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What I don't understand about Kendo

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  • What I don't understand about Kendo

    Is how confidence is supposed to win for you.

    I believe they call it "kiai". One of my sensei gave me a bit of a spill how I'm to "scare" my opponent into thinking they're going to be hit.

    How ominous can one really look when they're wearing the same thing as everyone else?

    I am finally starting to understand how Kendo can affect life outside of the dojo, but I fail to realize what I could _possibly_ project that would psychologically affect my opponent.


    Other than my voice, which is hazukashii.

    I am believing to think I am invulnerable to these things. The only time I have been mentally affected during a fight is for a few reasons:

    1. Someone tells me beforehand that the person is a rank higher than my own. (We had a guest sensei from SoCal a few weeks ago...7 dan...YOW)
    2. I'm nervous (shiais and such)
    3. The person is just better than me, in terms of skill.

    But I've never been "scared down".

    As far as I can tell, if I were to randomly meet up with an opponent, and know nothing else about them beforehand, I don't see what they could really do to mentally affect me, other than kick my ass.

    So what am I missing?

    Thanks,
    zmcnulty

  • #2
    Hi,
    If you subscribe to Kendo World I suggest you read the "Hanshi says" article in issue No. 2. It talks about a thing called "Kurai". I call it a "thing" because you cannot see it or touch it but you can by all means feel it -this should help to explain the mental edge you can have over an opponent.

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Z,
      It sounds like you've not long been in armour. Your questions are reasonable (ie, everyone has had them), but the only real answer I can give is that you should forget about your questions and just practice. These kind of questions usually just engender more questions (eg - "But I tried 'x' and it didn't work", or "whenever I do 'y', he still steps in and cuts men"). Don't limit your kendo by trying to fit it into the parameters of what you understand at the moment. My teacher's favourite saying is "Kendo is a long life" (and he should know, he's 82). A good teacher knows your kendo better than you do. Trust them and repay the debt you owe them by always training wholeheartedly, especially in times of uncertainty.
      *ganbarimasho*

      B.

      Comment


      • #4
        Furher to Ben's comment, what you're talking about isn't something that can be forced, or practiced as such, but comes as a result of continued kendo practice.

        I remember when Inoue Yoshihiko sensei (hachidan hanshi) came to New Zealand for a seminar, and just about everywhere we went, people would ask us "Who is that guy? There's something about him...."

        Keep up the training!

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: What I don't understand about Kendo

          Originally posted by zmcnulty
          Is how confidence is supposed to win for you.

          I am finally starting to understand how Kendo can affect life outside of the dojo, but I fail...

          You said it yourself, you just realized how Kendo can affect your life outside the dojo...so maybe you just haven't realized how psychology plays a factor in kendo yet.

          Comment


          • #6
            Akira Kurosawa once said in the movie Sanjuro, that

            "A good sword is kept in its sheeth"

            A samurai of old could win before even fighting with the sheer presence of his swordsman spirit. It isn't something that can be described by conventional means, and it isn't as simple as "scaring" your opponent. It is almost like a sixth sense, fostered by participation in matches.

            You must understand that in the old days of the Tokugawa, beings scared down was a run away from death, not a shiai. You cannot be scared down becase you lack something to lose in a shiai, you haveno incentive to quit. So much of samurai literature is based off risking ones life even in the face of impossible odds. Even after the samurai could no longer follow the life or death duel once the Meiji began, they still put forth great effort in exercising bravey and bringing closure to matters.

            If one was to lose a fight or to run, then it wasn't just over for him, but it was over for those he protected, if this be a matter of battle or not. Those with weak spirit would not continue to defend their ideals. Spirit is easiest defined as determination, wisdom, prowess and honor. All these could quickly break an opponents resolve.

            Today in Kendo, scaring down your opponent is best represented in the calling of the point being struck. But it is even better represented by when you are thrown off by another's rank, honor, etc. In a sense, the concept of spirit is still alive amongst this new brand of swordsmanship as well, and we do our best to preserve it. To learn more, I suggest either Yamammoto Tsuenetomo's "Hagakure" or Miyamoto Musashi's "Gorin no Sho: A Book of Five Rings."

