Foot work and Tai-sabaki

I had my first session back from my summer vacation on Thursday night, after almost 6 weeks away from kendo it was a challenging session both physically and mentally!

It was a good kihon session led by T Sensei and Michi no Ko, and I found my self struggling for form through lack of practice.

One of the main things that was holding me back was my movement, I was lurching, leaping forward with my left leg trailing out behind me, and generally not doing very good kendo..... 4 weeks sitting on sunny beaches will do that!!

T Sensei was talking alot during the session about body movement, using your feet to put your body in a good position for strikes, giving you the time and space to correctly execute your waza and strike your opponent.

Continue reading for some examples!

Kaeshi do. When making Kaeshi Do, it is of course important to extend your arms forwards while making contact with your opponents shinai, then quickly using your wrists strike do cutting diagonally down, and not up or from the side.

T Sensei said that we should make the kaeshi catching the opponents shinai, and then step with the cut (fumikoi is not necessary). The step should be diagonally to the right and you should either look at the target, or keep eye contact with your opponent, don't look into the distance.

He made a point that many people were stepping to far forward while striking do resulting in a cut that is too deep, striking the front of their opponents do and with their shinai to the side.

A correct cut would be using the hasuji correctly to strike diagonally down onto the side of the opponents do while extending the arms forwards.

T Sensei also noted that a lot of people released the left hand during or after the cut. This is bad and we should try to keep the left hand on the tsuka at all times, it is ok to push the left hand up during the cut, but taking it off especially for zanshin is a no no for him.

Suriage men: I was struggling with this in particular and I couldn't get a single strike to land. Why? because I was rooted to the spot. My opponents men strike would bounce off of my attempted suriage, but I couldn't land my counter technique as they were coming forwards and colliding with me.

T Sensei said that we should move our body slightly to either the right or left of the opponent while making suriage.

Omote Suriage Men: pressure your opponent to strike your men by moving your right foot slightly forwards and make the suriage men strike by making a small fumikomi step diagonally to the right, your body should face your opponent at the time of striking, you shouldn't be facing away.

Ura Suriage Men: as you opponent is striking men, step to your left and make suriage me on the ura side of his shinai. The movement should be as one but he broke it down as moving the left foot as we make suriage, and bringing the other foot into position as we cut, making fumikomi with the right foot.

T Sensei made take note of how much he stepped for different opponents and different distances, you should take a bigger or smaller step depending on how tall your opponent is and from what distance he tries to cut men.

As always it was a pleasure to practice with him and to watch him explain.

One thing which I want to try out is watching my opponent during keiko or shiai to see how he cuts men. If he is confident, cutting and then trying to push through, I can make a suriage by taking a larger step diagonally back this will give me space to strike correctly and with out colliding as he comes through, then I should be able have a forward cut and zanshin.

Or alternatively, if he gets hesitant in his strikes, and stopping short after trying to attack, I dont need to take as big a step to make the distance, he isn't moving forwards so I should be able to just step diagonally and strike.