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  • Straight Men

    Hi all,

    I was just talking to my friends, and this elusive straight men topic came up again.

    Maybe I'm too literal, but I've always thought straight men means that not only are you entering straight while facing the opponent squarely, your cut is also vertical. I'm told that you don't "run into the opponent" because your footwork then veer off after you made a straight strike. So, essentially you enter straight then take a slight turn so you don't body check the other person.

    In practice, I almost always see people strike hidari men and come in already slightlyed veered off, esp if you start in a seigan like posture already.

    What does the straight men mean to you? Does the straight men mean something different for you in a shinsa context versus otherwise?

  • #2
    Hi DCPan,

    I sometimes get confused in English when you say 'straight men'. If you mean a shomen (sorry if this spelling is incorrect), then this is what I would translate into a 'straight men' - so in it is not a 'sayumen'. A shomen consists more than just the body, but includes the blade, your zanshin and your ki ken tai ichi. So in regards to your body comment, your body is square and your cut is vertical on the top of the opponent's men (not to the side). After the cut, your zanshin through should run straight through (whether opponent is there or not) and you should not make adjustment to move out of the way (should not veer out of the way). If it is your motodachi in practice, they should move out of the way. If they don't then you should run directly into them and thus could go into tsuba zeriai. But the tsuba zeriai does not matter if the shomen has full ki ken tai ichi (in other words, if it was in shiai most likely you would have scored the ippon). You also have to remember for a valid shomen - the monouchi of the shinai has to hit the right spot. Don't forget the kiai as well. This has to be strong, and sure for ki ken tai ichi.

    This is my interpretation. I hope this helps.

    Comment


    • #3
      Check out this men ippon at 2:30 in the following ippon compilation from the 57th AJKC.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0iL7TWgSic

      This is a straight men. Both guys going for aiuchi, both come in straight, then they bounce off each other and express zanshin as they go back at an angle.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by DCPan View Post
        What does the straight men mean to you?
        Why can't we all just forget about labels? Why do we have to be straight men? Why can't we just be . . . oh wait, that's not what you're talking about is it? Never mind.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by KendoPadawan View Post
          I sometimes get confused in English when you say 'straight men'.
          That's part of the problem...the words "shomen" was not used....

          Originally posted by RC_Kenshi View Post
          Why can't we all just forget about labels? Why do we have to be straight men? Why can't we just be . . . oh wait, that's not what you're talking about is it? Never mind.
          Until you mentioned it, it never occurred to me I probably should have said a straight men uchi.... :P

          Comment


          • #6
            In Japanese "shomen-uchi" means a men-uchi to the center of the head. In contrast "sai-yu-men" are cuts to the aite's temples above the himo line. In Japan the terms left and right in the context of a cut refer to the aite's perspective. Sai/hidari means left, so from the cutter's perspective this is to the right. Yu/migi means right, so from the cutter's perspective this is to the left.

            A "masugu-men" (maybe not an official term but heard at every practice) means to cut straight in and generally for beginners this also means kiriotoshi is vertical. Until one gets to be at a high enough level to use oji-waza with hiraki-ashi or can use katate-uchi, this should be the only way to cut men, kote and doh as well as tsuki (with a bit more of a pronounced side step after the strike with doh).

            As far as crashing into the aite, this is ok and one shouldn't worry about it. Cut the men straight and if you can step off to avoid a collision after the strike (and ideally fumikomi) lands then great but this shouldn't be a concern at the time the strike is decided upon. Otherwise the movement won't be straight and the cut will be less effective. If one is less straight than the aite's cut, then one is less likely to win an aiuchi cut. This is (as far as I understand) the idea of kiriotoshi as inherited from Itto-ryu.

            If crashing is going to happen and if one is cutting properly with the koshi and not with the arms, one of three things should happen.

            A straight cut where the power comes from the koshi against an unready or not straight aite should knock the aite slightly off to the side or backwards. Zanshin can then be taken going forwards the same way as if a collision was avoided.

            If the aite has similar power coming from the koshi then the both will bounce off each other and can show zanshin during the bounce off as Halcyon pointed out.

            Of course, sometimes you get an aite (e.g. sensei) whose technique or physical presence is such that even your best proper cut will result in you being the one getting bounced back.

