Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘shikake-waza’

Seiza 5Different people have different ideas on what constitutes the perfect practise session. Some are happy to arrive at the dojo, have a quick stretch, put their men on and enjoy an hour’s jigeiko. Others may prefer to concentrate on kihon drills for the whole session.

In my view there is no right answer. The way you structure your keiko depends on how much time you have to fill and the level and physical condition of those taking part. If you are lucky enough to have a number of kodansha in the dojo, then jigeiko can be a great learning experience. To be more precise what you are getting is hikitate-geiko, where sensei is taking a view of your strengths and weaknesses and stretching you to do a bit better. If there is one instructor teaching a class of students then a structured session built on demonstration and repetition is likely to be the best way forward.

The length of your training session also dictates what you do. My ideal kendo week would consist of five or six 45 minute to one hour practices, each conducted at maximum intensity. When you have two or 3 hours to fill, you need to bring in more variety and exercises that offer a change of pace. For example, start with kata or boken ni yoru kihon keikoho, move on to kihon drills, keeping them short and changing partners frequently and finally move to jigeiko.

With kihon drills it’s best to keep to a theme. It might simply be improving ki-ken-tai-itchi, or could be something more ambitious like incorporating seme into the attack. You can work on shikake-waza  one day and oji-waza on another, or you could practise men attacks and the oji-waza to use against them as part of the same session.  In drills like this it is important for both motodachi and kakarite to approach each technique with total commitment and not anticipate the others movement, otherwise you are in danger of producing the counter attack before the attack.

One other word of warning, don’t try to do too much. I have seen sessions which have included almost every technique in kendo. In this case it is difficult to remember what you have covered, let alone get any benefit from it.

However you approach each training session remember that the purpose is to improve your kendo, and to enjoy your time in the dojo.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

3_Shikakewaza_Men1When I trained last month in Osaka Shudokan, Hayashi Kozo sensei introduced us to a method of practising kiri-kaeshi slowly with suriashi footwork. He explained that the objective of the exercise to learn to use our shoulders in a relaxed way whilst concentrating on correct tenouchi and hasuji. Since returning to the UK I have copied this in a number of our sessions. We start with 3 or 4 repetitions at this speed then build up to normal speed kirikaeshi before going on to other kihon drills.

Watching people go through this routine, it is fairly obvious that most of us can make big cuts correctly in slow motion, but when we make the action smaller or faster, shoulders tend to stiffen and we make too much use of the strength of our right arm. This is particularly true of kote, where many people keep their left hand static and use just right hand power to deliver the strike. I have even seen examples where the downward force of the strike is exaggerated by also pushing the left hand down.

Preventing such bad habits is the reason for constantly coming back to basics. We need to train so that we can strike with relaxed shoulders, elbows and wrists and add snap with tenouchi. Whether we are cutting kote, men or dou, large or small, fast or slow, we need to do so with the timing of one; lifting and striking in the same movement. This works in exactly the same way for shikake and oji waza.

To strike men all you need do is push your left hand up and let gravity do the rest. For kote the shortest route to the target is best, but don’t lose sight of the fact that the cut is made with a forward movement from the left hand, not a downward movement from the right. If your shoulders and arms are relaxed you will feel the impact of a successful hit not in your hands but in your abdomen as you move forward.

Kirikaeshi is not the only way to achieve this, but we need to practice cutting in a fluid relaxed way. If not through kirikaeshi then through suburi or repeated strikes against a partners shinai. We should start big and then if we can hit in a relaxed way then we can make the movement smaller. As an afterthought, small does not necessarily mean quick. I have seen accomplished kendoka make a big men strike in less time than a less experience kenshi needs to make a small kote.

Read Full Post »

SemeThis blog is becoming increasingly request driven. Morgan Hooper of Enshinkan Dojo in New York asked for clarification on a previous post on seme-geiko and some  the finer points of maai and footwork in seme .

As I mentioned when I last wrote about seme- geiko, I was introduced to the practice by the late Furuya sensei at morning keiko in Sakai. Subsequently I practiced it a few times with his student Uegaki Isao sensei. All of these sessions were with senior ranked kenshi and it was taken as read that everyone knew the mechanics of seme, so no detailed instruction was given. Seme-geiko is effectively kakarigeiko for seniors, but with emphasis on creating the correct opportunity to strike.  Each partner spends a short time pressurizing their opponent and creating chances to make 4 or 5 clean attacks. These are made going forwards in a straight line so waza are limited to men, kote and kote men.

