Sen Sen no Sen 先々の先

Today I took the long journey down to Kawasaki to practice Kendo at Sugao Elementary School, Yanai Sensei was not there today, but I still learned alot!

Kubota Sensei did ALOT of kihon practice today, there was almost no jigeiko at the end!

There are alot of kids practicing Kendo at this dojo, so the first hour is spent doing basic Kihon without Men, warming up, suburi (lots of suburi!) Kihon Keiko Ho, footwork, Uchikomi geiko, the kids love it! Ill write a full report of the keiko menu in a separate post.

So, time for the big picture. Kubota Sensei had us do a series of exercises aimed at getting us to use "Sen" in our attacks, and building up to exercises using Sen Sen no Sen.

Ill just add a disclaimer, I really do not understand Japanese fully, and this Kendo concept is very difficult, what I learned today may be incorrect, but I asked Sensei after keiko to let me explain what I understood, and i'm pretty sure i've at least got the idea!

Also, this idea is only a little baby in my brain, one of those things that just suddenly clicked in my head and I understood without understanding... I can imagine myself doing it, can picture the method, but putting it into words is difficult now!

So the exercises.

Two key points for Motodachi!!

  • Motodachi is watching the opponent with metsuke, Sensei said to pay attention to the kensen, right kote and feet of the opponent
  • Motodachi is holding his breath in your tanden (stomach).

Kakarite is cutting Men with "Omoikiri" complete spirit.
Motodachi is trying to watch for the movements that kakarite makes BEFORE moving to cut men, when you see these movements, a shift of body weight, adjusting of shoulders setting of feet, you know that they are planning on attacking, step your right foot forward. In this moment the Kakarite will cut men (if you did it correctly, and the opponent is cutting with full spirit) .

Do this 3 times each and rotate. Ensure that the Kakarite is giving it everything!!!

The next step is to ad men for Motodachi, however, there must be an important difference between each persons mental state for this to work.

  • Kakarite has a feeling of Uchi-tai, "I want to cut" or a desire to cut in Japanese. 
  • Motodachi has a feeling of  Ute-koi which means please cut, or an attitude of inviting the person to c

So, as above watch the opponent for pre cutting movements, when you spot them begin your men cut by sliding your right foot forwards, your opponent will begin to make his cut, but as you are moving forwards already you will strike first and take Debanna Men.  It will most likely look like Ai-uchi, "cutting at the same time", this is a fundamental waza in Kendo and as such I will really try to make it work in my Keiko.

We did the same for Debanna kote, nuki do and ai kote men. As you see the opponent readying to attack, step forwards and take the opportunity.

So, I mentioned Sen! This is a very important concept in Kendo, as Kubota Sensei kept repeating, and one which im sure will take me many years to fully understand, and then more for it to really appear in my Kendo. Ill do my best to put what I think Sensei was trying to teach us today into words.

Sen I believe (with a little help from George!!) means Initiative. When both players are standing in Kamae, and the mental states I mentioned, this is Sen, their initiative of wanting to attack, and wanting the opponent to attack is Sen Sen>When the Motodachi sees the opponent preparing to strike and steps in to cut before him, this is taking the opponents initiative away, so we have Sen Sen no Sen.

I would really appreciate some comments on this topic, so If you have time, please let me know if im on the right track! Im sure ill learn alot about this idea in the next couple of years as I head towards 4 Dan, and im glad something clicked for me today!

Thanks for reading!