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Posts Tagged ‘suriage waza’

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”.

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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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Suriage Waza

We were working on men suriage men and men suriage kote and people seem to have a degree of difficulty with both. I touched on this in an earlier broader post on oji waza, but there seem to be a number of problems with timing and distance that stop people from mastering these useful techniques.

If we look at men suriage men, my view is that the technique can be completed successfully without stepping back or to the side. If your timing and distance are correct, you can just push off from your left foot as your opponent makes his attack, lift your shinai up as his comes down and just deflect his blow with the shape of your shinai before striking men. Keep in mind that suriage translates as “sliding lift” and is not harai waza. The key factors to success are:

  • You have to keep the point of your shinai forward.
  • You must not anticipate your opponents attack, but you should relax and wait till it is nearly complete.
  • Distance must be correct, so that the suriage is made by the monouchi touching the monouchi.
  • Your opponent must attack correctly, lifting and cutting down in a single movement and maintaining the centre line. (If this is not possible, then a good alternative kihon drill is to make your opponent attack tsuki and respond with suriage men).
  • Just use gentle pressure to slide your shinai up against his. Do not put power into your right hand. Some sensei suggest making a “D” shaped movement to deflect the shinai. I think that this is overkill and requires too much right hand pressure. A simple slide upward should be enough.

Once you have made a successful strike, you should continue forward, through your opponents centre line, maintaining zanshin and turning when you are in safe distance.

For suriage against kote, there are some marked changes. First you need to move your left foot out diagonally whilst pushing your left hand forward and turning your right wrist anticlockwise. This makes the suriage sharper and into more of a blocking motion. Kote is closer to your opponent than men, so your suriage should be made closer to your tsuba.  Although this is a “harder” technique than men suriage men, again do not be tempted to use too much right hand power.

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Going Straight!

taiatariOn Sunday after the Dublin Open we ran a kendo seminar. It took the form that most people would recognise, with lots of work on basics in the morning and moving on to more technical waza practice after lunch. I taught suriage men as part of a series of oji techniques. As you may have seen in previous posts , my view on suriage waza  is  simple – You create the opportunity, slide up the shinai and cut down in one movement and without moving back or to the side, go forward to your opponents centre as you finish the attack.

After spending some time practising this, Henrik, one of the senior Dublin members, asked the question, “what happens when you try this and you have 150kg of Noel bearing down on you”. Now to be fair to Noel, he does not really way 150kg, but he is significantly bigger than Henrik. Rather than just explain, I demonstrated how it would work against Noel. As expected, he came forward strongly for shikake men, but stopped when my technique hit. I was able to finish my attack going forward, without moving from the centre line.

The logic is simple.  As long as your distance is correct, you keep your point forward and stick to raising the shinai and hitting in one continuous movement, the strength of your attack will break your opponent’s forward motion. One other tip to bear in mind is that if your opponent is coming forward, you can use their movement, so you do not have to step in as deeply as for shikake waza.

So, problem solved, but then thinking about it after I realise that many people are reluctant to commit to aim for their opponents centre in a spirit of sutemi (sacrifice), whether they are initiating shikake or oji waza. This is particularly true for smaller people, who may fear injury from a collision with a bigger person.

 If this is a concern, I have two suggestions. Firstly, seme – If you truly break your opponents’ centre, they have nothing left to hit you with. Secondly learn correct taiatari. If you keep your weight down and your hands low, you should be able survive clashes with opponents of any size. I can’t guarantee that you will not be the one who bounces back, but you can do it with strong posture and balance, safely ready to make the next attack.

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