Posts Tagged ‘Older Kendoka’

29323_1401129875529_1450794437_1070239_8154535_nAt the asageiko sessions at every Kyoto Taikai the 8th dan motodachi are colour coded. Each wears a coloured band around his zekken denoting hanshi , kyoshi or handle with care. The latter refers to  the older sensei, who whilst still able to reduce the average seventh dan to tears, have reached a stage where the body does not repair itself as quickly from hard physical knocks.

Although nowhere near the level of these living legends and hopefully with a few years to go before I shy away from physical contact, I am increasingly aware that a push to the face now means two or three visits to the chiropractor.

Younger people whom I practise with usually fall into two groups; those who are committed to finishing their technique and those who are wary of hurting the old codger in front of them. Luckily most are in the first category and regardless of who they are up against, will take the centre and go forward in a straight line. The few who are nervous about colliding with their opponent make the mistake of launching themselves of at a tangent after hitting the target. This unfortunately has the effect of spoiling both hasuji and zanshin and invalidating the technique.

When we launch an attack against a motodachi , regardless of age, we should follow the principle of attacking with total commitment and full spirit. In 99 percent of these situations your opponent will be able to move to the side and allow you to go through and execute correct zanshin. In most cases moving to the side or diagonal is an automatic response following a successful strike. If he or she does not move, then the answer is obvious – taiatari.

As we all know, taiatari is not a push from the shoulders and arms, but uses your abdomen and back muscles to close with your opponent so that you are in a safe “tsubazeriai” distance and no counter attack is possible. To do this effectively you simply drop your hands and push down with your hips as you complete your strike. The objective of taiatari is sometimes oshidashi , the act of pushing your opponent out of the shiaijo, but this is definitely not always the case. You can make “soft” taiatari and then use the safe distance to either cover your opponent’s shinai as you move back to issoku-ito-ma. Alternatively you can use the chance to launch a hiki waza.

So don’t worry too much about the old boy in front of you, he can probably take care of himself.

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Kendo for senior citizens

Nakakura sensei

Mochida sensei

Many kendo clubs advertise kendo as “suitable for people of all ages”. Whilst I do not disagree with this, I think there are some serious caveats. Those lucky enough to start at a relatively young age, have had the luxury of adapting kendo over the years and to paraphrase Mochida sensei, allowing physical speed and strength to be replaced by technique and later by kizeme, based on strength of mind. For people who take up kendo in late middle, or old age it is more difficult. There are exceptions of course, but in most cases, late starters lack the strength and flexibility to start with “young kendo” and it is impossible to cram decades of experience into a short beginner’s course. Even seasoned kendoka can have problems after a long break from training. I recently met an experienced Japanese player in his 30’s who returned to kendo after a 10 year interval. Within minutes of reverting to university level footwork, he experienced Achilles tendon problems. So what should the more mature kenshi do to get the most gain without too much pain. Firstly find a sympathetic instructor who understands the limitations of his students. Work on correct technique and cutting and keep your posture correct. Try to make good fumikomi, but do not take such big steps that you strain your Achilles tendon. Always bring your left foot up quickly so the toe is in line with your right heel. Above all relax. If you feel any sudden twinges stop! Being prudent however does not mean you should not practise with full spirit. It is not all bad news for us oldies. Someone told me about his dad who started at 60 and reached 5th dan without failing a single grading. I also have a friend who restarted after a 27 year break and reached 7th dan. So give it your best, but do not overdo it.

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