            In all cases, if a straight on crash is going to happen, do so with tai-atari. This should be done with the arms down around the heso (belly button) and received with the middle of the tsuka (the part between the hands) meeting in an X. Men-tai-atari-men (with motodachi bounding back on tai-atari in the nicer version or the kakarite bouncing back in the tougher version) is a good exercise for practicing how to deal with this as well as develop the feel for cutting straight in.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by dillon View Post
              In all cases, if a straight on crash is going to happen, do so with tai-atari. This should be done with the arms down around the heso (belly button) and received with the middle of the tsuka (the part between the hands) meeting in an X. Men-tai-atari-men (with motodachi bounding back on tai-atari in the nicer version or the kakarite bouncing back in the tougher version) is a good exercise for practicing how to deal with this as well as develop the feel for cutting straight in.
              Right! But many times, in an ai-men situation, it's not possible to get your arms down around your belly. Rather, the shinai have crossed, the kote and tsuka often strike together, and both kenshi have their hands and arms pushed upward as their bodies come together. I'm assuming you meant, though, that this is a common and acceptable occurrence.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by DCPan View Post
                Hi all,

                I was just talking to my friends, and this elusive straight men topic came up again.

                Maybe I'm too literal, but I've always thought straight men means that not only are you entering straight while facing the opponent squarely, your cut is also vertical. I'm told that you don't "run into the opponent" because your footwork then veer off after you made a straight strike. So, essentially you enter straight then take a slight turn so you don't body check the other person.

                In practice, I almost always see people strike hidari men and come in already slightlyed veered off, esp if you start in a seigan like posture already.

                What does the straight men mean to you? Does the straight men mean something different for you in a shinsa context versus otherwise?
                You're way more experienced than I am so I suspect this is a deeper question than it might at first seem. But I suppose there is a mild difference between what literally happens and the intent you are supposed to have.

                We tell people all the time to go straight because you cannot properly and intentionally go at angles until you can go straight; straight is fastest; straight is kihon, etc. But in practice, like you, most of the people I see (even very senior people) rarely go precisely straight. It's tiring crashing into other people all the time. I've had ai-uchi-men drills with a few people from time to time where five or six times we literally just keep crashing into each other because no one wants to veer off.

                This is sort of rambling, sorry. I'll just make one other observation:

                I was watching a yondan exam a few months ago and happened to be standing precisely opposite one of the guys testing, and he executed a very straight men. His whole body was straight and upright, his cut was perfectly straight. His zanshin was straight. He went straight through and blasted through his opponent. (He passed). I thought it was probably the most perfect men I'd ever seen in person. I hold onto that image for myself when I am trying to cut men. But other than saying "everything was straight" I wouldn't know how to describe it any better than I did.

                Interesting topic, anyway. Thanks.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by jjcruiser View Post
                  But I suppose there is a mild difference between what literally happens and the intent you are supposed to have.
                  That is exactly what I was driving at!

                  Could you clarify the blasted through opponent part though? Either he veered or his opponent moved...otherwise wouldn't some "bouncing" happen?

                  My motivation for asking this question is that I think striking hidari men in practice makes it harder for your opponent to de-kote you...but I guess one could argue that you are doing it wrong if they picked you off.

                  And I'm trying to decide for myself whether I should enter straight physically while striking hidari men or strike shomen with a shinai width of veer to the opponent's left or some kind of combination thereof to reduce the being picked off part....
                  Last edited by DCPan; 28th July 2012, 02:04 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Charlie View Post
                    Right! But many times, in an ai-men situation, it's not possible to get your arms down around your belly. Rather, the shinai have crossed, the kote and tsuka often strike together, and both kenshi have their hands and arms pushed upward as their bodies come together. I'm assuming you meant, though, that this is a common and acceptable occurrence.
                    I've seen this as an acceptable occurrence for ai-kakarigeiko where both aite keep hitting ai-uchi-men, arms go up as you described, bounce back and repeat. I don't know if this would be awarded ippon in a shiai but it's acceptable in keiko at least. I don't see it often when it comes to "conversational" kendo.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dillon View Post
                      I've seen this as an acceptable occurrence for ai-kakarigeiko where both aite keep hitting ai-uchi-men, arms go up as you described, bounce back and repeat. I don't know if this would be awarded ippon in a shiai but it's acceptable in keiko at least. I don't see it often when it comes to "conversational" kendo.
                      So, what do you see in "conversational" kendo? What then, is straight men in shinsa?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by DCPan View Post
                        So, what do you see in "conversational" kendo? What then, is straight men in shinsa?
                        "Conversational" kendo is perhaps too involved to describe in full here but in a nutshell (IMHO) the engagement is decided before the cut is made. In this situation, more often then not the rhythm is such that an ai-uchi-men in which both sides clash with about the same power and thus bounce off of each other is a minority case. From my rather humble experience ai-uchi-men that results in both sides meeting in such a way that both have their arms pushed up by the other's arm only happens when both sides have in mind to practice this way (e.g. in an ai-kakarigeiko situation where the senior member decides it's time to do it like this).

