Friday, January 20, 2012

Always Forward

Our sensei and his wife attended a Kendo kata seminar last weekend and brought back loads of information for us.  Some of it was new information, or new ways of doing the moves and techniques that we already know.  Some emphasized certain aspects of the kata that, as a whole, we might have been stepping over before.  And some of it was a refresher for what we already knew (refreshers are always good, in my opinion.)  Below are some of the ideas and pieces of advice that I took, and I know that as we continue on with our kata study we will be getting much more information. 

  -The main focus here was to make a cut that keeps the kensen moving forward.  This is achieved by moving the hands up at about 45-degrees from the head and then swinging forward and down, so that the kensen ends up low to the ground (lower than Gedan is how it was described to us).  The initial movement should be soft, but then the cut is swift, with commitment.  It is still done as one movement, as well, not two separate movements.
  -When you strike, lean your body forward but keep proper posture with your neck and head.  Do not lean so far forward that you have to tilt your head back to see your partner.  It should be at an angle similar to when you bow to your partner before and after the kata.  Body leaned forward, eyes on opponent, but head, neck, and spine are still straight.
  -This forward posture is kept as you step back and you only straighten up when you come back to Chudan.  Also the steps back at the end of the kata should be small enough that Shidachi can perform their movements correctly.

   -The Kote strike should end with the kensen slightly lower than parallel to the floor.  This makes for complete commitment to the strike.
  -When stepping back to Chudan, keep the kensen down.  As you settle into place bring the kensen back up to Chudan.  This keeps the kensen from bumping into Shidachi's kensen.

  -When stepping back to counter, emphasis should be on stepping more back and just a little to the side.  This puts Shidachi in a position to make a good step forward for Kote.
  -When stepping back to Chudan, the kensen should remain where it is or come slightly forward as you step.  Hard to explain in words, but it involves stepping more to the side and not back when coming to Chudan.

-Big emphasis was placed on mental pressure for both sides in this kata. There should be a feeling of it throughout.  The way I interpreted this was to not rush each step, but also don't be lazy with them.  Step in firmly, strike and/or counter firmly.  Step back to Chudan with assertion.  This is something I'll definitely be working on.

-With any of the kata there was an emphasis on the feeling between partners and looking at more than just the physical steps.  This was apparent the most when stepping in to start each kata.  Sensei noted that we should step in "firmly" but not rushed.  There should be an energy and connection between Uchidachi and Shidachi, not just two people going through the steps of kata together.  Again, hard to explain in words but I will be working on this.

After our kata time we broke into our regular training, which was led by Ando Sensei.  I won't go into much detail, but it was a fulfilling and exhausting training.  I pushed hard and I also tried to keep my spirit high, for myself and for my dojo mates that were there.  Ando Sensei pointed out that my Harai Men was very strong and said that I should continue to develop that because it will be very valuable to me.  He said that if I have a strong Harai movement and can move my partner out of center like that then it will be easier when I use more subtle movements to move my partner out of center. 

I'm definitely looking forward to more kata practice tonight and regular practice tomorrow.  All this new information is exciting to go over!


  1. It's nice to know that there are a lot of people that appreciate kata beyond just learning it for the exams. After I started learning Iaido, I learned that there are a lot of ways to apply the kata to augment the shinai kendo training.

    I don't know if you already have a copy, but Kendo Kata: Essence and Application is probably the most comprehensive book on Kendo Kata that I've seen. It goes over the techniques and philosophical aspects of the kata, which is what's usually missing from instruction. If you don't have that book already, I'd recommend you get it when you can!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement! I have read that book, one of my dojo mates has it, and I will definitely pick up a copy of my own in the future.

    I love everything about kata, honestly. First learning the basic steps. Then learning the small details. Then digging deeper and deeper and uncovering so much more than you first thought was there. Such a fulfilling journey!