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Posts Tagged ‘Nuki-dou’

IMG_0259I am constantly surprised by the difficulty that many people have in striking dou correctly. Because it works best as an oji waza they wait until their opponent makes a men attack and attempt nuki or kaeshi dou. In most cases they wait too long and hit when their training partner has entered their distance. The result is that they either strike the front of the dou or have to push both hands over to the right so that there is no power behind the strike. In either case it is a waste of time and effort as neither is classed as yuko datotsu.

The other common misconception is that dou is a diagonal cut. This probably was the case when cutting with a katana. The objective was to cut from the armpit to the hip. If however you try this with a shinai it simply slips down off the target. When combined with late timing and too close distance the result is hira-uchi, striking with the side of the shinai, which is probably the worst sin that you could commit in the long list of crimes against correct dou.

Coming back for a reality check, we need to hit the correct target with the correct part of the shinai with correct intention and “high spirit” followed by zanshin. In my view this means giving the side of the dou a good whack with the datotsu bu of the shinai ensuring that we hit with the bottom take. To do this you need to be in front of your opponent at the time of the strike and consciously punch forward with your right hand whilst turning your wrist sharply inwards. Your left hand should be more or less in line with the centre of your body. Only after you have done this should you think about breaking your grip on the shinai and moving through diagonally. It is also essential to keep your eye on your opponent and to retake kamae as soon as you are in safe distance.

One of the excuses often given for cutting dou incorrectly is that the opponent moved too quickly and did not allow us the distance to get it right. The way to avoid this is as with all successful oji waza, we should control the timing of his attack by maintaining and the breaking pressure when we want him to move. This and the flexibility of your right wrist are the keys to success.

There is an exercise developed by Chiba sensei that helps you gain this correct cutting action. You practice yoko men or dou suburi, but do so turning your hands inwards on each stroke so that the path of the shinai is horizontal or parallel with the floor.  It is a way to gain the wrist flexibility that you need to make your dou attack effective.

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IMG_0036I returned last night from the French Open Championship in Paris where I was acting as a referee. This is a very big and popular taikai with Individual and team matches held over two days.  As well as competitors from all over France I saw players from Sweden, Italy, the UK and from Japan

Events like this are great opportunities to catch up with old friends, and in Paris there is the added bonus of good food and wine to finish each day.

From a referee’s perspective,   it is interesting to work in different environments with referees from other countries. Although of course, wherever you are, the basics of judging yuko-datotsu do not change.

Referees on my court were from France, Belgium, Japan and the UK. Over the two days we raised our flags for hundreds of men and kote and quite a few tsuki ari. We also saw numerous attempts at dou for which we gave only one ippon. Talking this over with my colleagues, the reasons for not awarding a point to most dou attacks, is that they do not have correct hasuji, or they hit with the wrong part of the shinai.

As with men and kote, it is essential that the datotsu bu of the shinai strikes the correct part of the target. That is to say the top third of the jinbu should hit the right side of the dou with the bottom take making contact. Most of the unsuccessful attempts we saw were “hira uchi”, where the side of the shinai hits the dou. There were also a number of occasions where the front of the dou became the target. Normally this is not intentional, but happens because the cut is made as the opponent is coming forward and there is not sufficient distance between you.

My pet theory as to why so few dou succeed is that most people view kaeshi dou or nuki dou as a reactive technique. If your opponent has already launched his attack and you attempt dou, you will be too close to complete the technique successfully. If on the other hand you force him to attack men and then hit dou just as he starts his attack, you should be able to hit the correct part of the dou with the right part of the shinai.

It helps to think about punching forward with your right hand while directly in front of your opponent and in turning your right wrist in so that the bottom take connects. Then you can move elegantly past your opponent and watch all three flags go up.

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Many people, who can confidently hit men and kote, continue to have difficulty with dou. This is not surprising, as whilst men and kote are obvious targets that only require you to raise and lower the shinai in a straight line; dou is harder to see and hit.

There is some confusion over what part of the dou constitutes the target. Chiba sensei expresses the view,  that the whole of the dou plate is a valid striking area. Where the confusion starts is that ippon is rarely given when the front of the dou is hit. The reason however, is not that it is not a correct target, but because posture or hasuji is usually incorrect when contact is made.

Having recently been shown dou by both Chiba sensei and Sumi sensei, I was relieved to see that even though their kendo styles and approach to teaching are very different; the key point on dou-uchi made by them both, is absolutely consistent.  “Your right hand must be pushed forward so that it is directly in front of you at the point of impact”. This is regardless of which timing and opportunity the attack takes and the direction of your footwork.

If we look at the chances to strike dou, we can occasionally make a successful shikake dou attack, this could be as a debana or hikibana technique when your opponent starts to lift his arms to hit men , or as a hikiwaza if he pushes his hands up to counter your downward pressure in tsubazeriai.

Dou however, is more likely to be successful as an oji waza; either as nuki or kaeshi dou against a men attack. With nuki-dou, you move your body diagonally to the right to avoid your opponent’s strike whilst at the same time hitting his dou. In this case it is crucial to push your right hand straight forward as you hit, even though your body is moving away from the centre. If you do not do this, you will have to drop your hands and shoulders as you cut across the front of the dou.  This will make you lean over to the side and force you to cut down diagonally with bent arms, achieving no power behind the cut.

For kaeshi dou against men, you need to block and return the attack in “the timing of one”, whist directly in front of the target. Only after making the strike should you start to move through to your right. One of the points that Sumi sensei makes, is that it is also perfectly acceptable to move through to your left (opponents right), to take zanshin for kaeshi dou.

Chiba sensei’s unique spin on dou-uchi is that the path of your cut should be parallel with the floor, so that you strike with the bottom take of the shinai.

Whether your preference is for kaeshi or nuki dou, if you move through to the right, you need to either release your left hand or slide it up the tsuka as you move through. You should also keep your eyes on your opponent until you have finished the attack.

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