                        This would not be a situation I would want to find myself in a shinsa however (I'm about a week away from one myself... sandan). For my shinsa I have been advised to demonstrate orthodox zanshin in which I cut and go through and all the trimmings associated with that. This should follow a good build up of tame and demonstrating that I can keep my own pace in the keiko. If I come head on into the other person by some chance then I intend to keep going forward to pass the aite in order to demonstrate orthodox zanshin. Bouncing off with renzoku waza is inadvisable for the shinsa I will be in (this is not necessarily the case with other sandan shinsa). Of course, aite can vary and perhaps I will have the bad fortune to get aite who do not get the idea that they should stick to this in shinsa in which case really it's going to come down to how well I can deal with the situation on the day. There's always an element of the unknown. Perhaps that is what zanshin is really about in the end. Can one maintain a level head in even the most undesirable situation?

                        But to answer the question more directly, straight men is straight men. The sword goes straight up, the sword goes straight down. How one judges and manages the situation before, during and after in which this happens is what differentiates a straight men from an ikkyu shinsa to a (dare I say) hachidan shinsa.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by DCPan View Post
                          My motivation for asking this question is that I think striking hidari men in practice makes it harder for your opponent to de-kote you...but I guess one could argue that you are doing it wrong if they picked you off.

                          And I'm trying to decide for myself whether I should enter straight physically while striking hidari men or strike shomen with a shinai width of veer to the opponent's left or some kind of combination thereof to reduce the being picked off part....
                          You've hit upon an issue that becomes central to higher-level technique. Yes, a lot of people hit hidari-men, partly as a way to protect against de-gote. But as you go up in rank, ideally you want the contest to be one that is decided by the shinogi sliding against each other and you striking shomen because of better tonouchi, better ki-ken-tai, better control of center. Part of the reason for this is that if you come in hidari-men with a shinken, there's a higher risk that your sword will break if your opponent is strikes shomen and hits your blade.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by DCPan View Post

                            What does the straight men mean to you? Does the straight men mean something different for you in a shinsa context versus otherwise?
                            I'm only sandan, but I'll toss my ideas in here. My sensei always instructs us to head straight in because that's what Kendo is largely about: an honest, full-effort attack. If I can compare Kendo to Olympic Foil Fencing for a moment (which is what I've been watching much of the day) none of the strikes in the Olympic contests would raise a flag in Kendo. Granted, it's comparing apples and oranges, but hardly any of the competitors were attacking with what Kendo people would call tame, sutemi, or zanshin. We attack straight in because it takes courage to do so.

                            Definitely a person wants to show their most beautiful Kendo in a shinsa. They want to demonstrate cutting through the opponent mentally and physically. I think that alot of the angled attacking that occurs in shiai comes from two things:
                            1) Fighting simply for points, or
                            2) The exception to the rule where an angled attack or zanshin is preferable.

                            If you don't teach the sho-men uchi style, then beginners will never be able to demonstrate the proper attitude of sho-men uchi in a sayu-men cut.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by DCPan View Post
                              That is exactly what I was driving at!

                              Could you clarify the blasted through opponent part though? Either he veered or his opponent moved...otherwise wouldn't some "bouncing" happen?
                              I can only tell you what I remember. It did not look to me like the opponent meekly moved or that the men-striker ever veered. If I had to guess I would say that he went straight (no veer) and the opponent did not move, and the only way this is possible is that men-striker actually was going straight on his own centerline through the opponent, but that the opponent was not actually facing straight so when he/she tried to engage, he missed/was off. This seems to me to be part of the essence of Kendo, isn't it?

                              I suppose it's more complicated than that, but I like Halcyon's comments on that point.

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