Visit of Kamei Sensei (Hanshi Hachi-dan) to NYC Kendo Club.

This week I was extremely lucky to join in an AEUSKF keiko session with Kamei Sensei, Hanshi Hachi-dan, from Kumamoto Prefecture in southern Japan. 


Kamei Sensei is a well known shiai player who has participated in multiple high level competitions. Earlier this year Kamei Sensei was Taisho (Captain) of the Western Team for the East VS West Tournament. 

Shiai Career: 

  • 八段優勝大会11回目出場 2位3位各1回: 11 Appearances at the 8th Dan Holders tournament, 2nd and 3rd place, once each. 
  • 選手権大会4回出場 2位:  4 appearances at the All Japan Kendo Championship, 2nd place. 
  • 世界大会出場: Appeared at the World Kendo Championship
  • 東西対抗大会11回出場: 11 Appearences at the East vs West Tournament, as captain in 2015 
  • 都道府県対抗大会出場: Appeared at the Inter-Prefectural Tournament (Toudoufuken Taiko Taikai)
  • 国体11回出場 優勝1回 3位2回: 11 appearances at the National Athletic Taikai 1st place once and 3rd place twice.
  • 全国警察官大会 団体一部優勝 二部優勝2回: All Japan Police Officers Tournament, Team First place once (1st division), Team First Place twice (2nd division)
  • 全日本選抜七段大会 優勝5回: All Japan 7th Dan Holders Tournament, 1st place five times.  Translated from : http://www.kendo.or.jp/competition/senbatsu-8dan/13th/playerlist/3902.html

Kamei Sensei vs Tsukamoto Sensei (2015 Tozai Taiko Taikai)



Video from Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei

Video from this years East vs West Tournament. Kamei Sensei is white. 

Seminar

Kamei Sensei is famous for his Men Strike. Luckily for us, he decided to share what he believes is the fundamental basis for a solid Men cut and as a result all Kihon Uchi. 

Kamei Sensei began the seminar by allowing us to strike me 3 times each in groups of 3 people. Once everyone had the opportunity to strike he called a halt to practice and asked us to gather round. I value these moments highly, it is so important watch and mimic what the teacher is demonstrating. Even if you cannot understand their words, try to mimic their movement. In Japan they call it Image Training.

Kamei Sensei's two main points. 

  • Don't allow your left foot to pass your right before cutting. 
  • When pushing forward to cut men. Lift the shinai and right leg at the same time. 

Things to consider before the cut


Some basic principles we should think about before we step forward to practice.

Kamae


Sensei started by asking us to relax, to remove the tension from our shoulders and back. Push the shoulders down and back slightly. 

Holding the Shinai


Kamei Sensei instructed that the shinai be held slightly out from the body. I would imagine it is a little further out than the often taught, one fist from the navel (bellybutton). The grip should be over all relaxed, but firm.

Eye contact


Kamei Sensei mande a special mention of eye contact. By keeping your eyes focused on your opponents eyes as you strike, you will naturally keep a good posture. Trying to focus on everything can lead to your head and chin rising as you strike. 

Things to consider while cutting


When standing in-front of your opponent remember these ideas as you step in to distance, push forward to strike, pass through your opponent and turn to strike again.

Left foot placement. 


Kamei Sensei noted that many people we allowing the left foot to come ahead of the right foot before launching into a cut. He instructed that we focus on not allowing this to happen. 

Moving the shinai and the right leg at the same time. 


This was quite possibly Sensei's No. 1 point. 

During our practice Kamei Sensei pointed out multiple times that most people were swinging their shinai up and then moving their bodies. He asked that we try instead to move the shinai and right leg at the same time. Sensei asked us to imagine that the the right knee is pushing the left hand up as it moves.


He gave two reasons. 
  1. Its quicker. Swinging the shinai up and moving the right leg at the same time reduces the amount of time required to strike. 
  2. Raising your shinai before moving your body signals, loudly, to your opponent that you are about to cut. Those who swing up before they move also expose their body to a strike. 


This image shows Kamei Sensei raising his shinai and leg and the same time.
Screen capture from Kendo Jidai DVD 


Keeping the sword tip down after cutting


Sensei asked us to not allow our kensen to raise after striking the opponents men. After the shinai hits the men-buton don't keep your hands at that level and push through your opponents centre without letting your shinai raise.

Accelerating after you hit


After your strike, and once your left foot has returned to its starting position you should immediately speed up. Pushing from the left foot, increase your speed and pass your opponent.

Turning to face your opponent 


Pivot on your right foot, turn sharply and return your left foot to the correct position. This will ensure you are ready to strike again.

On taking centre and seme


Sensei showed us how to use the top part of the shinai to manipulate our opponents center. Using techniques such as Osae (pushing), Harai (striking) and Maki (rolling/twisting) to move the opponents sword tip as well as ashi-sabaki (footwork) to move your body.  He said it is important to practice these methods of creating chances during basic training.

He also linked his point about keeping eye contact with your opponent with seme. Saying that it allows you to strike at the right moment.


Kamei Sensei on the cover on Kendo Jidai (October 2010)

Exercises


Form Practice


First Kamei sensei asked us to break down the movement of cutting and practice on the spot.

  1. Stand in Kamae
  2. Raise the right leg and raise the shinai above your head at the same time. 
  3. Balance on your left foot for a moment. 
  4. Push your body forward with the left foot, swing your shinai down, and move your right foot forward. Cut to men height and make Fumikomi at the same time. It's not necessary to bring up the left foot
  5. Return to your starting position. 

Based on what Sensei showed us, and some similar exercises, you could try the following in your dojo. Have one person count out the steps. 

Ichi - Raise the right foot and shinai
Ni - Strike men and make fumikomi
San - Return to starting position

Striking Practice


Following on from the above broken down practice, we then practiced striking a partner. 
Stand closer to your opponent than usual. Lift your right leg and swing your shinai up. As soon as your shinai is raised, strike your opponents men. It is not necessary to follow through after cutting. 

Putting everything together


Finally, we practiced striking our opponent from long distance, pushing through and turning to strike again. 

  • Combine all of the instruction from above. 
  • Maintain eye contact with your opponent
  • Practice making seme and taking the centre
  • Step in to issoku-itto no maai (one step striking distance)
  • Push from the left foot, swing the shinai and left the right leg at the same time. 
  • Strike your opponents men, maintaining eye contact and posture. 
  • Push through your opponent, accelerating and keeping your kensen down. 
  • Once past your opponent a few paces, pivot on your right foot and turn to face your opponent.
  • Repeat and strike 3 times each before changing partners. 

Keiko and Closing Remarks. 


Group photo after practice.
www.facebook.com/New-York-City-Kendo-Club

Following the short seminar we had the opportunity to practice with Sensei. He wanted to spar with everyone in the dojo, and he did. Almost 50 people! I enjoyed my short session with him, I tried to practice to the best of my ability, Kamei Sensei disarmed me almost immediately! 

Following the jigeiko session Sensei made a short speech thanking everyone for practice. He said, "Starting kendo and doing it once is easy. Continuing to practice, from when you start until you die is the most difficult thing". 

A big thank you from me to Kamei Sensei, as well as to the NYC Kendo Club members and AEUSKF for the opportunity. 

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, as much as I enjoyed practicing with such a great teacher. Please feel free to comment and ask questions or leave your own experiences of how other Hanshi teach the fundamentals.






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