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Remember the basics (基本 お 忘れる な: Kihon o waserure na) – Part 2

Part 2 for Nidan & Sandan

In addition to all the points reviewed in the previous post, Nidan and Sandan level kendo should demonstrate a heightened sense of concentration and intensity while maintaining excellent control of the body (posture & movement), maai (distance) and understanding of the opponent.
What does this mean in practice? We start to feel the kensen (tip of the sword/shinai) becoming ever more live. Our body knows when to relax and tighten at the correct timing (becoming more energy efficient). And we start to understand the importance of initiating or proactively setting up an opportunity.
In other words, every attack is created with intention and never randomly or reactively. With these overarching goals in mind, let us look at the summary of Kendo Bu’s key points for Shinsa (BKA Coaching Programme, n.d.).

 

For Nidan

Kirikaeshi

  • – Kirikaeshi follows a continuous flowing rhythm, with both sides of cutting and receiving correctly
  • – As motodachi, you control maai, which allows the kakari-te to cut in the correct distance and demonstrate kirikaeshi movements mutually

Shinsa-geiko

  • – Movements are balanced with fluid and coordinated footwork (be careful, if you fall during the geiko, you will fail)
  • – The application of ki-ken-tai-itchi (the unified action of the spirit, sword, and body, as one) is shown, but it is not expected to be fully developed at this level
  • – Effective use and acceleration of the wrists (sae) and hands (te-no-uchi) which transfer power to the kensen leads to a sharp impact upon landing at the intended targets (e.g. with the characteristic “pop” sound on the men)
  • – Attacks are continued from tai-atari using hiki-waza instead of always breaking away to issoku-itto-no-maai
  • – Do not try to block, but concentrate more on the correct performance of shikake-waza
  • – Effective nidan waza is executed fluently (e.g. successive combination of kotemen, mendo, etc.)

There is at least one good attack with strong spirit in each shinsa geiko and one good nidan attack.

For Sandan

All of the above, plus:

  • – Strikes are always delivered with the correct datotsu-bu and –bui (on target using the mono-uchi, the correct part of the shinai); i.e. zero tolerance for inaccuracy
  • – Every attack is built from toi-maai and incorporate strong seme and mental pressure that pushes the opponent to the brink of mistake or misjudged attacks
  • – Firm control of the centre
  • – The kensen is used to unsettle the opponent’s centre and composure, which leads to an effective opening and datotsu (strike/thrust)
  • – Attacks are attempted at various maai depending on your opponent’s speed, reaction time, kamae (fighting against jodan or nito for example), and launching distance, etc.
  • – After an attack, the cut-through distance is just enough to ensure safe turning around and stepping forward to toi-maai
  • – The application of ki-ken-tai-itchi is advanced and effective
  • – Ni– and sandan waza is applied with correct footwork (e.g. successive, multiple attacks with total commitment and spirit and oji-waza are expected)
  • – Never block and stop there, but only use blocking as a part of an oji-waza
  • – Effective zanshin is shown; literally, remaining mind, but in practice, it is the readiness and alertness of body and mind in an uninterrupted and sustained concentration

There are at least two effective attacks with strong spirit in each shinsa geiko.

16 Feb 2022 – Sung Kyu Kim

Remember the basics (基本 お 忘れる な: Kihon o waserure na) – Part 1

Part 1 for Ikkyu & Shodan.

As some of us are preparing for the upcoming grading, it is a good time to refresh and remember the essential points of Kendo that we must all strive to perfect. The basics (Kihon and correct etiquette) are the foundation upon which our Kendo skills and spirit become grounded and rooted. Therefore, a good kendo-ka should demonstrate the following key points both on and off dojo, and especially in examination.

(Adapted from Kendo Bu Key Points for Shinsa: BKA Coaching programme, n.d.)

