Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

Kent Taikai 2018: How to Deal with Disappointment

A sobering entry today, but hopefully a valuable lesson for me and anyone reading.

Last weekend my dojo mates and I participated in the Kent Taikai in Kent, WA.  I look forward to this tournament as it's a little smaller and more intimate than the PNKF Taikai we attended last month, and it's a chance to catch up with my kendo friends in the area as well as participate in some good matches.  This year delivered in that regard.

We had six competitors this year, ranging from 1-3 kyu up to the 3-4 dan divisions.  One of our new-to-us members participated, as well, so that was fun to welcome him to our crazy taikai weekend trips.  The trip itself went well, and the pass was clear for us so we had a smooth ride to the Seattle area and to training at the Bellevue Kendo Club on Friday night.  It was a good night, and I was able to have a lot of quality keiko with the kodansha over there, as well as received some helpful feedback and advice that I'll be putting into practice soon.

PNKF Taikai 2018

Last weekend a few of my dojo mates and I loaded up and headed to Seattle for the 44th Annual PNKF Taikai.  This is the biggest tournament in our region and sees many, many people from not only around our federation but also from Canada, Hawaii and beyond.  This year I heard we had around 300 participants and welcomed a couple of new participating dojos, including a new dojo from Canada and from as far away as New Jersey.

Our trip to the tournament began the day before.  Friday three of us headed over for training at Bellevue Kendo Club.  J Marsten Sensei welcomed us with greetings and a good, hard practice.  I picked up some new things to try for my own improvement, and after warm-ups and some basic drills we broke into open floor.  I was able to practice with some of my long time friends before I was grabbed by one of the members and pulled over to own line.  I relished the chance to practice with her, since I haven't had a chance throughout all of these years, and she did not …

Active Teaching, Active Learning

Most of my kendo life I've been happy and content being a student.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still very much a student and I don't think that will ever change.  That's part of the beauty of kendo; there's always more to learn and more to improve.  Three yeas ago, though, I started teaching the beginning class as their main instructor.  That mantle has only recently been (mostly) passed onto another member.  Here and there I would lead the other classes, as well, including our main class, where the bulk of our members come to train.  I never thought much of it, though, and would either follow a set plan or I would run basic drills and our basic format.  Most of the time I tried to follow a coherent plan of drills that would build on top of each other, i.e. kote, kote-men, then using kote-men as a counter to kote.  I also liked to build drills around a theme, such as kote drills, or counters effective for men, or other things of that nature.

Lately I've been …