Nippon Kendo Kata | Considerations for Instruction

Professor Sakudo Masao
(Osaka University of Health and Sport Science)

Introduction

When it was decided that kendō (and budō) education would become compulsory in junior high schools, experts were quite astonished as there are many complex problems that need to be resolved. Some time ago at the School Kendo Federation (Gakkō Kendō Renmei) General Assembly convened at the National Teacher's Tournament, it was determined that the Chūtairen (Junior High School Athletic Association) should take the leading role for kendō in schools throughout the country. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) would direct from an official level, but the School Federation would initiate actual promotion in schools. In other words, the reality is that the regional kendō federations are expected to provide the necessary finances and human resources to facilitate the educational objectives.

There are in fact many teachers in charge of kendō clubs and instruction in junior high schools who are not actual practitioners themselves, and they are sure to face many difficulties from now on. MEXT has dedicated considerable resources in terms of time and money to create plans for the initiative, but now we have to question whether or not the current state of preparation is sufficient for conducting kendō classes effectively. It seems imminent that we will all need to cooperate for the scheme to work, but ultimately this is directly related to the source of regional education.

I am very happy to be here at the 41st Japanese Academy of Budo Convention at Keio University. I am particularly attracted to Keio University's logo of a sword crossed with a pen, and those old traditional hats that students used to wear. As the old maxim goes the pen is mightier than the sword, which is what the logo indicates a notion underpins the essence of the Japanese Academy of Budo.

I used to be an assistant at this university two times a week for four years under Nakano Yasoji, who was the Shihan of the university kendō club. I was still young at the time, but saw how the club's fortune declined and then returned to dominate its traditional rival, Waseda, and also achieve great results at the All Japan Students Championships. We should respect the spirit of this school. I was fortunate to train with some of the OBs at the Mita Dōjō the other day, and engaged in some very informative conversations with a young teacher here.

Anyway, please look at the printouts. At last year's symposium the Kendo Division's Forum was based on the theme of Kata Kenjutsu and Shinai KendōTracing the Transition of Physical Technique from eCutting and Thrustingf to eStriking and Thrustingf. We looked at the connection between modern kendō using shinai and the classical forms of swordsmanship in terms of cutting and thrusting (zantotsu) methodology.

I would like to consider the transition between kata kendō and shinai kendō once again. By doing this, I hope we can obtain a complete picture of the correlation with ezantotsuf kendō, and simultaneously appreciate how our predecessors amassed their wisdom in the creation of a new Way for lifelong study.

 

(1) Why Study the Nippon Kendo Kata Now?

Following on from the datotsu (striking and thrusting) methodology and zantotsu (cutting and thrusting) methodology from our previous meeting, today I would like to investigate ways of teaching the Nippon Kendo Kata.

Why should we study the Nippon Kendo Kata now? At the root of this question lies the concern that modern shinai kendō is deviating from competitive kendō, and is in fact becoming a competitive sport. As you are all aware, kendō's affiliation with GAISF (Sportaccord) represents the second stage of its internationalization. How should we view the sword within the precincts of martial history, and what aspects of its culture do we need to retain and integrate into the match rules as competitive characteristics, thereby establishing a new set of relevant values? Almost one century has passed since the creation of the Nippon Kendo Kata, but quite frankly the state of its propagation is pitiful. It seems that the only reason people do it is for the sake of passing promotion examinations.

Inoue Masataka wrote the book Nippon Kendō Kata no Riron to Jissai (The Theory and Practice of Nippon Kendo Kata, Taiiku Sports Shuppansha, Nov. 1999). He makes the harsh observation that the Nippon Kendo Kata has become isolated from kendō practitioners and dropped from educationc and has still not become established or popularizedc Current instruction in the kata is superficial, and focussed on basic form in a way that the true ekata spiritf can never be educed.

Somebody asked the question in an earlier presentation, How should we address the problem of attitude, action, and way of thinking in kendō? In this sense, I believe that the kata are meaningful, and the way in which we consider its meaning is very important. There are many ways in which the kata can be interpreted, but finding a common thread in our perception will enable the traditional culture of kendō to stay alive. The way in which various settings and patterns of behaviour can be developed through the kata is of the utmost consequence in kendō. Today, I would like to address some mistakes in the way kata is taught, and the lack of tangible research that has been conducted on the subject.

