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Posts Tagged ‘Mawarigeiko’

Kendo childrenThe Japanese university kendo club is the perfect environment for learning and improving kendo. Usually with at least one high grade teacher to direct training and correct faults, members rely on each other as training partners.  Given that there is a maximum 4 year age and experience gap, groups are usually highly cohesive and supportive, with the more experienced seniors leading and encouraging their juniors. This encouragement may have occasionally in the past created some pressure for those at the front-end of the process, but most ex-university kendo players look back with appreciation at this stage of their kendo careers.

Those practising in general dojo face a much broader range of opponents. In smaller dojo, particularly in the West, if there are only a few of you, then you have no choice as to whom you practice with. Mawari-geiko may place you in front of a 25 year old 4th dan or a 60 year old rookie. In both cases the task is the same – to ensure that you each get the most value from each keiko.

There are some simple rules that guide us in most situations. If you are training with a much higher grade it is up to you to attack as well and as often as you can. If your opponent is your obvious junior you need to make and allow opportunities for him to attack. This all sounds fairly straightforward, but what do you do with partner of your own grade who is much older than you, or heaven forbid, a child who is much stronger than you.

The latter is not as unusual as it may sound. At Mumeishi we have had a number of junior and middle school champions in our kid’s classes who could knock spots off some of our adults. As a rule of thumb it is best to ensure that children train together or only with experienced motodachi, but at the occasional godogeiko, I have seen a few surprised seniors as these junior tornadoes attack from all directions. The key challenge when training with children, or much smaller adult opponents is to ensure that you work on your own seme and control the situation but avoid body contact or hitting too hard.

With older adults whose footwork might not be what it was, your objective could be to find good opportunities to attack against timing that is slightly different from that of younger kenshi.

Approached with the right mind-set, every keiko is a valuable experience, but if you are constantly training with the same few people then try to visit other dojo and practise with as many teachers as you can.

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Looking around my local gym during a recent visit, I noticed that there seem to be three kinds of gym member: – a minority of people who clearly enjoy it and give it 100 per cent; the guys who would rather be somewhere else but who know that they have to make an effort for the visit to be worthwhile; and the individuals who do not want to be there and who can’t be bothered to try. The final group are most evident at the beginning of the year, but normally throw in the towel by February.

Kendoka seem to have a different perspective and fall into two categories: – those who try desperately to improve; and those who enjoy their keiko for its own sake and are quite happy to come back and perform to the same level week after week. Now with the kangeiko season at its height and people starting back after the holiday layoff, it is even more obvious that the ambitious group and their laid-back colleagues take a different approach to New Year training.

For instructors it is difficult to run classes that both stretch the motivated and inspire the lazy.  Too much hard kihon geiko and the less fit kendoka become tired and discouraged. On the other hand if a session is devoted exclusively to peer level jigeiko, it is easy to find your own comfort level and not try to stretch.

In many dojo outside Japan practice sessions tend to last for two hours, where in Japanese ippan-dojo keiko normally lasts for an hour, so there is also a tendency to save energy in order to last longer. In my view keiko should be short, hard and regular. The other difference is that in dojo where practice is based on shido geiko or motodachi geiko, junior members have the chance to catch their breath whilst waiting to practice with teachers or seniors; who through their experience and knowledge are able to push them on without completely exhausting them.

With mawarigeiko, which seems to be the most common form of practice where grades are more evenly distributed; it is more likely that people will coast to last the distance. If mawarigeko consists entirely of jigeiko, then bad habits come to the fore when we try to win at all costs.

My favourite approach to mawarigeiko is to combine kihon practice and jigeiko. So for the first three or four practices everyone starts with kirikaeshi then moves on to a short jigeiko with the same partner. After each we change partners and move through repetitions of waza geiko, transitioning to jigeiko with each opponent. So a one hour session would include kirikaeshi /jigeiko, men uchikomi / jigeiko, kote uchikomi / jigeiko, dou uchikomi /jigeiko and then on to combining nidan waza and finally uchikomigeiko and kakarigeiko. In this way, as well as including basic practice, we are thinking about using correct technique in the jigeiko sessions.

Doing it this way, we are also more motivated to helping our partners improve, rather than being content to steal a few crafty ippon. So hopefully the ambitious kendoka get to improve and to bring their more easily pleased friends along with them.

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