Ichi byoshi - cutting in one motion

Ichi byoshi, refers to cutting in a single motion, in the timing of one.

Nagashima Sensei has been focusing on this kind of men cut for well over half a year now at Michi no Ko. Id like to introduce the idea and talk about some of the exercises we can do to improve our cutting technique.

Most beginners learn to cut men by learning it in either a two or three step motion,

Swing the sword up before stepping forwards,

  1. start from chudan no kamae, raise the sword above your head to jodan,
  2. step forward with the right foot and begin to cut down wards, 
  3. bring the left foot forward with hiki-tsuke and finish the cut with kiai.
Or alternatively

Swing the sword while moving,
  1. move the right foot forwards while swinging the sword to jodan,
  2. draw up the left foot while completing the cut with kiai.
While neither of these methods are wrong, and I would teach beginners in this way too, I think its important after a certain stage to introduce a different method of cutting. 

Swing the sword at the last moment,
  1. Start from chudan no kamae, push your right foot forwards, keeping the sword down,
  2. Without pausing, we begin to cut when the right foot is about half way through the forward step,
  3. Quickly cut men while the right foot finishes its forward step and the left foot snaps into place with hiki-tsuke. 
With this method of cutting we will learn to cut men while our body is moving forwards, and without raising our hands too early. This is important for successfully cutting small men.

If we take this into our bogu keiko we can practice both large and small men using the same principal. 

Again, many Sensei will practice cutting men in different ways, and none are wrong. This is just one way to practice cutting men. 

Big men with ichi-byoshi timing: this should be done slowly at first, pausing after stepping into distance, and quicker once you get the hang of it.
  1. Assume the correct kamae, posture upright and relaxed, chin tucked in and feet correctly placed, 
  2. Start from to-ma (far distance) step into your own issoku itto no maai (one step striking distance) or a little bit closer to begin with,
  3. Be sure to draw the left foot up correctly, don't bring it too far forwards, or leave it too far behind, 
  4. From issoku itto no maai, push off with the left foot towards your opponent, at the very same instant swing your shinai in a large movement to cut men in one motion,
  5. Your fumikomi should be followed instantly by correct hiki-tsuke. 
Important points that Nagashima Sensei has corrected us on; 
  • be sure to step into a distance you are comfortable cutting from,
  • make sure your feet are in a correct position at all times, 
  • don't swing up the shinai before pushing off, your cut and forward motion should be as one
  • don't raise your right foot too high while making fumikomi,
  • relax your upper body, or there is not a chance of you cutting quick enough!
  • ensure your posture is correct at the moment of cutting by drawing up your left foot instantly. 
This can be a bit difficult at first, for me all of my instincts told me to swing up before pushing off, I still sometimes found it awkward and difficult to coordinate. But from both watching Sensei and persevering, I've begun to get the hang of it. 

Small men with ichi-byoshi timing: this is definitely where cutting in one motion becomes important. 

Most kendo players cut small men by making a very slight (or very large in some cases) movement in their arms before extending to cut men, this is called okori-bana in Japanese and is the ideal point for a nice debana waza!
The most common type of okori-bana is the lifting of the right hand, my sempai in Ireland would take kote from me 5 or 6 times in a row during keiko, because I continuously took my kensen out of the centre by lifting my right hand. 

This relates back to how we cut men during suburi, if you don't do a correct big cut, your small cut wont be good either. 

This method of cutting small men is pretty universal, watch videos of Takanabe or Eiga Sensei to see them cutting in the tiniest of motion.

  1. Start from a correct chudan no kamae, posture upright, feet placed correctly and chin tucked in. 
  2. Step from to-ma into issoku itton no maai (or slightly closer to make sure your posture is correct while cutting)
  3. Without raising your sword, push off from the left foot. 
  4. Your right foot should be moving towards your opponents centre, just above the floor,
  5. At the very last moment, push your left hand forwards to cut men using the snap of your wrists 
  6. Make fumikomi at the moment of cutting, snap the left foot up with hiki-tsuke and push through your opponent. 
Important points:
  • step in to a comfortable distance,
  • ensure you left foot is drawn up to the correct position,
  • dont raise your right foot too high for fumikomi,
  • dont raise you kensen untill the last moment,
  • dont lean your head forwards, keep your posture upright,
  • make sure to keep good posture by snapping your left foot into place with hikitsuke
  • higher grades should close the distance from to-ma with smaller steps, make the situation real.
By learning to attack men in this way we create less openings for our opponent. Keeping the sword down and the kensen pointed towards the opponents throat or left eye will make it harder for them to see your attack. The closer to their face you get the more difficult it will be for them to see your kensen.

I think one of the most important aspects of this style of cutting is being relaxed. I will make a post on suburi in the coming weeks focusing on keeping the upper body relaxed.

Thank you for reading and good luck!