 

(2) The Purpose of Learning Kata

The first kenjutsu kata were systemized from the ryūha progenitor's experiences in mortal combat, and encompassed the way in which the mind and body were operated conjointly for optimum effect in the one-on-one confrontation in terms of timing and spatial distance. Those who learned the kata had to embody the movements, and through constant repetition were able to vicariously experience the progenitor's knowledge. In other words, kata can be explained as a vehicle in which the adept was able to forge unison of mind, technique and body (shin-gi-tai) in a process of understanding, learning and mastering the techniques.

During the Tokugawa period, the attitude of bushi warriors to their swords saw a transition from implements for killing (setsunin-tō) to tools of encouraging life (katsunin-ken). Through practicing the kata, martial arts evolved and served to enhance the warrior's understanding the foundation of life. By the Bakumatsu period in the early nineteenth century the number of kenjutsu ryūha had grown to over 500, with more than 200 core schools in existence.

The Nippon Kendo Kata was first formulated at the beginning of the Taishō period in the early twentieth century. Efforts to create a new set of kata can be regarded as symbolic of the need to unify the various schools of kenjutsu for the modernization process of kendō after the Meiji era. It was also a means for remedying various problems that arose in shinai kendō such as incorrect tenouchi, bad attacking posture, striking with no regard to blade angle (hasuji), and so on. Nevertheless, it is clear that it has had absolutely no effect in this regard.

I started working at the Osaka University of Health and Sport Science in the spring of 1974, and implemented Nippon Kendo Kata as a central component of training for the first time. Until that time, kata training had mostly consisted of mastering the correct outward form as an appendage to promotion examinations. The idea of studying kata as a program for cultivating physical techniques and becoming aware of one's body through rumination of new movements gleaned from actual confrontation with the opponent, one point at a time, was not given much thought. Rather than talking about the kata to students, I felt it was best just to throw myself into each and every attack, one student after another.

After going through this process for about fifteen years I started to realise how remarkable the kata really is. Until this revelation I had always thought of kata as separate to shinai kendō, but started to understand that it offered many important insights. I began to formulate ways of effectively teaching the kata, and still continue to instruct various methods mainly to elementary and junior high school students.

With regards to problems related to kata, today I would like to talk about patterns (yōshiki) and contest (shōbu). By executing the prescribed movements in kata, we also have to search for ways of transcending simple technical prearrangement. In a presentation by Professor Mitsuhashi of Chūkyō University titled Shōbu - Senron (The theory of esenf in contest), he investigates the method and significance of taking esenf or the initiative in kata. I would like to focus on these two points, and consider instructional methods for kata based on the three elements of physical awareness (ishiki), sensation (kankaku), and technique (gihō).

 

(3) Teaching Kata

1. The Patterns of Kata ‒

In the kata two people face-off at a safe distance of nine paces, and assume a stance that is universal and replete (based on the five elements). Staying in kamae, each protagonist shuffles forward (suri-ashi), and the weapons transmute from sensory blades (shoku-ha) into the crossed blades (-ha) as the distance for engagement is reached, and the initiative to attack (sen) is seized. An appropriate technique is executed, and zanshin demonstrated after the fact in the maintenance of physical and psychological readiness. The swords are then crossed again in ai-chūdan, lowered (not expressed as ebreakingf kamae), and then both move back to the original starting positions (nine-paces apart) with suri-ashi.

Kata involves the repetition of this process. Both engage each other in the encounter by repeatedly traversing to and from the human interval (ningen-no-ma) where the protagonists face-off at nine paces, and the engagement interval (zantotsu-kōbō-no-ma) where techniques of attack and defence are effected.

I think that the way in which this pattern is perceived is what is lacking in kata instruction. The protagonists advance towards each other but their feelings are not easily connected. Students are told to do this, and do that in the engagement without understanding the real meaning of closing the distance.

In the latter half of the eighteenth century, Kashibuchi Ariyoshi wrote the Geijutsu bukō-ron in which he instructs that ma-ai (interval) is the distance in which the enemy can approach, and you can proceed. He tries to take his position, and you try to take your measure. This creates equipoise (tsuri-ai). Both are replete in spirit (ki), and seek an opportunity (ki). This is referred to as eki-aif. All these elements of ma-ai, tsuri-ai, and ki-ai are manifest in the configuration of kata; and when the crucial interval is approached through mutual physical and psychological transformation resulting in an encounter of victory and defeat, this can be described as ki-shō-ten-ketsu (introduction, development, twist, and conclusion) similar to Chinese or Japanese poetry.

