Current Keiko program!

Summer has thankfully passed, the humidity has lifted and the temperature is a much more pleasant 20-ish degrees. Japans autumn weather is really beautiful, and reminds me a lot of Irish summer! This nice weather will last a few weeks before it gets really cold for winter. Dojo floors across Japan will become as cold as sheet metal and everyone will break out the tabi.

I think Nagashima Sensei changes his schedule every few months, but the latest change came along right with the changing of weather. 

We are currently doing a program that is focusing on alot of kirikaeshi, uchikomi and kakarigeiko, with some really really nice practice for blocking, which focus on using the hasuji and ashi/tai sabaki to evade your opponents attacks and set up suriage/kaeshi waza for your self. 

We do a light warm up and some suburi, but as there is alot of kirikaeshi, we usually use the first one to warm up. 

As our dojo is quite small, Sensei has us in 2 or 3 lines, depending on the amount of people. 

The attacker strikes a large men cut and makes tai-atari. The attacker then does kirikaeshi the length of the dojo and back, 4 times. (Id estime around 50 - 60 cuts given the size of our dojo) each cut is made with ichi-byoshi (cutting in the timing of one), the left foot must be snapped up quickly every time, dont rush, rather take your time making sure each cut is large with a good kiai and crisp tenouchi. We do this 2-3 times each. 

Next we do just one set of kirikaeshi (forward and back), trying to cut as many times as we can, and all in one breath. 3-4 times each.

This might seem like a lot, but after you receive, you get a break while you que for your turn. 

Next, in the same groups, uchikomi geiko; men, kote, do, kote-men, kote-do, men tai-atari hiki-men, with a men strike to finish. The first 3-4 times are large cuts, the second are small. Be sure to push through fullly after each strike, turn and cut again as quickly as possible. Don't turn just as you pass the motodachi, go through 3-4 paces first. 

We then do Ai-kakarigeiko, with 3 pairs going for 15 seconds at a time, you get to rest between turns. 

In the next exercise, one side is defending, and one side is making attacks. The attacking side attacks as normal, making correct seme and not just throwing themselves at the opponent. The defending side, defends!  The idea is not to just "block" everything, but to be using the shinai correctly to deflect cuts, while moving your feet and body to keep you in controll. 

The defender should keep his kensen within the shape of the opponents body at all times, keeping a relaxed and straight kamae is the best starting point. Dont tense your arms or you will never be able to react smoothly or quickly enough. 

To block and move to the right, push your hands slightly forward and to the left (bring your left hand towards the left side of your body), twist you wrists so that the kensen is pointing to the right. As the attackers shinai makes contact with yours, you can step forwards diagonally with your right foot, bring the left foot through and past your right, turn and face your opponent, you should have avoided their attack completely and returned to kamae facing towards them. Have your opponent strike men to practice this initially.

To block and move to the left, push your hands slightly forwards and to the right, push the left hand to the right side of your body twist your wrists so that your kensen points at the opponents left eye, at the same time step diagonally to the left starting with the left foot and following with the right. This is very effective against a kote strike.

For both of these techniques lightly squeeze the tsuka as you make contact with the opponents shinai.

It is ok to move your left hand from the centre for both. Ive been bringing my left hand to be roughly in front of the edge of my hip, the right hand stays fairly central.

It is important for both sides to make seme, for the receiver try to pressure and watch your opponent, keep your arms relaxed and try to block smoothly using small fluid movements.

We practice in pairs for 30 seconds, changing roles and going again for 30 seconds.

Ok so, some people will say "but my sensei says blocking is bad", yes, this is true. Blocking for the sole purpose of "blocking" purely to stop an attack you otherwise could respond to is bad. This exercise is setting us up to block correctly, learning to evade techniques using the sword and most importantly moving the body.

How many times have you moved your head back to avoid men only to be left stuck leaning backwards as Sensei comes forward and plants another one on your head? If you move your body you will be in a better position to counter attack.

So! Step two sees us add kaeshi and suriage waza.

Again it is important for both sides to make seme. Since we were trying to make seme in the last section it should be with the same feeling that we now try to make the attacker strike where we want.

If we take the first example above (stepping to the right) it is very easy to add suriage men. Make seme and try to lure your opponent into cutting men, watch to see the movement before he strikes, as he begins to attack move your right foot slightly diagonally forwards, as the men is coming raise your hands to catch the shinai, keeping your hands and arms free of tension, and from here make fumikomi and strike men, follow the fumikomi with hikitsuke and push through with zanshin.

For the second example try to lure your opponent to cut kote, you should be able to make suriage men. Watch for the movement before he strikes, as he strikes kote, push your hands slightly forwards, bringing your left hand to the right side of your hip, twist your right wrist to use the side of the shinai to deflect the cut (also guards your kote) keeping your hands and arms relaxed, once you make the suriage, make fumikomi and strike men, push through with Zanshin.

Above are just two basic examples, but there are plenty more waza you could perform,change the movement a bit add extra attacks you can perform many other waza.

Eg. If you step to the right and push your shinai to the right, pointing at the opponents left eye (the opposite of above) you can use kaeshi waza to strike men by rolling the shinai with your wrists.

I hope this post was informative and that I didn't ramble too much, I'll try to update it with some pictures to illustrate the points made above.

Thanks for reading, and please comment below or on the Facebook page if you have anything to share!!