I realise that I haven’t come close to answering Morgan’s question, but let me try to make a few points on seme generally and leave you to transcribe them into seme geiko.

To make effective seme from chudan kamae you must:

  • Step deeply enough into your opponents space to break his composure
  • Move to your uchi ma, a distance that suits you rather than him
  • Keep the centre at all times
  • Move in with only one step
  • Move from your feet and keep correct posture. Do not just push your hands forward
  • Usually you step in with the right foot and smartly bring your left foot up to follow so you can move effectively into the attack as soon as his concentration is broken
  • Breathe in before you enter distance and retain your breath in your tanden during the process of making seme, releasing it in kiai as you make the attack
  • Strike in the timing of one
  • Do not raise or lower the tip of your shinai as you move in, as this this will alert your opponent to your intention
  • If your seme does not have the required effect retain the centre and move back out to safe distance.

These points only apply to moving forward for shikake waza. Hikidasu, or drawing your opponent in is another post in its own right.

Morgan also asked about how to impose mental dominance when making seme. The answer to that one is similar to the old musicians’ joke – How do you get to Carnegie Hall? – Practice.

Read Full Post »

Sumi sensei at MumeishiSumi sensei stopped over at Mumeishi dojo on his way from Edinburgh to the Ukraine. He spent the first hour of the two hour session taking everyone through a kihon lesson that yet again demonstrated his unusual, creative approach to teaching the basics.

This drill was geared to taking the students through the permutations of distance and timing for shikake and oji waza. With everyone working in pairs with shinai and without men and kote, he started with what he called “shadow hitting”; both partners facing each other from opposite sides of the dojo and moving forward with a big approach step and striking men with fumikomi footwork, This was done at a distance where neither partner came near to each other.

The exercise was then repeated with a small approach step and then a medium size step. The size of the cut was then changed to reflect the approach step; big step, big cut; small step small cut and so on.

After both partners had worked through these permutations in turn, sensei brought them together and had motodachi run through the sequences from the necessary distances to strike men correctly. Kakarite was asked to respond with nuki dou. Emphasis was put on striking the correct part of the target and using hiraki-ashi.

The drill was then expanded to include oji-kaeshi dou, men suriage men and men suriage kote. As people tried this it was pointed out that an active right hand was important to make the suriage effective and that suriage only works if your hands are in the centre of your body and you do not bring the point of the shinai back towards your face.

Each pair was then instructed to move into issoku ito mai and shown how to make kote kaeshi gote. This is a particularly difficult technique to achieve because of the need to create distance between blocking the cut and making your own strike. Sumi sensei made the point that you need to show your kote to prompt the attack and then block and return. If you start by showing the omote side of your shinai your opponent will not attack.

It is a lesson that takes a lot of concentration and on a hot evening people were sweating heavily even before putting on their bogu for keiko.  There was an obvious improvement in most of the participants in the hour that they had been practising. With Sumi sensei’s permission, I may steal this drill and use it in some of my own lessons.

Read Full Post »

Watchet Seminar Group2013

Watchet Seminar Group 2013

I enjoy teaching at kendo seminars. They offer the opportunity to try to make to make a difference to the kendo of a group of people from various dojo in a short period of time. As I mentioned in last week’s post, this was the weekend of the annual Watchet seminar and the theme was “making opportunities to attack”. Obviously this is a broad subject and encompasses the whole gamut of shikake and oji waza. I was privileged to work with the senior group and I and Terry Holt sensei ran through numerous drills, making the connection to how these techniques fit into the sansatsuho.

As there is a grading examination on the second afternoon, the seminar lasts for a day and a half and includes kata practice and keiko as well as warm-ups and basic kihon. The second morning is mostly a reprise of the first day with a chance to work on any problem areas. The timetable allowed us an hour to run through the whole range of men, dou and kote techniques, trying seme waza, osae and harai waza and then progressing through debana , suriage, kaeshi, uchiotoshi and nuki techniques. Although we had spent a more leisurely three hours on these on Saturday, the review session felt like it was happening in fast forward and the students did a great job to keep up with the pace.

