Kendo Kata | Considerations for Instruction
Professor Sakudo Masao
(Osaka University of Health and Sport Science)
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 Kendō ‒ Tracing the Transition of Physical Technique from eCutting
and Thrustingf to eStriking and Thrustingf. 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 ezantotsuf 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 educationc and has still not become established or popularizedc
Current instruction in the kata is
superficial, and focussed on basic form in a way that the true
ekata spiritf 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 esenf in contest),
he investigates the method and significance of taking esenf 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
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 (kō-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 ebreakingf 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
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-aif. 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
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
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 esenf. 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)
(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
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
by reflexive action
by reflexive action
by reflexive action
I would like to quote from Ōta Ryūhō's work
to offer some clues for overcoming this problem:
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 strikef 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-senf.
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 fundamentalc When cutting,
pulling back, or even receiving, move with the left foot then
right, left and right, yin and yangc Nagao also asserts that in addition to this basic walking
used in modern kendō also
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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 donft
breathe herec 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 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.
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
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
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.
Last year, we discussed the
transition from datotsu
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Sugie (Osaka University): I would like to inquire
about the workings of Ii – Yah – Ha – Ei – Toh.
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
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
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
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 donft
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
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
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 ceilingf.
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
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),
(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.