A peculiar relation between two human beings commences from the nine-pace interval. As the distance is decreased, ma-ai, tsuri-ai, and ki-ai become more intense. The imminent feeling of danger as the interval is closed is of the utmost importance, and is integral in the sequential pattern of the kata. How one relates to and holds kamae while advancing is, I believe, imperative and became a fixed part of the pattern of kata in the Tokugawa period with the influence of aesthetic culture (geidō bunka).

Yuasa Yasuo defined the methods of practice in Buddhism as zazen, where the practitioner sits in quiet contemplation (serene meditative method); and dōzen, in which the practitioner meditates while walking (motional meditative method). He also points out that the Japanese arts and martial arts have a tradition of adopting this motional meditative approach to gradually attain a state of no-mind (mushin).

This is consistent with the Zen monk Hakuin's idea that work produced in movement is a trillion times better than work produced within tranquillity. The contest of waza (technique) is prescribed by the gaging of interval (ma) and positioning (ba) beforehand. It is similar to arranging various foods on plates to achieve the most alluring effect, and also signifies the importance of the meaning and movement of the patterns in the kata.

I sometimes make my evening meal at home as it is irksome buying precooked meals from the convenience store or supermarket. It is far more rewarding to have a big decorative plate and devise ways to arrange the food in an appealing manner, and it tastes better than if it is bought. In this sense, I think the various patterns of movement in kata serve to generate preparative mutual elevation as both protagonists come closer together to engage, and thus are integral to the attraction of the kata.

 

2. Shōbu – The Importance of Taking the Sen

Although the kata consists of predetermined moves, its essence is found in transcending the prescribed boundaries. In other words, the shōbu or contest is won through devising a way to take the sen (initiative) at the point when the swords convert from sensory blades to crossed blades at the interval of engagement. In the tachi-no-kata with the long swords, the initial attack is made after seeing the opportunity (ki wo mite), but in the kodachi-no-kata with the short sword, the action before the counter-attack is described as entering straight in to force an opening (irimi). It is pointed out that creating this winning chance is very important, but nowadays little notice seems to be taken of this notion when instructing.

In the first official explanation of the kata that was issued when the set was formulated, it mentions that numbers 1, 2, 3, and 5 were won by sen-sen-no-sen, and 4, 6, and 7 by go-no-sen; but no reference is made to the kodachi-no-kata. Professor Mitsuhashi explains the use of these two varieties of sen to attain victory. He taught at the Tokyo Higher Normal School and Keio University, and was an active member of the Japanese Academy of Budo. His interpretations of sen-sen-no-sen and go-no-sen have been extremely useful for me when teaching students, and I would like to share his insights with you.

Since ancient times, the opportunity for attaining victory has been expressed with the term esenf. In the Nippon Kendo Kata, the two variations of sen-sen-no-sen and go-no-sen are used to prevail, and these principles are infused in the forms. Sen-sen-no-sen is to win through anticipation (before the opponent's technique starts); whereas go-no-sen is to gain victory through conditioned reflexive movement. Particularly in sports where the result is decided in an instant, there is no other way of winning other than through anticipation or reflexive action. Of course, neither is necessarily exclusive, and there are some instances when they are so close together, that it is impossible to differentiate. There are other occasions in which they are coordinated. Although the relationship between the two is varied, the basic premise is still based on either anticipation or reflex. In kendō, sen-sen-no-sen is to win through keen insight into the opponent's intentions, and go-no-sen through reflexive reaction.

This is quite a complicated concept to grasp, but to demonstrate his point he explained the rationale of kata number 1 and 6 where he categorises observable phenomenal victory chances, and the psychologically nuanced substantial victory chances.

