Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Shiai training’

downloadWith the European Kendo Championships looming and the next World Kendo Championships just a year away, many people are thinking about the most effective ways to train for shiai.

Opinion on how to best train for kendo competition seems to be varied. I had a lengthy conversation with one of the hanshi responsible for training the successful Japanese Team in a recent WKC and although he was reluctant to give away too many secrets, he told me that National Squad Training consisted of sessions with the younger, fitter 8th dan teachers acting as motodachi and putting the squad through a rigid regime of kakarigeiko style drills. There was also a stringent programme of medical checks to ensure that members with injuries that were likely to re-occur were excluded from selection.

Japan is obviously in a different situation to the smaller kendo nations, where although team selection is also limited to the fittest and best, we do not have numerous strong competitors to choose from. Whereas the Japanese squad come together on a limited number of occasions for team building and to put a final polish on already developed skills, other countries athletes sometimes need to use national squad training to develop far more basic skills. The training needs of a hobbyist with exposure to keiko for a few hours each week are very different to those of a police tokuren, who is paid to spend 30 hours a week in the dojo.

In most cases national squads can manage a few, infrequent training days together. Making the most of this time needs a great deal of thought from the coaching team. I have seen approaches that range from learning kata, to extensive kihon training to discussing shiai tactics and motivational psychology. I am sure that all of these have a place in the training tool kit. The most important consideration is how to make the best use of limited time spent as a group, particularly for teams which need to think and act as one.

One thing is clear, no-one should expect to learn the basics of kendo through a few group training sessions. National team members need to build their own kendo through regular keiko. Anyone chosen to represent their country needs to train as often as they can, with as many people as they can. In Mumeishi dojo the seniors make a point of giving extra help to National Squad members by adding an ippon shobu and some “tough love” kakarigeiko to each keiko, but how we develop as shiai players, and kendoka generally, is the responsibility of one person – ourselves.

Read Full Post »

 I was asked to give some advice on performance at shiai training in preparation for this weekend’s London cup. I won’t say at which dojo or on which day this took place, otherwise I might give away the secrets of their shiai preparation.  During most of the shiai, the one single element that made the difference between achieving ippon and failing was hikitsuke. So in the interests of fairness, I will share some advice on this with all prospective competitors; well at least those who read my blog.

In kendo hikitsuke means to pull the left foot up to the correct position (left toes in line with the right heel), in readiness to make an instant strike. In everyday Japanese it can also mean to attract or fascinate, but that is another story.

Coming back to the point, when you move forward in kendo your left heel should be off the ground so that your foot is at a 15 degree angle with the floor. 70% of your weight should be on the left foot and 70% of that weight concentrated on the ball of the foot. You push from this foot to move, sliding the right foot forward and instantly bringing the left foot into position to repeat the action.

When you attack, you should use this action to push off instantly and strike as soon as you see or make an opportunity. In theory simple, but most people at shiai practice were not doing this; instead either their left leg trailed impotently behind, because the left foot angle was too high, or the left foot was flat on the floor so the left leg remained in place as the right foot moved forward. The repercussions for both of these mistakes was that it was not possible to make sufficient forward distance to hit men cleanly with the datotsu-bu of the shinai, or because of the need to compensate by leaning forward or turning the body to make distance, the attacker was not able to strike with good posture and zanshin. End result – no ippon.

This lack of left foot traction was also evident when some fighters stepped back, allowing the heel to sink down to the ground. This action mades them an obvious victim to hikibana man.

As I have  repeatedly been told, successful shiai depends on good basics. Good basics depend on lots of keiko, so that when you see the golden opportunity to hit the target that wins your shiai, you do not have to think about it. You just let your left foot decide.

Read Full Post »