Class was started in the usual fashion, with stretching, running and suburi. In hayasuburi, Heeren-sensei admonished some of the kenshi for not bringing the shinai back against the buttocks in every single suburi round, as it is a helping hand in figuring if your swings are going down the center line.
The first ten to fifteen minutes of the day’s lesson were fully spent on explanation. The crowd gathered around Heeren-sensei and Kiwa-sempai who demonstrated a number of things.
- When striking, also in suburi, stretch your left arm. A lot of people are still using a crooked arm which is costing them in reach.
- In kirikaeshi and in your strikes, always do the upswing properly through the center. This has been discussed before.
- When striking, Heeren-sensei imagines the kensen to be his finger nail. When striking, his shinai replaces his index finger, as he points out the targets in question. Point at kote, then in tenouchi jerk with left to strike. Point at men, then in tenouchi jerk with left and strike. Etc. But be careful to not make a “stroking” strike!
- This analogy should also prevent you from raising your shinai too far upwards. Raise your shinai too far and it will be completely visible to your opponent who will thus be clued in on what you’re doing.
- In what I’ve come to call the ‘Heeren kote-men Special’, Heeren-sensei suggested a technique to use in shiai and keiko where one strikes kote on the inside as opposed to the outside. The goal is not to strike kote, the goal is to both startle your opponent and to use the spring of his hands/shinai to speed up the men strike. Men is the goal.
They also took a lot of time explaining the physical aspects of seme to men (“pressure and men”). An excellent read on seme would be Stephen Quinlan’s “The fundamental theorem of kendo?“.
In this particular exercise we would be stepping in deep, so deep as to almost pierce our opponents navel. While stepping in, our shinai would go through the center (do not push your opponent’s shinai aside), thus sliding on top or over the opponent’s shinai. Our kensen will be held low, as to disappear from our op’s view. From this position, we would proceed to strike oki-men. The rough sketches above show this: step in deep, not just a little bit and keep the kensen low, not high.
It was pointed out that the seme movements we had been practicing do not only serve a big role in shiai and jigeiko, but that they are also very useful in uchikomi keiko. This was demonstrated by Kiwa-sempai who repeatedly got very close to Heeren-sensei before striking the designated targets.