Keiko with S. Sensei at Michinoko

S. Sensei, Kendo Hachi Dan joined practice at Michi no Ko yesterday, this was the first time in the dojos 40 year existance for a Hachi Dan sensei to join practice. He was invited by Abe Sensei to help some of our dojo members prepare for their grading examinations. 

Good luck guys!

Sensei took us through some kihon practice for one hour before jigeiko for one hour.

Sensei began the session with Kirikaeshi, pointing out mistakes and important points after each set.

Kiai, you must kiai fully during kirikaeshi, kiai from your tanden, (stomach, lower lung, abdominal breathing)
  1. Kiai from to-ma (long distance) YAAAA,
  2. Step into issokuito no maai (one step one strike distance) strike men MENNN
  3. Make taiatari, and when your motodachi steps back to distance, begin your alternating men strikes. 
S. Sensei pointed out that we must breath from our lower lungs during kirikaeshi, and that we must not breath between each cut.
We should clearly kiai for each cut, MEN, MEN, MEN, MEN etc, and not just one continuous kiai. This does not mean that we take breaths between each strike, with one breath, we make the 9 separate kiai for each cut.
If we breath between cuts, we will be breathing into the top of our lungs, breathing like this will tighten the chest and upper body, causing out shoulders to become stiff and stopping us from doing a smooth kirikaeshi.
By keeping our breath in our tanden, we will maintain relaxed shoulders and be able to cut faster and with larger swings of the shinai.

S. Sensei also told us to ensure that the left hand was fully raised to a point at least one fist above our forehead,  do not swing the left had out in front and the use the right hand only to turn the shinai. This will become habit when striking men and will leave your kote unprotected.

After practicing kirikaeshi we move on to uchikomigeiko, practicing men, kote, kote-men and oji waza.

For each of the standard attacks, men, kote and kote-men, Sensei had us begin from kensen to kensen (sword tip to sword tip) from here make your forward motion beginning with a slight movement of the right foot (this movement will become important for oji waza later) from here make a regular attacking step into issoku itto no maai and strike with a large cut 3 times and with a small cut 3 times.

Senseis main points were
Men - Seme to the centre, take chushin and then attack, do not to let the sword raise after striking men, cut to the centre of the opponent and push through with zanshin.

Kote - check the opponents kamae, press your shinai against his to take the centre, if they resist and try to take back the centre this is your opening. Cut kote extremely small, barely raising the shinai tip.

Kote-men - when striking kote men, ensure that your foot work is correct for each step, fumikomi followed by hikitsuke (stamping followed by the drawning up of the left foot), make each strike solid, with powerful fumikomi. Do not make too large a cut for kote, and do not let the shinai raise after striking men.

For all of the above it is important not to let your head and hands lead the strike, take the correct distance before striking and cut with your body, using your hips to push forward and keep your body upright.

 We the practiced Oji waza. Firstly sensei reminded us of the small step we used while doing the standard attacks. If we use this small step to invite our opponent to attack it gives us the advantage of setting the timing for their attack.

Even during waza keiko there should be a feeling of pressure from both sides, make the situation real. Both sides should want to cut 100%, omoikiri!

Make seme with your opponent checking his kamae, push your right foot forwards slightly, your opponent should feel that you are about to cut and should react by trying to attack first, the moment your opponent begins to move, when you see change in their posture, or the slight movement as the set them selves to push forwards, is the moment to strike. Do not wait for them to begin cutting.

We started with debanna kote. Push your right foot forwards to invite your opponent, as they are beginning to move to try strike men, strike kote. You are already moving forwards, so your cut will land first.

Sensei stressed that we must strike kote from above, do not try to cut from below. Making striking from above a habit, will help with suriage and kaeshi waza in the future.

We followed debanna kote with kaeshi do.

Again make seme with your opponent, when the pressure builds, step forwards with the right foot to invite them to attack, as they begin to cut men raise your shinai in front of you, arms extended, once your catch the shinai you should quickly and sharply make kaeshi do using your wrists.
Strike diagonally down against your opponents dou, moving diagonally forwards to your right.
Move just enough to avoid the opponents men strike and pass by their shoulder. 

Ai kote kote-men.

Again make seme with your opponent and build the pressure between you. Step forwards slightly inviting your opponent to attack. As he begins to move, strike kote followed by men. your kote should land firmly taking his attack out of the centre, your men strike should be followed by pushing through with zanshin.

Make fumikomi on the kote strike by stamping the right foot only, strike men with fumikomi and hikitsuke (stamping and drawing up the left foot) from here push through your opponent. Since your opponent is moving towards you, you should take smaller steps. (some sensei teach this waza by having you fumikomi twice on the spot, Sekiyama Sensei had us take very small steps forwards)

Again attack the kote from above and make a solid fumikomi, followed by a solid fumikomi for men.

The final waza was degashira men (debanna men)

Like all of the waza before, make seme with your opponent, when the pressure has built between you step forward slightly with the right foot, as the opponent begins to move, attack men by pushing forwad into the opponent strike men firmly and do not raise your hands. Push through your opponents centre and take zanshin.

Sensei said it was important not to raise your hands keep them down and avoid bouncing off your opponent and spinning in another direction, instead push through your opponent.

We then practiced the above 4 waza as a set. Before each cut make seme, after passing your opponent, turn and quickly take kamae, make seme again and step forwards to invite the next attack.

After this was a 5 minute break followed by jigeiko. I practiced with the 4 sensei in attendance and really enjoyed the keiko. At the end of practice we did kakarigeiko against Sekiyama Sensei and Abe Sensei (of Michi no Ko) Sekiyama Sensei was really tough on the older kenshi!

It was a great practice and it was nice to have such a high level sensei join us at the dojo. I look forward to his next visit!

Some thoughts on the movement of the right foot to invite your opponent.
"Step forward slightly with the right foot, as the opponent begins to move, attack men by pushing forward.."
Ive been thought this movement before by Sensei and Sempai alike. When I say the above its important to point out that its not just as black and white as that.You must make seme and build pressure to a point where both sides really want to cut,  its this pressure that we use to make the opponent attack in our timing. When I say step forward with the right foot, it is a tiny step, just pushing your toes out in front. The timing between this movement and the full attack is what makes it work. Some times you push forwards slightly and in almost the same instant continue with the full attack, others you push forwards, pause slightly, and then attack.

This timing is difficult to learn and is what I'm struggling with and trying my hardest with at the moment.

As I've said before and have been told again recently at keiko, having a good motodachi is really very important for kendo practice.

If you have a motodachi who is just going to blindly strike men when they feel like it, then your practicing your reaction speed more than your seme.
Our dojos sempai pointed out last week that during oji waza practice, motodachi should be waiting for your signals to begin their attack, this way you are practicing seme, and how to make your opponent react to your actions, rather than how to quickly react to theirs. Motodachi should also make sure not to attack when your seme is weak so that you always try to make the situation real.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post! Thank you
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