In this way, it is standard to classify techniques as shikake-waza (attack), ai-uchi (simultaneous attack) and ōji-waza (counter-attack). In shikake-waza there is winning through anticipation (sen-sen-no-sen), as well as winning through reflexive action (go-no-sen). Similarly, there is sen-sen-no-sen and go-no-sen in ai-uchi and ōji-waza. If one is unable to determine the substantial perspective, it cannot be understood by just watching kendō. Protagonists must be able to observe each other's minds, and in order to interact on this level, substance must be carefully studied in the course of everyday training. This was Professor Mitsuhashi's argument.

In modern kendō, the official explanation of kata (Kata no Kaisetsu) cannot be comprehended only from the perspective of phenomenal victory chances, but can clarified through Mitsuhashi's theory of esenf and the ways of attaining victory (by anticipation or reflex). Nevertheless, the problem remains of how to exercise this theory in concrete terms when teaching beginners. Understanding a concept, and teaching it are two different things.

 

Phenomenal victory chances

Substantial victory chances

1.     Shikake-waza

a.      Victory by anticipation

b.     Victory by reflexive action

2.     Ai-uchi

a.      Victory by anticipation

b.     Victory by reflexive action

3.     Ōji-waza

a.      Victory by anticipation

b.     Victory by reflexive action

 

I would like to quote from Ōta Ryūhō's work to offer some clues for overcoming this problem:

Sen-sen-no-sen: There are two types – tangible sen-sen-no-sen with form (ukei), and intangible without form (mukei). The former refers to applying pressure first, and just as the opponent is about to react, accurately avoiding or seizing their movement and striking ahead of them. Intangible sen-sen-no-sen is pre-empting the opponent's ki, and just as their eintention to strikef manifests, the scent (nioi) of their intended target resonates in your own heart, and you respond by striking before their attack can form. You strike their scent with your scent, so it is also called enioi-no-senf.

By combining Ōta's ideas of tangible (ukei) and intangible (mukei) sen-sen-no-sen with Mitsuhashi's theory of sen and teaching it to beginners, I thought that a sense of realism could be created. Within the issue of kata patterns, grasping the theory of sen as the interval is closed will enable even beginners to feel a sense of realism in sen-sen-no-sen with the clash of ki at the [vocalization of] Yaa!

This way, it is possible to gain a direction for teaching kata to beginners with tangible sen-sen-no-sen, and intangible sen-sen-no-sen for more advanced practitioners. When teaching novices, conceiving ukei sen-sen-no-sen (beckoning, urging, or making the opponent attack first) will heighten the sense of reality in seizing the opportunity to attack in the Kata, and will also facilitate learning ai-ki (mutual and harmonious ki). By going through a process of minimalizing or reducing movement for experienced practitioners, it is possible to open a path to nioi-no-sen where the opponent's intention is sensed rather than seen. Thus, by combining the theories espoused by these two teachers, beginners and expert practitioners can both benefit greatly from the study of kata.

 

3. Technical Principles and Physical Movements

Before talking about the technical principles and physical movements of the Nippon Kendo Kata I think it is necessary to outline the transitional progression seen in the early-modern period when kata kenjutsu and shinai kenjutsu coexisted. Professor Nagao Susumu has already analysed in great detail the way in which footwork developed. According to his research, it is evident that back in the time of Miyamoto Musashi ayumi-ashi footwork was explained in the following terms: Yin and yang. This is fundamentalc When cutting, pulling back, or even receiving, move with the left foot then right, left and right, yin and yangc Nagao also asserts that in addition to this basic walking style (ayumi-ashi), shuffling (okuri-ashi) used in modern kendō also existed.

He also points out that frequent use of okuri-ashi became established around the Tempō era (1831‒45), the same time when Ōishi Susumu came onto the scene with his extra-long shinai. Moreover, with the increased frequency of okuri-ashi, we also see a major change in the way the rear foot (usually the left foot) was used. He concludes that from this period it became conventional for the left heel to be raised slightly off the ground and remain in the same position when moving and striking. The tip of the katana tends to waiver when walking with it in front of the body holding the sword with both hands, and it is difficult to manoeuvre smoothly. This becomes even more constricting with a longer sword. Furthermore, okuri-ashi became increasingly common through innovations implemented by fencing masters such as Chiba Shūsaku to increase speed in shinai kenjutsu. It was found that raising the left heel and refraining from having one's feet splayed was most effective for facilitating swiftness.

