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Ipponme And Maai

We've recently started our in-depth study of kata that we do twice a year, and we've started with ipponme.  No matter how many times I study these kata, I'm always introduced to new things, new ways of looking at what I'm doing, and differently mentalities and mindsets to focus on.  One new idea had to do with maai, or spatial distance.  Billy introduced us to a new concept concerning ipponme that will greatly improve the rest of my kendo.  Or maybe, an old concept that I am just now ready to understand.

Those that are familiar with the kata know that both sides take up jodan-no-kamae.  Nothing new there.  But one thing I didn't realize, or didn't consciously realize, is that when you do that it takes away your "measuring stick."  You no longer have your shinai or your partner's shinai in front of you to judge distance, and I realized that I do that all the time without even thinking about it.  But with both sides raising their swords up it forces you to judge distance between you and the other person, not just between your shinai.  Billy pointed out that smart players can use this to their advantage, and use the "shinai distance" to trick their opponents into thinking that they are either too close or too far away, so it's very important for us to be able to determine the distance between us and our parnters/opponents without using our shinai as a measuring tool.  Ipponme can teach us that, and I hadn't even realized it until yesterday. 

We used most of our time yesterday working on this point, running through various drills using our bokken and finally leading up to going through the entire kata with our partner.  We then put on our bogu, grabbed our shinai and focused on some practical uses of the distancing points that we went over earlier.  We worked on not only having the proper distance to our partner, but also on following them after they hit and being ready to strike when they turned.  So not only did we need the proper distance, but also to have our body, sword, and mind ready to strike. 

A very valuable lesson, indeed, and one that I hope to focus on in the coming months.  No longer will I have to rely on my shinai to measure distance.  I'll work on not only being able to judge distance to my target, but also work on using that distance to my advantage.  And it's all thanks to a new, different look at a familiar kata.

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