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  • Considering true zanshin...

    I've been reading the "Fundamental Theorem of Kendo" by Stephen D Quinlan that someone brought up in another thread a little bit ago, and the passage in which zanshin was being defined really made me think.

    If Zanshin is, essentially, a sot of follow-through and readiness to attack again or defend against counter attacks once a strike is made, then how much attention is it really given by shimpan in trying to ascertain whether a strike is considered yuko-datotsu?

    The reason I ask is that on many occasions, aren't points awarded at the moment of contact in a strike, without seeing the followthrough (whether it be returning to kamae or not)? Likewise, don't many players often fail to return to kamae/ etc. after making a successful strike? To really include zanshin as a factor in considering what is and is not yuko-datotsu, wouldn't the shinpan have to wait several moments after the strike to see how the kenshi conducts himself? In many cases it feels like sutemi is more important than zanshin. (is there possibly even a sense that some strikes' lethality makes zanshin unnecessary?)

    What would you say, for instance, in those cases where a kenshi does x uchi (lets take kote for example) and his body is horribly contorted or hunched immediately after, and his arms are off to the side, etc?

    Additionally, sometimes if players see the flags go up signaling that a point has been made, it appears that they acknowledge their strike themselves and stop in the middle of their followthrough, when their opponents are completely oblivious and still attacking.

    Perhaps I'm not articulating this well enough, especially since I'm not at a level to judge anything myself. But, seeing so many ippon being awarded at the moment of a strike in shiai at all levels, I was extremely curious as to how such an important concept is really regarded and factored into things.

    I hope those experienced shimpan can shed some light on this for me.
    Last edited by Shinsengumi77; 20th July 2012, 03:30 AM. Reason: Took out a portion that came across as rude or cheeky without intending it.

  • #2
    Considering this in reverse might help clarify things. There are instances where a shimpan will cancel his ippon because the competitor does not show proper zanshin after the strike. In fact, this is quite common.

    So, you may ask, why don't the shimpan all wait until they're sure that zanshin has been properly displayed? I'd say the answer to this is two-fold.

    One, because kendo moves very quickly, you need the judges to make decisive calls quickly. For example, red hits men ippon, judges wait for red to show proper zanshin, white immediately scores kote ippon, judges wait for white to show proper zanshin, red immediately scores another men ippon. You get the picture.

    Two, on a more subtle level, zanshin is not just following through and getting ready for the next opponent. Zanshin starts at the moment of impact. If the strike is correct, if your posture is correct, if your spirit is good, you don't necessarily need to run across the court and/or turn around and go into kamae immediately to show proper zanshin.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Halcyon View Post
      Zanshin starts at the moment of impact. If the strike is correct, if your posture is correct, if your spirit is good, you don't necessarily need to run across the court and/or turn around and go into kamae immediately to show proper zanshin.
      That's very interesting. Zanshin was further described as a "constant awareness" of sorts, and the author mentioned that it ought to be present at every moment in the engagement. To me it would seem that it is simply (or rather not so simply) a state of readiness, or a state of complete focus on the opponent and one's surroundings (this shiaijo). That's all well and good, if left at that. However, the way it's often coined as a type of followthrough is the part that gets me stuck. Is it such that zanshin is always both awareness AND followthrough (even if after a strike it may not be readily apparent?) or is it that it can be one or the other?

      Can you explain this (what I will now call "pre-emptive followthrough") a little more? I'm sure the reason I can't quite grasp it is because I'm so inexperienced, so I apologize if me asking is redundant or frustrating.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Shinsengumi77 View Post
        That's very interesting. Zanshin was further described as a "constant awareness" of sorts, and the author mentioned that it ought to be present at every moment in the engagement. To me it would seem that it is simply (or rather not so simply) a state of readiness, or a state of complete focus on the opponent and one's surroundings (this shiaijo). That's all well and good, if left at that. However, the way it's often coined as a type of followthrough is the part that gets me stuck. Is it such that zanshin is always both awareness AND followthrough (even if after a strike it may not be readily apparent?) or is it that it can be one or the other?

        Can you explain this (what I will now call "pre-emptive followthrough") a little more? I'm sure the reason I can't quite grasp it is because I'm so inexperienced, so I apologize if me asking is redundant or frustrating.
        Look at the kata for a model.

        Why can't uchidachi attack at the ends of each kata? For example kata 1 and kata 3? Obviously shidachi didn't just hit, run around/through turn around and be prepared to attack again.

        What is preventing uchidachi from attacking? Its not the choreography. There is a feeling that prohibits them from attacking, because even if they were to attack they would be struck down before the attack could be completed.

        Shidachi has occupied that space preventing uchidachi from attacking. This is more than just posture or holding the shinai in the center or stepping forwards. They have mentally and physically occupied that space and the resultant pressure prohibits shidachi from attacking. If that pressure wavers, disapears, or was never present, there is no zanshin.