The first seven sets of the Nippon Kendo Kata are comprised of the following techniques: three nuki-waza techniques (1, 2 and 7); two suriage-waza (5 – omote, and 6 – ura); ire-tsuki (3); and makikaeshi-waza (4). In the three sets of kodachi-no-kata there are two ukenagashi-waza (1 – omote, and 2 – ura); and a combination of suriage, suri-otoshi, suri-nagashi and suri-komi used to subdue the opponent (3).

When the protagonists are separated beyond the interval of engagement, both move with ayumi-ashi; however, when the interval is close, shidachi moves mainly with okuri-ashi, and depending on the waza, will retreat, shuffle or move to the side (hiraki-ashi). In all cases the movement is fundamentally conducted by sliding across the floor (suri-ashi).

Next, I would like to consider the issue of technical principles in the execution of individual waza, and the physical movements. Perusing the official explanations of the Nippon Kendo Kata, I would like to look at the kata from the three components of posture, respiration, and moving.

 

(a) Tatsu (Stand) ‒ Shizentai (Natural standing position)

Relaxed in the upper-body, and strong in the lower-body (jōkyo-kajitsu), the stance should be simple, deep, tall, and dignified.

Koshi wo tateru (Lifting the hips up)

The heels of both feet should be separated by about a fist's distance with the tips of the toes shoulder-width apart. The back of knees should not be stretched too tightly, and the stance should be concentrated at the points in the middle of both feet above the arches (ni-soku yūsen-dachi). The hips should be elevated and meld into the back. This will lower the diaphragm, and focus tension in the lower abdominal area which will serve to settle the hips.

The back should be straight, and the shoulders rolled back and relaxed. The chest is eased, the neck straightened, and the eyes fixed in one position. This sensation is easy to grasp if somebody was to suddenly slap your seventh cervical vertebra with the flat of the hand. If the centre of gravity is situated in the triangle between the soles of both feet, this will facilitate jōko-kajitsu (relaxed upper-body and sturdy lower-body) in the stance completing shizentai, which will then operate as the platform for manoeuvring.

The Front-on Engagement in Tachi-keiko

Kendō invloves a constant face-off in a forward-facing position, and even if eye-contact is lost, it is only for a split second. Protagonists confront each other at a distance of approximately 2 metres apart, and engage in tachi-keiko (standing keiko), matching each other's shizentai (awareness, senses, technique). Fixing the gaze on the opponent's face without being drawn into their eyes, the adept subjugates any expression of being hampered, awkward or weary. This is referred to as enzan-no-metsuke (the gaze of looking at a far mountain), and the eyes remain focused on the spot in the middle of the opponent's face known as seigan.

 

(b) Moving = Manoeuvring with Shinzentai

It is thought that all of the footwork became suri-ashi (sliding) when training was moved from outside environs and instead conducted inside on wooden floors. Suri-ashi is a closed ring of movement as both feet maintain contact with the floor, enabling stability and smooth rapid movement in any direction. As stability is maintained, the sword can be swung while the kamae or fighting stance remains steady while the adept moves to engage the opponent from the subtlest of intervals; and it also enables continuation into fumikomi-ashi (stamping) in the case of shinai kendō.

I will refrain from delving into the various other modes of footwork used in kendō here. Suffice it to say that it is not suri-ashi if the heels are sluggish and the soles of the feet rise up when moving. One must have the feeling of having heels firm, but manoeuvring efficiently without cramping the toes. Make sure that the feet are not turned up, and ensure that the hips are stable with a replete lower-abdominal area through elongated respiration, flexible knees and steady heels in order to move the body evenly across the floor.

 

(c) Breathing

The next point concerns breathing. Conscious respiration (sustained abdominal pressure ‒ continually lowering the diaphragm) is a method of breathing that only human beings can accomplish. It is inextricably linked with all sorts of vital activity, and is alluded to in Chiba Shūsaku's writings where he stated, The sword is manipulated with explosive respiration shin-ki-ryoku-itchi (unison of mind, force, and technique).

In June this year, I went to a junior high school in Nara to oversee trainee teachers. One of the study units concerned the circulatory system and the respiratory system. Because the school was located in a hilly region, students travelled to school each day traversing steep streets by bicycle. I was able to see children in the developmental stage of building endurance, cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular capacity, and this gave me an opportunity to think about the importance of respiration. Conscious breathing can only be accomplished by intelligent beings. When we are asleep we breathe instinctively, but we do not breathe when we are talking. In this way, we are in control of when we breathe in and out.

