Katate suburi - striking with one hand

At a recent practice at Mitsubishis kendo dojo, I was extremely lucky to get an extended keiko with a Sensei and received a ton of advice and feedback from him.

We began by exchanging a few cuts, Sensei taking first chudan and then jodan (which is his preferred kamae)

Sensei then stopped and began to address my problems. He said my Kamae was good, but to be sure to always keep checking and correcting everything;

Distance between left and right feet, width between them, hips straight, strength in the left wrist, right hand and arm relaxed, shoulders relaxed, chin tucked in and head not leaning back.

I was letting my chin push out at the very last second, just as I was making the cut, a sign that I was attacking from my upper body rather than hips and legs.

Sensei then said that I didn't have enough power in my left hand, not too much in the right, just not enough in the left.

He asked had I ever practiced in jodan, and I said only for motodachi purposes. What followed was one of the most difficult 15 minutes of my kendo career!!

Sensei had me take jodan and strike men repeatedly, stopping after every few to correct my kamae a little or explain about how to strike katate (one handed) men.

The combination of pushing from the right right and stamping with the left was confusing, along with making katate strikes and trying to digest the advice being given in Japanese made the whole experience very tiring!

For those who do jodan I'm sure this is very basic but I'll mention a little of his cutting advice.

1. Bring the shinai to the centre before cutting, pushing with the right while whipping the left forwards

2. Extend the left wrist so the shinai hits the top of the men.

3. Keep your feet close together and push off with them in the correct position.

He said that if your katate men is quick, strong and has good snap, then your morote (two handed) men will also be greatly improved.

We then had a short keiko with both in jodan, Sensei telling me to push forwards making seme and attack men when he gave a slight opening.

Once it was starting to improve in jodan, Sensei switched me back to chudan, checked my kamae and had me attack men. There was a marked improvement in cuts, they were more powerful with more snap and pop at the end.

His main points to focus on

1. Each cut should be treated like Ippon. Make seme, move, your kensen, make an opening, attack the centre and then strike.

2. Practice kihon and keiko with the feeling of shiai. Shiai and keiko are the same.

3. Keep your chin tucked in. I could hear him telling people both before and after me that they were pushing theirs out.

It was fantastic to practice with a Sensei who gave so much feed back, despite having a long que waiting for him. He gave advice to everyone, keeping some longer than others but always giving something unique to each person.

So I need to practice more katate men at the dojo and at home!

From my own experience having mental check lists during kihon keiko is a great way to improve. My Senpai drilled things into my head each practice when I was a beginner, each time I cut men I would go through the check list;

Kiai, step into your distsnce, weight on the left leg, head tucked in, body and shoulders relaxed, push from the left leg, swing BIG, strike without over extending, fumikomi and instant hikitsuke (drawing up the left foot) push through with large quick steps turn and repeat.

Over time it became natural and I didn't have to think about it, I could just do it. So maybe for someone who is struggling with men, break it down, make mental notes of the parts of the cut and keep it in mind while you practice kihon. After a while it will click!

Thanks for reading!
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