        To me this is why kata is important. How well you preform the kata demonstrates how well you understand various kendo concepts.

        Comment


        • #5
          My two cents..we often refer to zanshin as "awarness" but to what? To everything around you, the aite position, the shiai-jo border/dojo walls, the dojomates/shimpan position. Coming to a more specific example, suppose you have success in landind a good men on your aite, now you must show zanshin, how? Being aware of the aite posture/position and moving your body in a adeguate way that show "awareness". What is mean for "adeguate way"? Is my opinion that you should move your body in a way that makes difficult for your aite to attack. So if the aite moves from your attack line you should pass him full speed and turn back in a safe distance assuming kamae, otherwise, if the aite doesn't move and so is blocking your path, you should close distance mantaining a very stable and vigorous position and so overpowering him (in case of men strike one option is remaining "in after hit" men position so that your shinai will be briefly over the aite head, then assume tsubazerai). In the last part of the following video you can see the "blocked path" option in case of kote attack.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_lZf...layer_embedded

          I end this post pointing out more qualified opinions than mine here:
          http://www.kendo-world.com/forum/sho...hlight=ZANSHIN

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by hl1978 View Post
            There is a feeling that prohibits them from attacking, because even if they were to attack they would be struck down before the attack could be completed.

            They have mentally and physically occupied that space and the resultant pressure prohibits shidachi from attacking. If that pressure wavers, disapears, or was never present, there is no zanshin.
            Here's where I have issue undertsanding -sometimes after getting ippon, the aite can easily (and often does) attack -renzoku waza in many cases. The point is still awarded, usually because they were able to strike and get away in time (which would fulfil the awareness requirement to some degree.) But if it's truly supposed to forestall the opponent's attack, then they should not be able to return strikes of their own immediately after, right?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Raffa View Post
              Is my opinion that you should move your body in a way that makes difficult for your aite to attack. So if the aite moves from your attack line you should pass him full speed and turn back in a safe distance assuming kamae, otherwise, if the aite doesn't move and so is blocking your path, you should close distance mantaining a very stable and vigorous position and so overpowering him (in case of men strike one option is remaining "in after hit" men position so that your shinai will be briefly over the aite head, then assume tsubazerai). In the last part of the following video you can see the "blocked path" option in case of kote attack.
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_lZf...layer_embedded
              Ok, this helps a bit more. The concept of "making it dificult for the aite to attack" is something I hadn't thought of. However, in some cases the aite IS able to continue attacking immediately after. What then?

              I am familiar with the tactics to "finish" kote with zanshin, but rarely is kote done in shiai like it is in kihon. I guess if one's body is contorted or twisted around after kote and he or she is also in a very close maai, then perhaps it is zanshin -if zanshin is defined as an awareness and positioning which is meant to forestall an opponen's attack.

              Also, what of those unfortunate instances in which the one who makes ippon trips or goes out of bounds afterward? Isn't that a blatant lack of awareness in the shiaijo?

              Thanks for your reply, I'm slowly but surely starting to get a better feel for it.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Shinsengumi77 View Post
                Here's where I have issue undertsanding -sometimes after getting ippon, the aite can easily (and often does) attack -renzoku waza in many cases. The point is still awarded, usually because they were able to strike and get away in time (which would fulfil the awareness requirement to some degree.) But if it's truly supposed to forestall the opponent's attack, then they should not be able to return strikes of their own immediately after, right?
                That's only because the two competitors are using shinai. If they were using shinken, it would be a different story. Take de-gote for example, the reason you shouldn't worry about getting hit men when you are doing degote is that if you are using shinken, there would be no power behind his men strike if you got his kote because your opponent would have no right hand.

                Shinai kendo is an approximation/idealization of shinken shobu, but the principles are such that it ASPRIES to shinken shobu.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Shinsengumi77 View Post
                  Also, what of those unfortunate instances in which the one who makes ippon trips or goes out of bounds afterward? Isn't that a blatant lack of awareness in the shiaijo?
                  Out of bounds after a point is still a point. Out of bounds after missing the attack is a penalty. Not sure about the trip.

                  Rationalizations aside, judges tend to put up the flag just after contact. They really should wait a bit, better to not raise than to cancel.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Halcyon View Post
                    That's only because the two competitors are using shinai. If they were using shinken, it would be a different story. Take de-gote for example, the reason you shouldn't worry about getting hit men when you are doing degote is that if you are using shinken, there would be no power behind his men strike if you got his kote because your opponent would have no right hand.

                    Shinai kendo is an approximation/idealization of shinken shobu, but the principles are such that it ASPRIES to shinken shobu.
                    This is exactly why I asked this in my original post: "is there possibly even a sense that some strikes' lethality makes zanshin unnecessary?"

                    Perhaps I misunderstood you, but it sounds like that if one approaches shiai like shinken shobu, a proper strike means the match is over (enemy is dead.) This leads me to ask the same question as earlier, then -is zanshin even a factor when considering "lethality" in a match?