            I wish you best of luck, and put forth good practice to your swordsman spirit in any daily affair!

            Comment


            • #7
              just to add my thoughts.

              The four poisons of Kendo - Fear, Doubt, Surprise and Confusion -all seem to stem from a lack of confidence in your skills.

              By the same token, confidence, and the ability to project that confidence in anything you do will instill those four poisons in your opponent.

              Perhaps even before a shiai.

              to the three points you mentioned, zmcnulty;

              If you believe a person is better than you, whether by rank or experience, then your confidence in your ability to 'win' has already been lowered... and the other person didn't have to do anything.

              And in shiai, nervousness is a byproduct of lack of confidece.

              Comment


              • #8
                Gentleman

                I strongly disagree with the 'romantic' version that traces an analogy back to the samurai warriors of old. Shiai matches are the sporting side of kendo, not the martial one, which is gokaku geiko, jigeiko, et caetera, in my opinion.

                In these situations, there is a strong kigurai element, which is manifest not only through resounding kakego but through the entire individual , as others have said in this thread.

                Such element develops differently in each individual I believe. I've seen persons who have it from almost day one, while others will take years and still lack it. While I fail to define in clear words what is 'it', frequently i think of it as a fusion of a aggressive, active and vigorous posture, strong concentration, solid offensive stance and a loud scream. All these may denote the so-called 'fighting spirit' which we revive through kendo practice.

                Alas, there's people in here which have more authority over the subject than me. Jes' my two cents.

                Alex polli

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thanks to everyone for their comments.

                  I'll address these in order:
                  It sounds like you've not long been in armour.
                  About 14 months now.

                  You cannot be scared down becase you lack something to lose in a shiai, you haveno incentive to quit.
                  So, hagakure, I take it you agree with what I've been doing?
                  I mean, I don't want to ignore the entirety of kendo's history, but I think these days the stakes are lower than what most of our predecessors really practiced for. Back in the day, a lot of people practiced kendo out of necessity, right?
                  You go on to say:

                  Today in Kendo, scaring down your opponent is best represented in the calling of the point being struck. But it is even better represented by when you are thrown off by another's rank, honor, etc.
                  I do indeed call my points like there is no tomorrow.

                  Alright, I'm going to make a bit of a scenario. Let's say I'm walking down the street, fully outfitted, with bogu on and shinai in hand. And I meet another person walking down the street, equipped in the same fashion as I.
                  Now, I know nothing about this person...it is the first time I have ever seen him.
                  zmcnulty: "Hi, how are you."
                  opponent: "good. want to fight?"
                  zmcnulty: "Sure"

                  So, knowing absolutely nothing about my opponent, we decide to fight.
                  What can he do to mentally affect me?

                  I'm going to go back on what I said earlier, and bring samurai back into this.
                  I get the feeling that if two samurai meet somewhere, knowing nothing about each other, then, as Hagakure said, one of them just runs the hell away.
                  What am I missing that the samurai has? If neither of us have some sort of reputation surrounding us, then, other than yelling extremely loud, what can he do to cause the opponent to ditch?

                  Now then...
                  If you believe a person is better than you, whether by rank or experience, then your confidence in your ability to 'win' has already been lowered... and the other person didn't have to do anything.
                  Alright, so being cocky is how to win? I think confidence is affected by the opponent's skill, rather than my belief someone is a higher rank than I. Given, skill is reflected in rank, but I'm sure there's a lot of people here that aren't 1-kyuu yet and could kick my ass
                  See, now you're going to say I don't have any confidence in my abilities. But, let's say I don't know you at all, and you don't tell me what rank you are. Will my confidence be affected? No, because I don't know jack about who you are. So, all I can fall back on is my skill, since my confidence will go unchanged.
                  And in shiai, nervousness is a byproduct of lack of confidece.
                  I think there's a bit more to it than that. At my shiais, I was nervous because I wanted to win. I was nervous because my teacher hadn't trained me as to how to enter and exit the ring correctly. I was nervous because I knew there were multiple hot chicks sitting around, perhaps watching me. I was nervous because I wanted to show the Japanese people that "their" sport had potential in countries other than Japan, and try to reinforce to my teacher that I actually HAD learned something from his training.
                  I doubt my own abilities (well, apart from the ring entrance) would have affected my nervousness. I was nervous because I knew nothing about my opponent, not because I thought I wasn't good enough to beat him.