This is related to the problem of when to breathe during kata or shinai training in kendō, or how to respire when executing kirikaeshi, uchikomi, or kakari-geiko. In the case of kata practice, there are numerous points in which you are told donft breathe herec hold your breath here, and so on. What does the respirational process entail from the Yah! through to the demonstration of zanshin? Kata is a valuable means for studying respiratory methodology.

Prolonged Respiration

Prolonged exhalation is always active, and is very important for practical purposes when humans seek to complete an activity in one breath. This is associated with the ability to unleash a technique at any given moment when facing an opponent.

Instantaneous Exhalation

The shoulders rise with inhalation because the diaphragm lowers as you breathe in. However, by instantly exhaling without allowing the shoulders to rise, i.e. to be able to exhale instantly even in mid-inhalation, is something that we need to study.

Strong Instantaneous Abdominal Exhalation

This can lead to musei (noiselessness), but usually refers to the execution of a technique simultaneously with a sharp vocalisation. By devising ways of settling of the hips and achieving this kind of exhalation as the body pivots, it becomes possible to utilise the upper and lower limbs in various ways.

Each Kata in Two Breaths

In the old days, people were able to achieve remarkable feats such as crossing the Nihonbashi Bridge in one breath. We are no match for our ancestors anymore, but I believe that we should aim to complete each kata with two breaths. Breath in and assume kamae at 9 paces apart ¨ exhale as the interval is closed and the swords touch, cross, and the technique is executed ¨ zanshin ¨ai-chūdan. All of this is done with one breath. Then, Inhale as the swords are lowered ¨ exhale while retreating to the original positions. (Thus, completing each kata in two breaths.)

Aiki-awase (Harmonising ki)

Protagonists match their ki as they traverse in and out of the human interval (ningen-no-ma) and the interval for attack and defence (zantotsu kobo-no-ma). Especially when teaching beginners, you should ensure that they execute the kata while uniting their consciousness, senses and technique as they are moving in from chūdan-no-kamae. At this point, introduce the five vocalisations (Iii, Yaa, Haa, Iei, Toh) to unify respiration, and make them able to prolong their breath. Make the exhalation long from the first step, and have them exhale with Iiiiiii, Yaaaaa, Haaaaa, Iei, Toooh. This will make the exhaled breath continuous and integrated.

Children become excited when making a loud voice, so they should be able to grasp the idea of unified ki quite easily. Then by incorporating the two-breaths per kata that I mentioned, moving (ayumi-ashi) with vocalisation (Iii Yaa Haa) and prolonged breath they enter the interval of engagement (clash of ki). When the breathing ceases at this point, uchidachi exhales while stepping in to attack with Iei, while shidachi steps back and then in with instantaneous abdominal breath (Toh). Both assume ai-chūdan, breath in as the kensen are lowered, and then exhale while returning to the starting points, making two breaths in total.

Summary

Last year, we discussed the transition from datotsu and zantotsu and the process it entailed. This time, I introduced various themes regarding the Nippon Kendo Kata, and looked at the transition from zantotsu to datotsu. This completes the whole picture, and this concludes my attempt to grasp intermittent continuation between the two aspects. There are still many areas that need to be investigated, and this is necessary to ensure the furtherance of kendō in accordance with the notion of the shinai-sword i.e., the sword that is directed at the opponent is also directed at the self as a way for self-development.

In summary:

Movement

Ground ¨ Like walking (Musashi) ¨ Okuri-ashi stepping

Floor ¨ Utilisation of suri-ashi sliding ¨ Ayumi-ashi okuri-ashi (hiki, tsugi, hiraki) ¨ Development of fumikomi-ashi as an extension of this

 

Zantotsu / Datotsu

Zantotsu ¨ Pulling cut

Datotsu ¨ Pushing cut

 

Use of the sword (katana, bokutō, shinai) has been established through the restrictive nature of using both hands, and the point (kensen), line (hasuji), and surface (shinogi). The pinnacle of this procedure is found in the fundamental ideals of traditional schools such as the Yagyū Shinkage-ryū and the Ittō-ryū, and represented by such techniques as jūmonji-gachi and kiri-otoshi. In the Nippon Kendo Kata it is expressed with the common term of looking for an opportunity [to attack] (ki-wo-mite). Also, in shinai-kendō it is found in techniques such as de-gashira and ai-uchi.

