Posts Tagged ‘Kigurai’

Snake (1)At the beginning of each New Year most of us think about our goals for the coming year’s kendo. These are normally ambitious and take the form of committing to pass the next dan examination or winning certain competitions, or making it into the National Team. Certainly these are all worthy ambitions and if you think you can achieve them, go flat-out to make it happen.

What we often ignore however, are the components we need to make our kendo strong enough to reach these heights. It is worth taking time to reflect on your kendo strengths and weaknesses and to isolate the elements that if worked on, would make the biggest difference to your future improvement. Naturally these vary enormously depending on your experience level and your physical condition, but here are some that you could work on that may make a big difference to your rate of progress:-

  • Footwork – Ensure that you always bring your left foot up in hikitsuke, so that you are always ready to move the instant that you see an opening. Think about keeping your left heel off the ground so that the foot makes a 15 degree angle against the floor and you will have the power to launch at will.
  • Posture and balance- Hold yourself perfectly upright, but with the feeling of leaning half a degree forward. Use your hips and back to power the strike and keep your arms and shoulders relaxed. Keep your posture after you hit and make strong zanshin.
  • Review your kamae – Check that your targets are not visible and make sure that your hands and arms can move quickly and freely when you see an opportunity.
  • Think about tenouchi – Hold the shinai lightly with ring and little fingers and squeeze gently only after you have made contact with your opponents bogu.
  • Make opportunities – Break your partners centre with strong seme or subtly invite him to attack to create the chance for ojiwaza.
  • Commit – When you attack make sure that you do so wholeheartedly with a feeling of sutemi. Do not hedge your bets by thinking of stopping or going around him. Once you fire the bullet, there should be no way of stopping it.
  • Be dignified – Win or lose show kigurai, but do so with humility.

Whether we are thinking about these points for the first time or are experienced kendoka who have thought about them time and time again, we should constantly review the basics and make sure that we do not let bad habits creep in.

If you have a master plan for achieving kendo greatness in 2013, please include some of these basics in your preparation. On the other hand if your aim is just to make the most of your keiko then perfecting any of these points would be a worthy ambition on its own.

Whatever your plans have a happy and successful 2013.

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Vincent Long of the Irish Kendo Federation asked for some help in explaining Kigurai to his students.At first this appeared to be a fairly straightforward exercise, but as with everything related to Kendo the more you think about it, the more complicated it becomes.

In every day Japanese it means “pride” and has a slightly negative connotation – it could be taken to mean haughtiness. In kendo there are various definitions ranging from the late Ando sensei’s “loftiness of mind” to the ZNKR dictionary’s “the strength or commanding presence derived from confidence acquired through repeated practice”. When you break down the original characters to “mind” and “grade” you can see the logic behind these more positive kendo definitions.

I am starting to get rapidly out of my comfort zone when thinking about the subtle difference between “kihaku” strength of mind ”fukaku” depth and kigurai, but to get back to Vinnie’s question, kigurai can mean confidence, grace, the ability to dominate your opponent through strength of character. Kigurai can also be seen as fearlessness or a high level of internal energy. What it is not, is posturing, self congratulating or show-boating.

Most of us have at some time seen Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. In the film, one of the protagonists gets involved in a dual with bokken in which his opponent loudly insists that his men attack had beaten the nuki dou of the quietly confident hero. Forced into a replay with katana, our hero modestly repeats the process, watching the baddie’s two halves go off in different directions. He then without showing any emotion, puts his sword away and walks on. This to me, is a great example of kigurai.

Kigurai becomes a required element to display in grading examinations from 4th dan upwards. This underlines the ZNKR’s view that kigurai can only be built on extensive keiko. You may well be able to explain the concept, but without putting in the thousands of hours of required practice, it is unlikely that anyone can display kigurai.

However anyone can start to build it from day one. Taking dojo etiquette seriously, making the most of seiza and mokuso and repeatedly practicing kihon with a level mind and good posture are ways to lay foundations for the splendid kigurai that you will naturally show in your yondan examination.

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