                  And finally:
                  While I fail to define in clear words what is 'it', frequently i think of it as a fusion of a aggressive, active and vigorous posture, strong concentration, solid offensive stance and a loud scream. All these may denote the so-called 'fighting spirit' which we revive through kendo practice.
                  This is probably my favorite definition thus far. Thanks!


                  Thank you all for your comments,
                  zmcnultymuch much

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Well, I was going to add something, but I got some error about not being able to edit after 5 minutes.

                    To sum up, I'll just go ahead and put it straight. All, g aside. Since It's kind of hard to put into words, it seems, I'll ask it in yes/no form:

                    Is there something I can do to mentally affect my opponent?

                    My sensei comes off as if there is something I can "DO".

                    Thanks again,
                    zmcnulty

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ok in yes or no form:

                      Yes, you can mentally affect your opponent. It won't happen overnight though -it will most likely take years and years of hard practice, lots of fighting experience, more hard practice and by the time your finished (in theory you never really finish)- you will be an 8th Dan Hanshi and almost impossible to defeat

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Could this also be one's own awareness of an opponent's fighting experience?

                        Take for example just the pre-fight ettiquette or when we move into sonkyo. A beginner, like myself, may wobble, have to look where the line is, bounce a liitle...doesn't this tell a lot about a fight?

                        Notice how composed some fighters are. Their movements into sonkyo seem so natural, like their body has been drilled to perfection.

                        I notice when I move up into sonkyo I usually worry about a million things but when I watch from the sidelines I notice just how composed some people are.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          What about mushin?

                          Not thinking about winning or not-winning. Not thinking about losing or not-losing. Not thinking about confidence or lack-of-confidence. Not thinking about your opponent's skill or lack thereof. Not thinking about your own skill or lack thereof. Not even thinking about not-thinking!

                          "The mind is what leads the mind astray. Of the mind always be mindful!"


                          b

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            You're looking for things to be too concrete and physical. To understand Kendo, you have to understand that all of it is based off the Samurai, and even though it may be a "sporting" thing, you cheapen its life values by calling it that.

                            I strongly disagree that we can forget in totality that spirit is indeed prosporous in Kendo. Calling these thoughts "romantic" or cheapening them to the level of a "sport" puts to shame the very reason you should be practicing Kendo, to become a better individual, and to master greater discipline.

                            I did say however we have adaptations of the previous spirit, such as the calling and firm posture. But if you are after these things soley to win then you are at a lost purpose. The furthest purpose of Kendo is to further the individual. We can do this by having firm posture, but beyond that we need a firm soul.

                            Those who pursue Kendo as a sporting practice cannot understand this. Reading of emotion, the predictabilty of attack, the level of determination so strong one could ignore physical injury. Indeed the stakes are lower, but spirit is EVERYTHING. It is how you act in day to day situations. It is your will as a person, what your faith is and how you are willing to defend it. It isn't just yelling, or frightening your opponent, it is understanding him/her, not on a level of logic, but on one of spiritual capacity.

                            Those with a strong will and iron nerves stood, those with a weak resolve ran. But it isn't as simple as that. That is merely one example of contest of spirit. It is possible to have very strong skill and pathetically weak spirit (AKA, hurting the weak, being oppressive, forcing your ideas on others)

                            I fail to see how hard this is to comprehend when you think past physical prowess. I STRONGLY suggest you read the books I aforementioned. Miyamoto Musashi's nito style is still used in Kendo, to prove my point of similarities.

                            You can't see spirit as being interpreted or translated. It is yourself and what you fight for, you brand of justice.

                            Just give it some thought. I know you can understand what I mean, if if you think I'm crazy.

                            Keep up the practice!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              BTW, If you would like to reflect on the PHYSICAL aspects of spirit then I guess when Mr. Polli suggested is the best example.

                              Comment

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