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Learn From The Right

Courtesy of H. Jewett
Just a quick note from practice on Saturday.  I stayed after for the team training portion, and during the drills Sensei pointed out that I have a good spirit but I'm still using a "drill" style kiai.  He wanted me to strike like I meant it, and told me that it should be like that last point I score in the finals of a taikai.  So I did.  And I, along with everyone else, saw some big improvements from that one change in my spirit.  I'm definitely going to try and draw this out more in my regular practice.  Fight like you train, train like you fight.  It's a motto that Sensei has told us many times, and I genuinely believe in it myself.

Last night we had a new beginning class, and a couple of new students.  I got to help out with them and continued on my path of learning how to be a proper teacher and a proper assistant.  I want to remember these points, as well as being a good example, because as I go through the years and the ranks people will most likely begin to look at me as an example of our dojo and Kendo in general.  Whether that example is good or bad is entirely up to me.  Am I going to be the guy that does the bare minimum, who is always late, and never helps out with anything outside of actual practice?  Or am I going to be the guy that is there early, helps out with things inside and outside of practice, gives meaningful advice when asked, and is someone that people can look to as a good example of Kendo?  I want to be the latter, so I devote as much as I can to learning and observing and "practicing what I preach."  We had a very good, and very humbling, lesson about parts of this last night, and it's something that I will definitely take to heart and work on to correct in myself.

During advanced practice last night we took a lot of time to focus on kata, which left us little time for shinai practice.  That is perfectly fine with me, as I do savor my kata time, inside and outside the dojo!  My buddy Matt and I worked on Nihonme and Sanbonme at length.  Not the whole kata, but the core movements involved in each (the Kote strike in Nihonmen and the Tsuki in Sanbonme).  It was pointed out to me that when I am Shidachi in Nihonme that I still let my kensen drop too low during my strike, so this is something I'll continue working on to improve.  I have a feeling it's because I try to rush the movement and the faster swing causes my tip to drop.  In Sanbonme I need to remember, on both sides, to be more crisp with the steps, and remember to pause briefly on each step, as Billy pointed out.

After warm-ups we grabbed our Men and Kote and went straight into Men drills, specifically smothering our partner's shinai in various ways and then striking.  This led us into Kote-Men, and then using that Kote movement to kill the opponent's sword and strike Men as they are disrupted.  I've run across this idea and teaching before, I believe on Geoff Salmon Sensei's blog.  The basics are:
  • Kill the spirit - ki wo korosu
  • Kill the sword - ken wo korosu
  • Kill the technique - waza wo korosu
Back to my original thought.  We used the Kote movement to knock our partner's shinai out of the way and then strike, first from the inside and then the outside of their sword.  One piece of advice that was given was to make sure that you strike at the proper spot on their shinai and put enough force into it to move them out of center so you can strike.  If you are striking too lightly or striking too high up their shinai you will get little to no movement out of them.  Finally we worked on camouflaging the movement and intent by being active with our movement, distance, and shinai work to try and throw off our partner as to when the attack was coming.

Both of these techniques are great ways to open up an opponent.  The soft/subtle movement of the smother, and the hard and sudden strike of the latter technique. And each are useful for certain types of opponents.  Sometime hard and sudden is what you need.  Sometimes soft and subtle.  Hopefully with more training with these techniques I'll be able to integrate them into my own training and begin to figure out how to use them effectively.

A few thoughts:

Footwork:  It was pointed out to me that I carry my heel just a tad too high when I'm in kamae and when I move and do fumikomi.  I'll work on keeping it closer to the ground so that I can use more of my foot surface area for movement and power in my fumikomi, as well as helping to keep my leg in a proper position.

Shinai:  My swings are a big too big during drills, and my tip is dropping down because of it.

And remember!  "Migi e narai."  Learn from the right!


  1. "Am I going to be the guy that does the bare minimum, who is always late, and never helps out with anything outside of actual practice? Or am I going to be the guy that is there early, helps out with things inside and outside of practice, gives meaningful advice when asked, and is someone that people can look to as a good example of Kendo?"

    You should also be the guy who brings cake. Because everyone likes the guy who brings cake.

    Ermm. Ehherm.

    I find that kiai makes such a difference. I had been letting mine weaken down a bit during practice and it has had a definite impact. My footwork suffers and so do my strikes. Even my memory seems to not be so good when I am not committing full spirit to a practice session. And otoshi waza are always a good time. :D

  2. It was so interesting to see how that small change (my kiai) caused the rest of my body to say, "Yeah! Now we're kicking it into high gear!" It was an awesome feeling and one I hope to bring to my practice full-time.

  3. Nice. And what is this "Learn from the Right" business? Not familiar with the saying.

  4. It's advice that Sensei gave us. Since the most senior students in our dojo line up to the far right they are the ones that we should look to for guidance and examples of good reigi and good Kendo. So, not every dojo will "learn from the right" specifically, but the idea still stands.


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