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Nuki Men - A Personal Look

2010 Kent Taikai

This month we'll be focusing on nuki waza at our dojo, specifically nuki men and nuki kote.  Here are just a few of my own (emphasis on own!) thoughts on the subject.

I, personally, love nuki men. It's been one of my favorite techniques for years and years, and I used it a lot when I was a mudansha.  I still use it now on occasion, for that matter, but in order to become and stay effective with it I had to learn a few things.  These are things which work for me and your mileage may vary, as one of my friends like to say.  First off is the movement itself.  I'll start with the "classic" version with kote-nuki men.  One person attacks the kote, and their opponent responds by raising the shinai up and countering with a men strike of their own.  In this scenario there are a few things I like to keep in mind.  The first being to get my hands out of the way!  I can't just lift my shinai and expect to be ok, I have to also get my hands (and my kote) up and out of harm's way.  If I don't lift the hands all the way up with my shinai then I leave my kote down in front of me, which a sharp opponent can read and adjust to within moments.  If that happens there's a good chance they can still get a good strike in.  The hands need to be up and out of the way of the strike as it comes in.  For me, this means raising my hands up above my head, as if I were performing furikaburi (raising the sword overhead; the "upswing" of my strike).

Another thing I consider is distancing.  Did my opponent move in close when they struck?  Were they far away?  Are they moving in quickly or slowly after the strike?  Are they moving in at all?  All of this can affect not only what to consider when performing the nuki part of the waza, but also how much my body moves on the counter attack itself.  Most of the time I can do nuki men against kote and keep my body in place.  I'd say roughly 75% of the time this is viable for me.  Every once in a while I get a partner or opponent that strikes deep, and I have to adjust my distancing on the strike by either moving my body back to compensate, or by striking and moving backwards (hiki waza), so that I'm striking with the correct part of my shinai.  I can even change the speed of my shinai movement to help compensate for this.  If my opponent strikes and stops, I can fumikomi in place or with a slight step forward to get the right distance.  These are just a few examples, but distancing can be altered and tweaked by using not only your fumikomi distance, but also your body movement and even the speed of your swing.  Something else to consider is even using the angles of your movement to change the distancing, as well as using it to open up new avenues for attack.  This is something we're looking at, as well, and I'm excited to dive into it more.

One thing that I feel is very important for nuki waza for myself is to make sure I set the trap for my opponent.  What does this mean?  Well, it means that I'm not moving too early, or giving any indication of what I'm about to do.  Easier said than done, yes, but ideally I try to have no tell and work them into a situation where I can all but guarantee a good nuki men against them.  When I first started learning nuki men (continuing with the examples above), I had a tendency to move my shinai and hands out of the way WAY too early.  This telegraphed my movements to my opponents.  It was ok in the drills where I was learning it, but in execution it never worked.  As I got better with it, and my mechanics became more efficient and easier to do, I was able to change the timing of my movements to be later and later.  This set up a situation where my opponents would strike the kote and I was able to move my shinai and hands out of the way at the very last second, way past the point of no return for them.  They were already committed to that kote strike they wanted, which left them with very little defense against my incoming nuki men.  I wasn't able to do it at first, but I was always told to try and time the counter movement as late as I could, and that was always my focus.  I got hit a lot when really working on it, which is inevitable when you're learning or developing new techniques, but I was able to slowly build a timing and a technique that now works for me rather well. 

Again, three of the most important things for me, personally, to make nuki men successful are: shinai and hand movement (get the targets out of range), distancing (striking with the valid part of the shinai), and timing (setting the trap).  Each time I get a chance to work on these more I welcome it, because it's another opportunity to revisit and improve upon what I already know, as well as find new and creative uses for it.  This is just a small piece of what makes nuki waza like nuki men work for me, and definitely not a guide to everything about it, but hopefully this gives anyone reading some thoughts and ideas of their own.  Even if that person is me, looking back on this years from now.

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