                    I mean if I cut men on someone and approached it as shinken shobu, would there even be a need for followthrough/ awareness? I highly doubt one could counterattack after having his skull cleaved open.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                      Out of bounds after a point is still a point. Out of bounds after missing the attack is a penalty. Not sure about the trip.

                      Rationalizations aside, judges tend to put up the flag just after contact. They really should wait a bit, better to not raise than to cancel.
                      But wouldn't going out of bounds show a lack of zanshin (if awareness is what defines it)? That fact that either attacking successfully or failing to do so is the deciding factor between point and penalty as you say makes me even more doubtful of zanshin's importance, or rather, it's portrayal.

                      So would you say it has just become habit for some judges to kind of...forget about zanshin in favor of a decisive blow? Then I would almost like to conclude that in many cases only Ki Ken Tai is necessary for Ippon. I will of course, still perform zanshin to the best of my ability, despite my quandary.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Shinsengumi77 View Post
                        But wouldn't going out of bounds show a lack of zanshin (if awareness is what defines it)? That fact that either attacking successfully or failing to do so is the deciding factor between point and penalty as you say makes me even more doubtful of zanshin's importance, or rather, it's portrayal.
                        I really don't have a very good explanation as the out of bounds rules always seemed artificial to me. I think they're really in place to keep you from running from your opponent. If you've just "killed" him, you're not really running. Maybe someone else has a better rationalization.

                        At any rate, if after you attack you are sufficiently in control to either go through or stop, depending on success, then I suggest you are pretty aware. The finish is to a certain extent an indication in how confident you are with your attack. The paradox is that in competition, the big "sell" at the end is more open to counter-attack than a more defensively-oriented finish. I have gotten advice from sensei with a lot of tournament experience to only go through with the big finish if there is a good chance you've scored, ie similar criteria to being near the boundary. I'm more cautious than that though, I typically will avoid the boundary even if I think I've scored and just finish in a different direction or without going through.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Shinsengumi77 View Post
                          So would you say it has just become habit for some judges to kind of...forget about zanshin in favor of a decisive blow? Then I would almost like to conclude that in many cases only Ki Ken Tai is necessary for Ippon. I will of course, still perform zanshin to the best of my ability, despite my quandary.
                          You actually bring up a good example of why zanshin is important. If you executed a strike with good ki-ken-tai but no zanshin (let's take the example to the extreme and say that immediately after the strike you just stared off blankly into space with your shiai at your side), that would obviously not be ippon.

                          I think we've reached a point in the thread where I bring up one of my go-to answers when it comes to the subtleties of what constitutes "good" kendo.

                          Kendo has a set of aesthetics/principles that you absorb over time with practice. Some of these principles or aesthetic norms are easier to verbalize than others. Of course one should be able to put the general concepts into words, but the intricacies will for the most part beyond the reach of words. That's why you can't learn kendo from a book. The details reveal themselves to you only through continual practice. Same goes for zanshin.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                            The finish is to a certain extent an indication in how confident you are with your attack. The paradox is that in competition, the big "sell" at the end is more open to counter-attack than a more defensively-oriented finish. I have gotten advice from sensei with a lot of tournament experience to only go through with the big finish if there is a good chance you've scored, ie similar criteria to being near the boundary. I'm more cautious than that though, I typically will avoid the boundary even if I think I've scored and just finish in a different direction or without going through.
                            Thank you very much. The "confidence" really resonated with me for some reason. I don't know if I understan zanshin any better than I did before, but that at least makes sense as to why sometimes the finish is sometimes not so clearly showing an awareness (though in fact it is).

                            So maybe Zanshin can also mean that one is aware that the opponent poses no more threat, or that the strike was valid, and the "sell" is just one way of illustrating that to the shimpan?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Halcyon View Post
                              Kendo has a set of aesthetics/principles that you absorb over time with practice. Some of these principles or aesthetic norms are easier to verbalize than others. Of course one should be able to put the general concepts into words, but the intricacies will for the most part beyond the reach of words. That's why you can't learn kendo from a book. The details reveal themselves to you only through continual practice. Same goes for zanshin.
                              I'm not sure how a lack of awarness after getting ippon illustrates the point...I mean obviously if one stops with a blank stare after striking the point would be rendered invalid, but I am referring to less extreme cases, where perhaps their body is contorted in a way as to not be able to respon to further attacks or counter-attacks, or they go through for a moment but stop short and fail to prepare for more, or they shoot a look at the shimpan instead of keeping their focus on the opponent/ etc. Maybe you could expand on your statement somewhat -I might have misunderstood (or worse totally missed the point!)

                              But I realize this concept is of adequate depth, and that trying to define it or explain it words will probably be insufficient. I will do as suggested, of course, and continue with my practice so as to try and discover more about it. ^^ Thank you for the reply.

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