Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nidan Kendo Exam

Passed my nidan (MWKF) exam today. There were 14 who tested for nidan and I was the oldest.

The day before, I took time out to practice against a dummy and using a video camera to see how I was hitting. One thing I noticed was if I swing slightly larger using my wrists, the motion comes off looking more like the higher ranking dans. This is rather contrary to what I have been instructed to do thus far. Basically, for example, when striking small-men, the idea is to aim for the tsuki and in the last moment, raise the shinai just above the opponent's men and strike. I have done this on the video tape and the movement just looks weak. Whereas instead, if I apply more wrist movement to bring the shinai higher the movement seems more correct. This extra movement of the wrist of course makes the strike slower and tended to break my strike into 2 separate movements. So then I re-watched my videos of Umeki sensei and how he was able to do it so quickly. The "secret" was to time the upward movement of the shinai at the same time as the raising of one's foot. Truth be told, I recall Sakamoto sensei saying this to me a couple of years ago while I was still ikkyu. Anyway, I find that this also tends to cause one to raise the shinai while still relatively near the body making it less difficult (perhaps) for the opponent to strike an open kote. This might explain why my kote has been rather open during past practices.

Anyway, just before it was my turn at the bout my heart was racing- in some sense that was a good thing. I suppose with ones heart rate elevated blood is moving more rapidly thru one's body in anticipation of elevated activity.

First bout I think I did well, managed to hit men several times cleanly without allowing opponent to strike. I was also able to use men-uchi with the larger wrist swing that I had practiced the day before. This is somewhat risky, but I figured if it failed, I'd go back to my regular men strikes. Also changed it up a little with harai men and debana kote. The opponent wasn't maintaining zanshin so it was easy to pick him off right when he turned around.

Second bout was more challenging- generally difficult to hit men against the taller opponent. The larger wrist swing was not fast enough to get to my opponent's men. In the end I figured my odds were better against him with a debana kote- and it worked. Landed a kote just in time for the bout to end.

Kata involved 4 paired opponents simultaneously. It went smoothly for the most part. I glitched a little on kata # 3 on the shidachi side when receiving the strike- but recovered quickly. Judges did not ask me to repeat. Though they asked me to repeat ipponme, which was somewhat odd.

Next exam, November 2011!

In case this is useful to anyone, this is my answer to the written test:

Describe Three Types of Ma-ai

Ma-ai refers to the distance between the kendoka and his/her opponent.

Issoku itto-no-maai (middle distance)

This refers to the distance whereby a kendoka can strike his/her opponent with one step. When two kendoka are standing in chudan-no-kamae this is often indicated by having the shinais crossing within the region of the mono-uchi. This is considered the optimum distance for a strike.

Toma (long distance)

This refers to the situation whereby the kendokas are at a distance beyond issoku itto-no-maai- often marked by the kendokas’ shinais being at or beyond tip-to-tip when the opponents are standing in chudan-no-kamae. While a successful strike is still possible, the opponent is given an extra measure of time to react to the strike. Sometimes strikes from toma can catch an opponent off-guard as he/she may not expect a strike at this distance.

Chikama (short distance)

This refers to when the kendokas are at a distance closer than issoku itto-no-maai. This is often indicated by the kendokas’ shinais crossing closer than the region of the mono-uchi. This short distance gives both kendoka very little time to react to strikes. However at this distance it is easy for an observant opponent to deflect an oncoming strike by simply turning the shinai counter-clockwise at the instant the opponent’s strike is initiated.

Furthermore, because of the smaller distance between opponents, the footwork needed to execute the strike tends to be shorter and therefore the overall form of the strike may appear to be smaller. To compensate for this the strike should be performed with additional emphasis on fumikomi and kiai. Note also however that if the kendokas are too close to one another when a strike is attempted it may not be possible to execute a proper strike using the mono-uchi region of the shinai.

Transitions between Ma-ai

Often in shiai ma-ai begins at toma. If toma is very far (requiring many footsteps,) then ayumi-ashi can be used to bridge the distance. However once the shinai are close to tip-to-tip, okuri-ashi footsteps should be assumed. The kendoka can then cautiously approach issoku itto-no-maai with small okuri-ashi while seeking opportunities to strike. The kendoka can also gradually approach chikama as a means to apply pressure to one’s opponent. At this point tension will grow as time margins for reacting to strikes decreases.

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