In the last presentation, I analysed movement and striking as a unified action, striking with suri-ashi and fumikomi-ashi as the two typical patterns. Young kendō practitioners these days have high explosiveness and considerable confidence in the power generated in their fumikomi-ashi and men strikes, and tend to think of fumikomi and suri-ashi as separate entities.

However, if you look at the transition of this movement, it is clear that they should not be treated separately. As I covered in my previous presentation, suri-ashi is a closed ring of movement in which the left leg propels the hips, and the right leg pulls the body forward in an integrated movement. It is also an open ring of movement similar to a baseball pitcher who uses all of his joints to throw the ball with incredible power. The open ring of movement is extremely unstable, and in the middle of the pitch when the right foot is moved and the ankle is switched over and power is concentrated in the body's extremities, that instant becomes a closed ring. The closed ring of movement becomes open ring movement for an instant.

When this happens, the hips move a considerable amount. This process is an open ring but instantly results in a closed ring, which is essentially a dynamic closed ring of movement. Taking this into consideration, moving with suri-ashi and suburi is contiguous. Even though students have great jumping power in their strikes, this is in fact an extension of suri-ashi. Our predecessors thought of this method as a way of moving quickly and freely in indoor dōjō with wooden floors.

A year ago when I introduced my ideas on the dynamic closed ring of movement I had an intellectual understanding of the concept, but have come to actually realise it more comprehensively in my keiko when I injured some of my joints recently and found it difficult to do fumikomi. It gave me an opportunity to think deeply about the notion that fumikomi is not separate to suri-ashi, but is in fact connected, and is an extension.

I have always been impressed with the kendō master Hashimoto Akio because of his beautiful footwork. When I met him the other day in Matsuyama, I told him about my revelation that fumikomi is an extension of suri-ashi. He was surprised that it had taken me so long. After all this time, I also understood Morita Bunjūrō's theory in which he explains that, in order to maintain a definite line on the left side of the body connecting the left knee and waist, move in a single beat from the left hip in unison with the right knee. The way in which he explains this concept is different, but it is essentially the same thing.

The problem of moving forward from the left hip and that of parallel diagonal ambulation are both connected here although the initial start is different, as both the left and right feet are moved simultaneously. As Professor Morita professes, the pivot of the left hip and the diagonal action should be coordinated at precisely the same time in the movement. In other words, forming a trinity while moving in one smooth action facilitates seamless manipulation of the sword. Seamlessness is achieved through having the hara (abdominal area) and back assimilated on the left (hidari no hase ichimai), and this is in turn related to okuri-ashi. I came to an understanding that it is simply a case of suri-ashi and okuri-ashi occurring within fumikomi-ashi.

I hope that this offers some clues with regards to the question of how to teach fumikomi-ashi to children. You have to take a step forward from the hips on a diagonal left or right line to make a strike. The problem of broken posture when striking with fumikomi-ashi is related to the importance of coalesced motion from the core and back (hase-ichimai). This makes the connection between shinai-kendō and footwork inextricable, and as long as you can recognise that suri-ashi and fumikomi-ashi are associated, it will be possible to teach correct footwork making for a greater understanding of kendō with bōgu.

There are many other aspects of teaching Kata that I could have talked about, but decided focus on the issue of suri-ashi and the physical and technical connection between zantotsu and datotsu.

 

Q &A

 Sugie (Osaka University): I would like to inquire about the workings of IiYahHaEiToh.

Sukudō: Yah, Toh seems to me to be a little bit basic. Yah is usually used as a type of greeting. There are also various instructors who remark that a solid finish can be best achieved with the vocals of Ei and Toh instead. I believe a great deal of thought went into this issue when the kata were first created. However, I still think more analysis needs to be done from now on. Ultimately, I think it is important to attain the feeling of tightening the abdomen.

Hashizume (Toyama University): In the Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi wrote; Do not make a vocalisation at the same time as the attack. However, in 1955 Takano Sasaburō stated that; Vocalisation takes place at the same time as the attack. Modern kendō also teaches to vocalise at the time of the attack. I would like to know your opinion regarding the original timing for vocalisation. Also, what happens when this becomes musei (no vocalization)?

