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Hayashi Kozo sensei from Osaka is currently in the UK. During a weekend seminar and several teaching sessions he made some very interesting points about ojiwaza. For a start, he emphasised how important oji techniques are, not just for advancing to the higher dan ranks, but also for winning shiai at every level. No matter how good you are at shikake waza, if you don’t include ojiwaza in your keiko you will miss half of the opportunities to attack.

He focused on the ideaof going forward as if for a shikake strike for many oji techniques. Suriage-men as a prime example. If you can make your suriage with the shinogi of the shinai’s datotsubu you should be able to move at full forward velocity using fumikomi-ashi as you return the men attack. I have quoted the advice of many teachers in previous posts and they all invariably stress that you should control the opponent and timing of his shikake attack, not just wait and respond. This approach demands an attacking mind.

The addition to this thought is that you should also move forward with your feet and body in total commitment.

Degote is another opportunity for a fast forward attack, launching yourself as soon as you see your partner’s kote starts to twitch upwards. With techniques such as nuki-dou, kaeshi-dou or nuki men or kaeshi men you have to give your partner space to come forward.  With these we keep with the standard suriashi footwork and on-the-spot zanshin at the time of striking. Hayashi sensei suggested however that by using a strong diagonal step followed by hikitsuke in the required direction you could give yourself a better chance to strike with accuracy because of the increased distance.

He also made the point that dou need not be restricted to the convention of hitting the right dou and moving to the opponent’s left, but that you could also hit right and move right, or hit left dou and move left or right as long as you made strong contact between the target and the shinai’s monouchi . One other interesting recommendation was the use of hidari-dou against jodan players as many of them pull the right arm down blocking their dou as they strike. At the same time their left dou is open allowing you to hit with nuki or kaeshi dou.

I am sure that most of the people attending these sessions came away with some new ideas to put into their keiko. Even though I have known Hayashi sensei for many years and trained with him on numerous occasions, seeing him in a formal teaching situation gave me some food for thought. So jodan players watch out. I am working on my hidari-dou.

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kaeshidoEveryone has their favourite techniques. I like ojikaeshi do and suriage men. One works against taller opponents and the other is useful against players of the same height or less. I find though, that if you rely on a limited number of techniques, you are easy to read and a skilled opponent will instantly be on his guard. So there is a conflict between the need to polish your best techniques and insure you have a varied selection of techniques to work with.

I was taught that to learn a technique you should practise it exclusively for three months. The way I understand this is that you should concentrate primarily on the waza that you wish to master during your kihon practice and to use it as much as possible in jigeiko, but not to the extent that your dojo mates become totally bored.

To be frank, It is much easier to concentrate on a specific technique if you are the senior party in jigeiko. You can decide on a technique that you will attempt a certain number of times in each practice with your juniors as a form of yakusoku-geiko. This is not possible when you are evenly matched or outclassed. When you stretch to become a useful opponent for senior kenshi , you have to give it 100 per cent;  attacking any target that presents itself as soon as you see the opportunity.

When should you start to “make it your own”?  I am not sure. If you start too early, you are in danger of ingraining bad habits. If you never find a technique that you prefer to all others, you have either reached  a level of munen mushin that many martial artists aspire to throughout their lives, or you simply have not got anything to work for you well enough to concentrate on it as a speciality.

The logical way forward is to practice all the techniques that are taught to you. If and when you find something that is particularly effective; then experiment with it. Try techniques against shorter and taller opponents, younger faster and older more experienced players, when you find something that works start to polish it.

The first of the shogo titles, Renshi, means amongst other things, polished person. Polished in this case applies to the whole person, not just to particular techniques that they are good at. However in Japanese practising and polishing can have the same meaning and as the old British proverb has it “practise makes perfect”.

Train to perfect your tokui waza, then put it away. Hide it until the opportunity to make the decisive strike presents itself and then just let it out.

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Chiba senseiA comment on an old post on suriage men arrived yesterday. This plus a session that I ran in the dojo this week on ojiwaza invigorated my interest in exploring the subject a little more.

A professional educator friend told me never to tell people what not to do, but to accentuate the positive actions that they should be taking. Nevertheless I am going to point out what does not work when making oji techniques:

  • Bringing the point of the shinai back towards your body makes it impossible to achieve correct suriage or kaeshi waza
  • Dropping the point of your shinai unless for ukenagashi (which we almost never use in shinai kendo) is a  no-no
  • Blocking and cutting in two separate actions also dooms you to failure
  • It is nearly impossible to make suriage waza against overly large, badly timed or off centre cuts
  • Waiting for your opponent to attack before you react is a waste of time

At the risk of confusing readers, one of the biggest problems we encounter in ojiwaza practice drills is in starting your counter attack before the opponent starts his strike. Because it is a drill we obviously know what is coming, so we are tempted to attack too early. I often see what should be suriage men turn into debana men.

Whilst I can think of so many don’ts, I can only think of three imperative “dos”:

  • Always push the point of the shinai forward when meeting your opponent’s technoique. This applies to all suriage and kaeshi waza
  • Always make oji waza in “the timing of one” sliding up or blocking on the upstroke and cutting down to the target in the same movement, using just one step
  • Always control the timing by inviting your opponent to attack

This last point applies equally to drills and to jigeiko and shiai. If from chudan you squeeze the shinai gently with the little finger of you right hand, your point will move towards his left eye. More often than not this will make him attack your men at a time when your energy is focussed and you are able to respond immediately with suriage men or kaeshi dou. Move the shinai slightly to his right and he is likely to attack your kote leaving you set up to make kote suriage men.

One effective way is to practice oji waza was taught by Chiba sensei. The class forms groups of between five and nine. Everyone takes a turn as motodachi and the rest of the group are split into two smaller groups one facing him and one behind. Each makes either a men or kote attack, either at random or the group in front attacks men and the group behind kote. Motodachi faces each in turn, turning from group to group and makes the appropriate oji technique, remembering to invite the attack in his or her own timing.

The key point is to control the timing of the attack by holding and breaking centre in the way described.

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