Image from kendoinfo.net

For Ikkyu

Correct etiquette on and off court

  • – Be tidily dressed. Clothing should be clean and correctly folded
  • Tenugui should not be flapping or sticking out of place
  • – The feet should be clean and the toenails trimmed
  • Rei with the left arm extended (teito)
  • – After rei, assume taito placing the thumb onto the tsuba
  • – Reach the correct sonkyo position in three steps
  • – The men himo should be tied and untied properly (with himo hanging in even length)
  • – The men should be removed in a controlled manner, and tenugui is placed neatly inside of the men

Practical aspects

  • – Step forward when standing from sonkyo and carefully take the advantageous distance that is conducive to making an attack
  • – Have a correctly raised left heel, both when in kamae and moving
  • – Have a straight and parallel left foot when holding kamae and preparing to attack
  • – Ensure that the left foot is the motive force behind every attack (as opposed to the shinai or upper body leading the attack)
  • – Hold the shinai correctly, as well as maintain the correct position of the elbows and wrists (e.g. the left hand is on the end of the tsuka and the right hand near/touching the tsuba domo)
  • – Cut with control and cut straight on target
  • – Be careful of the position of the right arm and relax the grip and shoulders (symptoms include “axing down” and hitting the men gane)
  • – Eagerly initiate attacks, and oji waza is not necessary at Ikkyu level

For Shodan

Correct etiquette on and off court

  • – The keikogi is tidy at the back and correctly tied with the yoko musubi
  • – Do himo are correctly tied at the back with the yoko musubi
  • – Men himo are the correct length, are evenly tied and are not trapping the ears
  • Kote himo are correctly tied

Practical aspects

  • – Correct chudan no kamae and issoku itto no maai (the kensen is kept in the centre and directed at the opponent’s tsuki)
  • – Techniques are developed from toi maai and executed from issoku itto no maai

Correct cutting

  • – The left hand must come above eye level when raising the shinai for men cuts
  • – The left hand is in the centre and at the right height for each cut (e.g. slightly below the height of the target and below the right hand for do cuts)
  • – The elbows are extended on kote and do cuts

Good kiai, posture and ki ken tai ichi

  • – Powerful kiai should be used for building energy and confidence both prior to and at the making of a strike or thrust
  • – Stand straight and in correct form, presenting a dignified demeanour
  • – Keep calm and in control, project confidence and fearlessness
  • – Smooth and efficient changes in direction indicate good balance and timing (e.g. when starting to cut in kirikaeshi from tai-atari and backwards)

Show effective zanshin

  • – When turning after a men attack, keep constant eye contact with the opponent
  • – Always turn towards the opponent and ready to attack at any moment
  • – Direct the kensen at the opponent after a men or do cut and always step forward to complete the turn
  • – After a kote attack, close to tsubazeriai with the hands in the centre

In shinsa (examination), there is at least one good attack with strong spirit in each shinsa keiko.

6 Feb 2022 – Sung Kyu Kim 

COVID-19 Keiko suspension

In light of the latest Government guidance regarding social distancing our training sessions will be suspended until further notice (effective today 18 March 2020).

Training is one of the ways we keep our minds and bodies fit and healthy so I hope we can all continue to find ways to practice safely until the situation improves.

I look forward to when I can announce that our dojo will open once more and training is re-starting.

For all our members, followers and friends I hope you and your families keep well and take care of each other.

Change of Leadership

On August 15th 2019 our Dojo Founder, Pascal Stiefenhofer, left our Dojo to begin work in a new City. We are saddened by his departure, and are deeply grateful for his generosity of spirit and sharing with us his vast knowledge and expertise of Kendo, he was the Daikokubashira (central pillar) and has left a legacy in his wake that forms the bedrock of our Dojo.

However, now we have a new energy, Pascal handed the leadership to Karl Scott, who is our new Dojo Leader. Karl brings with him diligence and commitment that will serve this new era in our Dojo very well. Karl is an exceptional Kendoshi and an individual Gold Medal Holder. We are fortunate to have him in this new role; the Dojo will flourish with his guidance.