Some waza were new to some people and old favourites for others. In some cases different instructors bring a slightly different approach to techniques that you already know and that sometimes is the catalyst that turns a never used technique into a favourite. In most cases the biggest improvements happen when you take the seed of technique back to your own dojo and work on it. Although kendo associations try to combine seminars and grading examinations for convenience, a seminar held three months ahead of an examination would probably show the best results.

The one thing that I am sure was obvious to most people is that in kendo, as in the rest of life, you have to “make it happen”. Shikake waza does not work unless you break your opponents centre and oji waza is effective only if you control your opponents timing and pull him into your counter attack. I am delighted to say that everyone bought whole-heartedly into this concept and the quality of kendo in the keiko sessions and the examination lifted accordingly.

Read Full Post »

3_Shikakewaza_Men2I have been asked to put some thoughts together on the theory of creating opportunities to strike in preparation for next weekend’s Watchet seminar. With kendo being such a well-trodden path this requires very little creativity from me; it’s more a question of opening the kendo books on the correct page and reading what our predecessors had to say on the subject.

The whole spectrum of attacking opportunities in kendo is summed up in the Sansappo  (or Sansatsuho) ,  which translates as “the three methods”. These are:

  • Ken wo korosu – kill the sword
  • Waza wo korosu – kill the technique
  • Ki wo korosu – kill the spirit

While these terms sound suitably esoteric, if you rearrange the order and group the techniques that represent these categories, you get a basic common-sense list of which waza work in which circumstances.

  • Ki wo korosu – equals seme. Using your whole body and more importantly your mental strength (kizeme), you push firmly into your opponent’s space and destroy his mental composure, creating the opportunity to strike.
  • Ken wo korosu – You break his kamae by moving his shinai with your own. Ways to do this include harai, osae, uchiotoshi and maki waza. Effectively you sweep, push, knock down or twist his shinai away from his centre, leaving the door open for your attack.
  • Waza wo korosu – This covers the whole range of oji waza. You make him attack and take the opportunity to destroy his technique and beat him with your own. To do this you can select from a menu of debana, suriage, kaeshi and nuki techniques. Which you use depends on how advanced his attack is before you strike. Debana waza is used when he starts his attack, suriage waza when his shinai is on it’s on its way down and kaeshi and nuki techniques when his cut is almost there.

Using the sansappo to order techniques in this way helps me to put them into a framework, but there are a number of other useful ways to understand the theory of timing and opportunity. The concept of Sen, Sen no Sen and Go no sen is equally effective. This relates to striking before your opponent does, as he starts to strike and finally after he starts his attack.

Another way to think about it is by putting yourself in your opponent’s place. In this case the Shikai or four sicknesses of surprise, fear, doubt and confusion (kyo, ku, gi, waku) can be exploited as attacking opportunities.

With kendo’s long history, successive generations of teachers have given us the basis to understand how and why we do things. The challenge for most of us though is not to understand the theory but to put it into practice. In this case the answer is “more keiko”.

Read Full Post »

After many years of ignoring harai waza, I am slowly warming towards harai-gote.

 I have never found harai techniques to be particularly effective. My main experience with both harai men and harai-gote has been to practise them in drill form; and no matter how helpful motodachi tries to be, he knows what is going to happen. Typically he responds with a soft grip that allows his shinai to return quickly to the centre.

Even when I have been successful in this situation, I have felt that it was more the result of motodachi’s kindness than the effectiveness of the harai strike. I faithfully tried to hit the shinai upwards if he has a high kamae or downwards if the kamae is low, but neither of these has given me the breakthrough to make me a dedicated harai convert. Conventional kendo wisdom tells us that harai is likely to be more effective if your opponent is moving forward. This is true, but I still find the outcome to be hit or miss and prefer to try for debana men.

The one opportunity  that does seem to work for me is to attack harai-gote as my partner is retreating, either because I am making a strong forward seme, or because I have just failed in another forward attack. Under the circumstances, he is often on his back foot and does not have complete control of the shinai. In this situation, harai-gote is easier to apply than men, as even though I am already in close distance, I am able to strike the shinai at the tsuba end of the jinbu, which has maximum effect in moving the point from centre. Also harai to the ura (kote side) of the shinai has more effect as you are knocking the shinai out of the grip of your opponents right hand; (you are hitting in the direction of his open fingers from the back of his hand). With a harai strike to omote for men, you are pushing the shinai further into his right hand.

So harai-gote has now been added to the keiko tool kit. Harai-men unfortunately looks like it will be a work in progress for another few years

Read Full Post »