to this blog. I am also impressed by the level of knowledge and insight shown by these contributors from around the globe. No matter how esoteric the area of kendo covered there is always someone happy to share their insight.

This perhaps sounds slightly ungrateful and churlish, but sometimes I briefly wonder “are you talking from knowledge picked up from books and YouTube, or are you able to perform this technique or demonstrate this concept on a physical level?”

Kendo is different from many other martial arts in that we can continue to train for most of our lives and we can spend much of that time gaining a deeper knowledge of kendo techniques. Most people would agree that true knowledge is based on your own repeated practise so that a technique becomes second nature. At the same time you need to understand the purpose or “riai” of each technique on an intellectual or even philosophical level.

In my youth kendo instruction was  very much a “monkey see, monkey do” affair based on demonstration and repetition, only after you had trained for a considerable amount of time would  your teacher think about buying you a beer in your “second dojo” and explaining the rationale behind the aspects of kendo that you had been working on.

Now days with the proliferation of English language books, blogs and videos on the internet, we almost suffer from information overload. For some reason kendo tends to appeal to bright, educated, intellectually curious people. Many of these students are able to quickly understand the finer points of kendo without necessarily being able to perform them. Perfect examples are the concepts of kigamae  and kizeme. You can read about these endlessly, but only when you have developed your kendo posture, breathing and attacking spirit to the required level can you demonstrate them.

In kendo we talk about bunbu no ichi or bunbu ryodo, “pen and sword as one”. This was a maxim that urged the samurai to become cultured human beings by making the most of formal education as well as studying the arts of war. For the modern kenshi  who has 24/7 online access to the worlds knowledge, it is perhaps easier to search for the answers to questions on theory than it is to ingrain the physical elements of correct kendo. As ever this is nothing that can’t be corrected by a significant amount of kihon geiko

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DrillFollowing last week’s post, several people asked if I knew of any specific drills to help develop debana men. There are two that are worth trying. Which you use depends on your level of kendo experience. Both should be practised against a partner who acts as motodachi.

The first is for less experienced kendoka. You should start by taking chudan kamae and move into your own uchima striking distance. Motodachi then takes one hand of his shinai and pushes the palm of his kote against the tip of you shinai. You should ensure that your feet are in the correct position, paying particular attention to quickly drawing up your left foot. Make sure that your left heel is slightly raised off the ground and that there is a feeling of tension behind your left knee. You should have taken a breath before your step into distance and as we discussed last week, let half of it out as kakegoe. Keeping the remaining air in your abdomen and making sure that hands and arms relaxed, you should push against motodachi’s hand using the pressure of your hips and back. When motodachi decides that the time is right, he pulls his hand away. You should be able to strike instantly by pushing off from your back foot.

This exercise will help some people understand the feeling of pressure even if they are not quite ready to appreciate the force exuded by a strong opponent’s kigamae. For more experienced kenshi a similar drill can be used, but motodachi should not physically touch kakarite’s shinai. Instead kakarite observes the same precautions about breathing, posture and hikitsuke, but this time it is the force of motodachi’s kamae that holds them at bay. Motodachi makes the chance to strike, obviously breaking the tension by slightly raising the shinai and inclining his head forward. He should pay particular attention to vary the timing of each striking opportunity. If this is done correctly motodachi gets as much out of it as does kakarite, as he can experience the “feeling” of the opportunity as he makes and breaks “mind contact” with kakarite.

The third drill in this series is where motodachi picks the opportunity to strike men and commits to making the attack. Kakarite responds with debana men. I would not recommend this for anyone but the most experienced, as there is a tendency for motodachi to change the timing of the attack to beat kakarite’s strike. No-one does this intentionally, but our competitive inner selves have a tendency to take over.

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3_Shikakewaza_Men2I have written about seme and tame several times since I started this blog and I feel motivated to do so again. These are difficult concepts for many people to understand and it is even more difficult to translate them into physical action.

We have had numerous conversations about seme at my local dojo and before writing this I scanned some of the comments on the web relating to this subject. I came across a very interesting thread on Kendo World Forums that started with a post about making seme and waiting for the opponent to react and how this did not work against more experienced opponents. Obviously the poster is on the right track but perhaps the clue to why it’s not working is in the word “waiting”. The missing ingredient is “tame”. If you step into striking distance without maintaining the spirit to attack then it is more than likely that you will be the loser in the encounter.

Thinking through the whole process, you should take a big breath in and let half of the air out as kakegoe before stepping into your opponent’s space. Your attitude should be confident and aggressive with the aim of breaking his physical and mental defence (migamae and kigamae). Posture needs to be correct with your hips engaged and you should swiftly pull your left foot up as soon as you step forward with your right. The left heel should be slightly off the ground throughout and there should be a feeling of tension at the back of the left knee. The right knee should be slightly bent. If while doing this your opponents kamae breaks under the pressure, don’t wait, just attack.

If on the other hand your opponent maintains his guard, you need to take further action to create an opportunity. This is done by keeping an attacking mind and centring your breath in your abdomen. You maintain the pressure in your left foot and knee and by moving the tip of your shinai very slighty invite him to attack. As soon as he starts an attacking movement, you can push off from your left foot and make a small sharp strike to whichever target he shows .Use the remainder of the air in your tanden to make a big kiai as you strike either kote or men. Welcome to the world of debana waza.

The Kendo World thread went on to say that it was difficult to make effective seme against more experienced kenshi. Duh, why wouldn’t it be! They have been doing it better and for a longer time. You will also find it difficult against beginners who not yet refined their basic technique to a level where they can make “mind contact”.

With these less experienced players you can practise tame by building pressure then relaxing it for them to attack you. With seniors if all else fails, do kakarigeiko.

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