Stepping back

One of my biggest faults is that I step back far too much. I have tried to make it my new years objective to step back less.

I think it's a common thing among kendo players at certain levels, the fear of being struck by your opponent possibly being a cause of it.

I've had a lot of Sensei scream it at me over the last year, and recently had a chance to listen to a very high level Sensei talk about it to a large group.

Tokyo's Yano Sensei took charge of the kangeiko I attended this year at Komazawa University, while I didn't get the chance to practice with him I was lucky to hear him talk about stepping back after the keiko.

Sensei talked for over 20 minutes about how we should NOT step back.

He made the point that when he was a young man, his dojo was so small, you could not step back. Only 3 pairs could practice at a time, the Sensei would push and push but he couldn't go back further than 3 steps or to the side, so he had to push forwards.

He talked about how now days we practice in wider and longer dojo with some kendo clubs even practicing in large school gymnasiums. Players have more space to step back and even to the side to avoid opponents attacks.

Sensei said that it is vital to remove stepping back for the purpose of avoiding attacks from your kendo.

Sensei showed a number of ways in which we could attack rather than step back under pressure from your opponent.
Using harai, maki and kaeshi waza we can turn an opponents attack into one of our own.

If your opponent steps in to attack,

1. Step forward your self taking the centre and attack with kiriotoshi men.

2. Make harai, either on the omote or ura side striking men or kote.

3. Use maki waza to roll the opponents shinai out of the centre and attack the open target.

If we learn not to step back, we will begin to develop and immovable spirit.

Taking Yano Sensei's advice on board and combining it with Kubota Sensei's advice of pushing the right foot forward as an opponent moves I hope I will be able to attack more rather than stepping back.

Instead I will try to make it a chance for my self, push the opponent back, take the centre from them using harai or maki waza, If my seme has been putting pressure on them, make debanna or other oji attacks.


From my own brain and advice from other Senpai.

Stepping back usually gives your opponent the advantage, an opponent who likes to use ni-dan or san-dan waza will destroy you if you just step back to avoid their attack.

Especially bad is leaning back; bending your left leg and pulling your head back to avoid the strike does absolutely nothing other that leave you wide open for a follow up attack, or encourage your opponent to make his next attack more than one strike.

There are times when stepping back is of benefit, creating distance for an attack like nuki men against a taller opponent, or to make a hiki men against someone who only attacks once before "resetting" for example, but this post is more about stepping back just to evade an attack and how we should try to avoid doing it.

I really want to try to remove this aspect from my kendo and hope that with practice and effort I'll make an improvement on it this year.

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