Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kendo Seminar

Today's kendo practice consisted of a 3.5 hour seminar by Koike sensei - a 7th Dan who was also couch for the US kendo team from 2000-2003.

Seminar consisted of having everyone sparring with an equally ranked partner and having him observe. Then he went on to provide some advice and some practice of the individual components of the advice.

Here are some tips:
  • When attending kendo class bring a notebook to take notes. When at the kendo parties use the notebook to jot down things you learn from speaking with other kendoka.
  • For testing make sure that when you bow in you bow in synch with your opponent- otherwise it is ground for failure- in any case it does not convey a good start.
  • Make sure faded gear is dyed ahead of time.
  • Do not wear very new hakama otherwise it will flair out.
  • Make sure all uniform elements are perfect. Make sure the himos are lined up and at the correct length.
  • When fighting:
  • The overall goal is to convey strength / intensity- to begin to psych your opponent out the moment you approach each other for sonkyo.
  • So when doing sonkyo, do not rest ones legs, i.e. the bottom of the thigh and calf should never touch, otherwise it will make you look weak/relaxed.
  • When pulling out shinai for sonkyo, bring the shinai in such a way that immediately aims it at the opponent's throat.
  • After standing up from sonkyo, take one small step forward, to convey confidence. Do not take a step back or sideways.
  • Use every suburi as a means to practice for the one perfect strike. I.e. 1. apply same building up tension like a wound spring or a pent-up volcano, 2. then strike with one burst, perfectly synchronized strike and kiai, 3. complete follow through with zanshin.
  • Use the initial part of keiko to conduct research of the opponent.
  • When striking men, the shout should be a crisp burst, not a long trailing men sound- certainly the pitch of the men should not go up. It should go downward to convey that the men is being powered from the abdomen. Again the goal is to sound strong and confident.
  • When sparring for testing, do not strike so often. Aim to build up toward one excellent strike. That is all that is needed to pass. Testing usually lasts 1.5 minutes per bout and in that time there is an opportunity to perform approximately 9 strikes. i.e. roughly 10 seconds per strike.
  • In that 10 seconds apply strong seme and build up to the point that you are ready to release everything toward your strike.
  • After a successful strike one can then conduct the remainder of the keiko by just maintaining strong seme to thwart the opponent's attack. Of course the assumption is that you know that the strike was seen as successful by the judges....
  • Aim to achieve a successful strike before the opponent does. It is usually more difficult to "catch up" if you fail to achieve the first strike.
  • After a strike, always remember to complete a strike by returning to kamae and displaying zanshin. So after kamae, it does not hurt to take one small step forward to suggest you are ready to attack again. Never take a step backwards. Again the point is to show you are strong and ready.
  • Do not worry about displaying different wazas during testing. Just do whatever is most expedient to get 1 clean strike with full kikentai.
  • When striking it is not necessary to always fumikomi. As long as the okuri-ashi is correctly synched with the strike, you are ok.
  • One example of seme: gently apply pressure downward over the top of the opponent's shinai while moving forward slightly. Use this to touch of the shinai to sense your opponent- like antennae on an insect. If the opponent is still and is applying force against your downward press, when you release your shinai your opponent's shinai will tend to raise, giving you an opening.
  • In general continue to apply seme till you reach a point where you feel you are able to strike successfully.
  • Do not show the balls of your feet when walking backwards after osameto.

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