Sakudō: I am not overly familiar with this either. However, when children are performing kata I notice that they tend to shout Ii – Yah – Haa in one breath, but briefly inhale when vocalising Toh and Ei. When instructing, I try to discourage this and urge long-drawn-out breaths. I emphasise the importance of moving with one-breath from the initial distance of approximately 9 paces apart until the space is closed and the exchange of attacks begin.

As for the issue of timing, Musashi also teaches to raise voices with victory. But donft you think that an opponent who gets carried away shouting yah~ yah after they hit you can be rather irritating? This type of vocalisation is not correct. As I mentioned earlier, it is the element of continuous pressure from the hara (abdomen) that forms the vocalisation. And, this is the point I recommend people focus their attention on in kendō. Vocalisation and solid, compact movement should be unified.

Enomoto (Nanzan University): When considering respiration in relation to tangible sen-sen-no-sen and intangible nioi-no-sen (scent), I wonder if it is reasonable to think of this as part of the transformation from vocalising to musei (not vocalising). I have written a paper on the issues of vocalisation, and believe that the process in which vocalisation develops into musei is still poorly understood.

Sakudō: I think it was Takano Sasaburō who said that one should close the distance (maai) while expressing Ii, Yaa, Haa inside the mouth without vocalising it.

Enomoto: I guess it is a matter of starting with Ii and not to vocalising after, as if the vocalisation is abbreviated.

Sakudō: Is everyone familiar with the implications of ukei-no-sen (tangible sen)? This is extremely effective when instructing beginners. For instance, when performing the second kata, the tip of shidachi's blade (kensen) should be directed toward the opponent's left breast. Going straight in means that kote cannot be cut by uchidachi because the attack will theoretically be stopped by the kensen. In short, one must take into account how shidachi should induce the attack, and what the response of the uchidachi will be. Then the issue becomes how to create a circumstance to read or predict the ensuing action. There are various ways in which one can experiment with this, but generally in the case of beginners, you need to teach how to avoid the opponent's attack after an opening appears and is taken advantage of. The idea of ukei-no-sen offers useful insights, and can encourage a sense of realism in the contest (shōbu).

Even in keiko (training), the issue of vocalisation is related to how the opponent's ki is subjugated as two practitioners counter each other's spirit. By presenting ukei-no-sen, the opponent is compelled to make an attack. Teaching the correct way of countering this adds a sense of realism to the kamae (stance) and the confrontation of ki. Teaching in such a manner will result in children producing vocalisation that will eshake the ceilingf. They will learn to lengthen their breathing, and you will see them gradually change. This makes kendō very interesting when teaching beginners.

Encourage a heightened sense of spirit between each student as they confront each other with their weapon, and end the process with zanshin. This is similar to kabuki (Japanese theatre). There is the intensity that substantiates a cut, and there must also be a theatrical element. And, just as in the world of kabuki, teaching the student not to become overly rapturous is also very important. Basically what I am trying to say is that if one understands that suri-ashi and fumikomi-ashi used in shinai kendō are connected, then one can understand that bōgu kendō closely linked with kata.

Nakamura (Fukushima University): While being traditional behaviour, shizentai (natural body position), suri-ashi and breathing method etc., are also forms of traditional cultural thought. I can see that there is a link between these concepts and the use of Nippon Kendo Kata as a complete teaching resource.

Sakudō: The fluxing relationship between the two protagonists is of the utmost importance. It is essential realise what is important otherwise no one will understand the culture of kendō, or how to convey it.

MC: We have discussed kata and shinai-uchi in relation to suri-ashi and fumikomi attacks, and the act of closing the distance. In other words, this concerns positioning (ba) and spirit (ki). And, just with these elements you are able to know what is happening in any given situation. It is not a case of emasculating the act of yelling Yaa and Toh, but key issues of teaching ki-ai(spirit), ba-ai (positioning), ma-ai (interval). Through this the true culture of the sword can be conveyed, and it is applicable to shinai and bōgu kendo. Is this an accurate summary of your main points?

Sakudō: That's right.

MC: Thank you very much for this informative talk regarding the direction of kendō instruction. This concludes the symposium.