Summary of class, 29/09

This summary is for the morning session in Almere.

After kata and warming up we proceeded with footwork practice. As part of balance exercises we did lunges.

  • Hold your shinai across your belly with both hands, then lunge onto your right foot. Turn your upper body both left and right. Then lunge onto the left foot and repeat. Continue like this across the hall.
  • Hold your shinai in normal kamae. Lunge onto right and strike men. Lunge onto left and strike men. Repeat across the hall.
  • Hold your shinai across the back of your hips and do fumikomi across the hall. First singles, then doubles.

In all of these exercises, if you feel imbalanced and tend to wobble or keel over, then your footwork is too narrow. When lunging, keep your feet at kamae-width and sink deep. Hold a straight back.

After this followed laps of suriashi around the hall.

  • The first four laps went fine: normal sliding steps, then variation in length and speed. Some people still put left past right, but most aren’t bad.
  • The two/three fumikomi to reach the other side also went “okay”, though many show issues with both the right and the left feet (explained below).
  • Charl suggested a shiai exercise: start with small suriashi, then make two/three big slides and then fumikomi with follow-through.
  • Then finally, with continuous fumikomi across the hall things went to pieces completely. Everyone was bad.

Loyer-sensei and Kris-fukushou inform us that the problems are twofold. For one, most of us aren’t properly launching themselves with the left foot. Either we’re not kicking hard enough, or we’re kicking backwards after launching. Many of us also lift the right foot way too high when lunging forward. Not only does this clearly signal your intentions to your opponent, but it also slows you down. As Kris pointed out, many of us don’t stomp their right foot for forward speed but we come to a full stop because we kick downward or even forward.

While the beginners renewed their focus on kirikaeshi and kihon, we practiced a few waza.

  • Hayai-men and hayai-kote-men. To keep the basics in there :)
  • When doing harai-men you could say you’re doing a kote-men where the kote strike is actually a push over your opponent’sshinai. Keep your shinai on the center line (inside) and when moving inwards, smack his shinai aside and down to open your way to men. This is slightly similar to, but also completely different from the “special” move Heeren-sensei showed us last Tuesday.
  • When doing harai-kote, keep your movements small. Make an elliptical path underneath motodachi‘s shinai and on the way up, smack the shinai upwards to the right. On the way down again strike his kote. Remember, the elipse needs to be very small!
  • When doing kaeshi-do against a men strike, use the upswing towards your shoulder to guide motodachi’s shinai to the left. Then strike do while staying on the center line. Make it a proper strike! Don’t start moving to the right before you’ve connected properly.

When attacking, imagine your goal to be two meters behind your opponent! Don’t strike and immediately dash aside. Worse yet, don’t immediately turn towards him! Rush through them and if they get in the way, go into taiatari. Don’t hold your hands too high, as they’ll simply topple you. “Tsuba into the mouth“, as they say.

Finally, because tomorrow is a tournament day: the practice shiai! Because we don’t have much experience with tourneys we went over the basic etiquette. Both teams decide the order of kenshi, one through five (or three as is the case tomorrow). Only the first kenshi will be wearing his men from the start. The teams greet each other, then retreat to their side of the court. Everyone except the first sits down and pays attention to the fights. Numbers two and three will start putting on their men. Four and five will follow later. Then, each participant will continue as follows.

  1. Step into the shiaijo. Step to a position from which you can reach your starting line with three paces.
  2. Bow to your opponent.
  3. Three steps to your line, right foot on the line. Not over, not in front, on the line. In your steps, draw your shinai and go intosonkyo.
  4. Do not rise until the shinpan provide the command to “Hajime!“.
  5. Return to your line when a point has been made.
  6. If something is wrong, raise your hand. Both kenshi return to their line, while the shinpan find out what is up. If you need to disrobe, both kenshi step back and the other waits in sonkyo while you fix whatever is wrong.
  7. When the match has been won return to your line. Sonkyo and put your shinai away.
  8. Five steps back. Bow. Step out of the shiaijo backwards and take your seat.

The Nanseikan kendo dojo has a more complete article on the subject of shiai etiquette.

Summary of class, 25/09

seme to men

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.

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