Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Heavy" Kamae

Recently we've been learning the steps and the details of the kodachi kata, and during that study the term "heavy" has come up a lot.  It's been explained by Sinclair Sensei that our movements between striking and taking kamae should not be slow, but should not be a quick snap.  They should be done at a good pace but feel heavy while doing it, and we should have a feeling of still pushing forward with the kamae even when we do not have the sword directly in front of us.  One thing jumped into the forefront of my mind when I heard this, and that was "seme".  The way that I've been interpreting this is to mean that within the kata themselves there should always be an almost physical pressure emanating from your center and from your sword, no matter which kamae you take.  Even when you aren't moving forward or physically pressing forward, your partner should feel as though you are, and when tested your kamae should be strong and not easily collapsed or unsettled.  This is a great lesson from kata that can be taken directly into shinai kendo, and it's one that I want to try and work on more.

I have not always been so mindful of my own kamae.  Sure, I know how to place my feet into a proper stance and keep my body upright in a good posture and how to hold my sword correctly, but after that I've had a nasty habit of forgetting about it and letting my muscle memory take over.  Kamae is not only a physical position or stance, but also a mental one, and I need to remember this and improve it so that I am always ready to attack an opening or counter-attack when someone moves in to strike.  Also being more mindful will help me to keep my kamae from collapsing while also making it stronger and more effective.  I need to have that heaviness translate into all of my drills and jigeiko.  I believe if I can do this I'll see a lot of improvement in my own kendo.

I might have mentioned that recently I've felt pretty good at practice.  It feels like things are finally coming together and clicking, and that techniques I use are working better and better every day.  I'm on the edge of a breakthrough and just need to keep pushing myself to get there.  My posture feels a lot better these days, as does snapping up my back foot after fumikomi.  They still need work, but I can tell I've made improvements recently.  I'm also still working to eliminate the excess movement in my strikes, especially my men strike, and again it still needs work but it's coming along nicely.  As far as actual techniques I've been working on kote-men a lot lately, trying to polish it up and make it not only usable but effective.  We'll see if I get a chance to use it later on down the road.

Just over a month until I test for nidan.  I'm definitely super-excited for that opportunity, and I hope I do a good job on that day.  If I keep practicing and pushing myself like I have been I'm sure things will turn out well for me.

3 comments:

  1. Chris, you were right: much of what you've written flew over me because I understood almost none of the kendo jargon in your post. Still, the heart of it was clear. You wrote "Kamae is not only a physical position or stance, but also a mental one, and I need to remember this and improve it so that I am always ready to attack and opening or counter-attack when someone moves in to strike. Also being more mindful will help me to keep my kamae from collapsing while also making it stronger and more effective." Whatever kamae is in your mind, I can see it as the something akin to the internal structure of a building, like a skeleton, invisible yet always "pressing outwards" keeping the walls erect, yet also keeping what is inside in the correct position. At least that's what I imagine.

    Maybe you could create a kendo glossary, something for the unitiated, the first time visitor or at least post a link to one. I would hate to have to go to wikipedia to find out what a term means. Then again, I can tell you're writing to the initiated, so maybe I'll have to learn the secret handshake first.

    Enjoyed the visit to your blog, Chris. As always, hope your "test for nidan" goes exceptionally well.

    Mr. B

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  2. My previous post. unitiated...should be uninitiated. embarassing.

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  3. Mr Busching, thank you for taking the time to read through my blog. It really means a lot to me and I'm glad that even though you aren't familiar with the subject, you are still able to enjoy the emotion that I have for kendo. I do have a page that I reference a lot myself, it's been very helpful for learning kendo terms. I will go ahead and add it to my links section, too. The second link is to your Spokane Kendo site, which has a some great terminology pages, as well:

    http://www.kendo-usa.org/reference/j_e_dictionary.htm#k

    http://www.spokanekendo.com/terms_beginner.html

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