Adam Antoszewski – 18.09.2019

A Practitioner’s Insight

I began training with Brighton Kendo Club in April 2017, I started with my Son, and my second son also now trains with BKC.
Kendo is a Martial Art I had wanted to do for many years, so I threw myself into it 100%, simply put, I love it. Pascal is an inspirational Dojo leader, his own passion for the art comes through in his teaching and it fuels enthusiasm. The senior members of the Dojo are also fantastic players, with decades of experience, as a beginner you could not wish for a better dojo.
As a Martial Art there many aspects to it that I like, however to highlight a few of the aspects; it’s standardised globally, if you go to any dojo in the world, the art remains true to it’s origins, you know what to do and how to behave, wherever you go. It means that what you learn here in Brighton is what you would do anywhere else. It’s based on a set of few simple moves.
There is an aspect of competition, some enjoy competition some don’t, but it is a very useful component to have to be able to gauge, in a live environment how your skill is developing, and what needs to be worked on. The training pulls no punches, you must be prepared to work hard.
We are fortunate in BKC to have a Suisse National Team Competitor, who is now the Suisse National Team Manager as our Dojo Leader (Pascal), further to this we have individual gold and silver medal winners, and typically come away from team competitions with at least Bronze, Silver or Gold, we are a small club that does, to everyone’s surprise, punch above it’s weight.
I have been fortunate to achieve the rank of Shodan, in other Japanese martial arts this is denoted by a black belt. In Kendo it simply means that you have shown sufficient evidence to be considered a seriously committed beginner- from experience I can confirm this (that said you don’t have to grade ever, if you don’t want to). The insight I take from this is that in Kendo it is understood to be a life-long commitment to improvement. The higher your rank the more onus there is on you to be a good representative of the art, both in your etiquette and your kendo.
As a beginner, you are given much guidance, but it is like walking in a dark room, looking for the door. Things don’t make sense at first, but as you progress the reason for things start to become revealed, and then they are logical, it’s a good process, it means that it is never dull.
There are times when the constant repetition of basics seems like overkill, but the fact is it is a very simple art, that depends wholly and completely on getting the basics right, that is, ironically, the paradox, we may want it to become more complex, more “fancy”, but the best Kendo, is only ever performed by staying true to the basics. To be at a seminar with a Hachidan (highest level) is not what you would expect, they bring you back to basic footwork, back the most basic strike, and rarely, if ever go into more complexity… always always keep it simple. The reasoning is that the most effective strike is the most perfectly timed simple movement, and that is what can take a lifetime to understand.
If you’re willing to put the work in this world has a lot to give back, the reward is a stronger body, a stronger mind, respect, and being part of a community that values and maintains the old ways…and a lot of fun will be had along the way.

Adam Antoszewski 29.01.2019

Watchet Seminar and Gradings – May 2018

This year some BKC members attended the British Kendo Association’s Watchet seminar and gradings in West Somerset
We had couple of training days on many different aspects of Kendo including correct footwork, ki ken tai ichi, kirikaeshi, kata and the concept of yuko datostu.
We also have the chance to practice kata outside in the lawn in very amazing sunny day.

Groups divided into mukyu to nikyu, Ikyu to shodan, nidan to godan and trained with the following instructors:
Ujita Yoshinobu – Kyoshi Nanadan – Special guest from Wakayama
Geoff Salmon – Kyoshi Nanadan
John O’Sullivan – Kyoshi Nanadan
Hiyama Yasayuki– Renshi Nanadan
Gary O’Donnel – Renshi Nanadan
Yoshikawa Emiko – Renshi Rokudan

We practised, learned and received lots of feed back that we used the day after.
On Sunday afternoon, we attempted our grading and all BKC kendoka passed, that was an amazing results after several weeks of gradings training
Many congratulations to:

Adam – Ikkyu
Matt – Shodan
Lorenzo – Shodan
Sung Kyu – Sandan

We would like to tank all our fellow dojo mate to help us on training and of course Pascal for sharing with us his experience and leading us to the success.
See you on Thursday night for another training session (yes we don’t rest).

Mumeshi 3s Competition – BKC Silver Medal

After the last year 3rd place, bronze medal, this year the Brighton Kendo Club joined again the Mumeshi 3s competition with two teams.

BKCA – Pascal Steifenhofer, Lorenzo Bellucci and Andre Pimentel

BKCB – Mohammed Benchekroun, Adam Antoszwski and Hiroshi Shimizu

The BKCA team manage the fight until the final versus the York University Team where the team lost for 0-1 ippon, so getting the second place and winning the Silver Medal, this is was a brilliant result happily celebrated by both teams.

Silver medalist BKCA

The over all  experience was very good and  both team manage all the fight with our usual fighting spirit , showing the best of the Brighton Kendo Club taikai experience and training.

Both BKC Team

As BKC tradition we celebrate with the competition winners…….

On the background Ben photobomb!

This victory is a results obtained thanks to all the members effort from the senior to the new comers.

Thank you every one.

Brighton Kendo Club, FAITO!!!!

Ippon

Ippon

ip’pəʊn/

noun

[a valid point; successful execution of Kendo waza that leads to a score.]

By Sung Kyu Kim

There are certainly many ways to attack (strikes and thrust) in Kendo, but only a few count as ippon in a shiai (official match). So, what makes an ippon? There are four essential elements to make an attack an ippon.

First, you must use the correct “datotsu bu” of your shinai to attack.

[da (utsu: strikes) + totsu (tsuku: thrust) + bu (area)]

For striking attacks (kote-men-do) – the area of impact (contact) is between the sakigawa (leather covering the tip of the shinai) and nakayui (leather knot), which represents the mono uchi (the cutting part) of a katana (Japanese sword).

For thrusting attack (tsuki) – the area of impact (contact) is the sakigawa (the tip of the sword).

To get the datotsu bu right, however, you need to have a good understanding of the distance.

 

Second, your attack must hit the correct targets of “datotsu bui” of the opponent.

[datotsu bui: allowed areas for scoring when the opponent is in chudan and jodan no kamae]

When your opponent is on chudan no kamae – there are seven areas that you can hit.

  • 3 areas for men: sho men (centre), migi men (right), and hidari men (left)
  • 1 for tsuki: nodo tsuki (neck)
  • 2 for do: migi and hidari do
  • 1 for kote: migi kote

Source: Pictures from Hamot and Kenichi (1995) in Découvrir Le Kendo.

Source: Pictures from Hamot and Kenichi (1995) in Découvrir Le Kendo.

When your opponent is on jodan no kamae – there are nine areas that you can hit.

  • 3 areas for men: sho, migi, and hidari men
  • 2 for tsuki: nodo (neck) tsuki and mune (chest) tsuki (no longer valid)
  • 2 for do: migi and hidari do
  • 2 for kote: migi and hidari kote

 

Third, your attack must demonstrate correct execution of “ki-ken-tai no uchi”.

  • ki: using sufficient (that is, the right amount of) energy.
  • ken: correct handling of the sword.
  • tai: moving in with proper posture and throwing the whole body including the kiai (expressing your fighting spirit with a strong shout) into the attack.
  • no uchi: executing all the actions above in one (that is, coordinated and harmonious) movement.

Each element of ki-ken-tai no uchi is a subject of its own, and it would be too long to write them in this blog. Let’s explore these points more in detail during our practice.

 

Fourth, you must ensure that your attack finishes with powerful “zanshin”.

[zanshin: presence or fighting spirit that emanates from your posture, actions and movement]

Zanshin is non-physical, so it’s hard to explain plainly. But commonly, zanshin can be observed in the following actions.

  • By stepping in (or running through if conditions allow) the opponent’s centre line,
  • Your shinai and arms extended forward in face height after the attack,
  • Continuing the kiai after the attack and until you turn around and face the opponent,
  • Making sure that there is no room for the opponent to counterattack or undermine your attack.

That said, getting all the elements of ippon goes well beyond the physical ability and technicality. Yuko datotsu (making a successful ippon) comes with much practice, observation, self-reflection and of course, keiko experience. It is a self-learning experience, so always keep these points in mind when you practice. That way, every practice, every keiko, every waza, and ultimately every attack will be an opportunity to learn about and achieve ippon. In that sense, yuko datotsu is a state of body, mind and spirit.

Happy practice!

Author: Sung Kyu Kim