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  • Ichi Gan, Ni Soku (One, eyes, two, feet)

    Gonna be hard for me to put this all down, and I should caution anyone reading this that it may not apply in the same way to less experienced kendoists than it may to me and others.

    Recently I had the fortune to have one of our teachers from another dojo watch my match in shiai and he gave me some advice I have been processing ever since. He said that I launched good attacks on my opponent but that they were patterned and did not take advantage of openings. He said several openings appeared but because I was so commited to my waza, I did not see them and launched ineffectual waza instead. He said, "Remember what Tagawa-sensei always says, ichi gan, ni soku, san tan, shi riki." (Some of you may know this old kendo proverb means "one, eyes; two, feet; three, tenacity/spirit; four, strength.) He advised me to develop the ability to see openings and capitalize on them, especially now that I am playing at sandan level.

    This is why I said it might not apply to other, less experienced players; some of you guys should probably not be thinking of jigeiko in this way but rather focusing on only attacking. But sensei's advice has me thinking of what it means to use your eyes in the combat.

    Basically, I have always felt that attacks are "guesses," for lack of a better word, that you anticipate where the opening will be or work to create the opening through seme and attack it, ready to follow it up with another attack. It seems to me that sensei's advice is suggesting my conscious mind play a somewhat bigger role. At any rate, I think it ups the mental apsects of the game.

    I have only tried putting this into physical practice a little since then and so have no further enlightenment at this time. What are you thoughts, I mean this to all of you but especially you yudansha who may also be at or near this level of play?

  • #2
    Hi Charlie

    I am sandan too and I think I hit a similar wall about a year ago. I found the following two things very useful.

    In his Kendo Reader, Noma Hisashi mentions the same ichi gan adage. He goes on to explain it very well. I would suggest you read it, particularly where he talks about how to regard an opponent. He really puts the 'looking at a distant mountain' idea into context, as well as explaining other aspects of kendo which I had not considered before.

    In short, I would summarise it as saying that when we are under pressure we tend to get tunnel vision, but we should remain relax and take in everything. The idea of water reflecting the moon comes to mind. He then goes on to talk about 'kan' or the mind's eye, but I'll leave that to the philosophers.

    The other thing is of course practice. I have found that even doing a few suburi every day has helped me get over a slight complacency that I had been feeling in my kendo and allowed me to react much more instinctively during keiko and shiai.

    I hope this helps

    L
    Last edited by Lucien; 3rd March 2005, 11:34 PM.

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    • #3
      Thanks, Lu, I'll go read that today and put it in the metling pot I call a brain.

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      • #4
        Yeah, do, and tell me what you think of it.

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        • #5
          One thing I'm trying to reconcile is the thinking part, after years and years of being told to always "not think." Now, sensei seems to be saying, "Well, think a little." I was trying to watch other high-level players at shiai for evidence of this.

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          • #6
            Basically, I have always felt that attacks are "guesses," for lack of a better word
            That's how it starts out!...while I would say that while the majority of my attacks are more or less educated guesses, I have noticed an increasing amount of genuine openings. They will almost present themselves in a 'tunnel' like manner and feel like the easiest thing in the world to execute.
            As always, it comes down to footwork. Moving to create the opening (seme) is only 1/2 the job...you then also have to make sure that your feet (body) are in position to capitalize on the opening.

            All the 'mental' training in the world wont help, if your feet aren't in position to attack.

            Jakob

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            • #7
              There's a good drill you can use to work on this stuff. Step sharply in (push seme) and then have your partner open. But your partner should open randomly and you should react. If he protects kote, hit men. If he protects men, hit doh or kote depending. If he doesn't move, stay put. So you have to a) step in b) wait a bit to see if an opening comes c) recognise the opening and d) execute.

              Another, opposite kind of drill is to practice all your oji-waza with partners attacking randomly. In this case, it's best to use a group of at least 3, preferably 5. One in the middle, and the rest of the group divided on either side. The guy in the middle defends against attackers coming alternately from each line. You can start this drill by having a proscribed attack and defence, but the goal is random attack/appropriate defence.

              Neither of these drills is very good for people under 2 dan, they find them frustrating. Actually the second drill I think of as a 3+ dan drill.

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              • #8
                Jakob, yes - two, FEET!

                Neil, follow-up:

                Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill
                Another, opposite kind of drill is to practice all your oji-waza with partners attacking randomly. In this case, it's best to use a group of at least 3, preferably 5. One in the middle, and the rest of the group divided on either side. The guy in the middle defends against attackers coming alternately from each line. You can start this drill by having a proscribed attack and defence, but the goal is random attack/appropriate defence.
                So, they are coming at the middle guy in a kind of triangle?

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                • #9
                  No, straight line. The monkey in the middle has to keep spinning 180 degrees to meet the next attacker. An alternate form of the drill is to have attackers all around in a circle and randomly come at the defender.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Charlie
                    One thing I'm trying to reconcile is the thinking part, after years and years of being told to always "not think." Now, sensei seems to be saying, "Well, think a little." I was trying to watch other high-level players at shiai for evidence of this.
                    Being 3-dan, this subject is something I have been thinking about also. At my present level of development I find it useful to use different synonyms for "think" to clarify my thinking. Here is about where I am right now:

                    I think "calculate" or that sort of sense is incorrect. That is, it is not correct to set out some complicated plan in the mind and then work to execute on it without regard for the realities of the situation. For example, sometimes people will decide that they are going to do some oji-waza and then they stop seeing any openings to attack and try to do it even if the situation is inappropriate for that particular waza. That is not the right kind of "think."

                    I also think that "study" in the way we normally use the word is not correct. That is, of course we have to observe closely our opponent but, personally, when I think of "studying" I am thinking of a state where I am not acting. That is, when I "study" a book, I read and chew on it for a while, but it is all in my head. In the same way, if we just sit and watch our opponent without a feeling of action, that is obviousy not kendo.

                    Also, "conjecture" or "surmise" or, as you said, "guess" seems to be the wrong way to think. But I am not sure how much it applies to those of us going for 4-dan. I do know riai ("logical" or "rational" strikes) matters for 5-dan, but I suppose the question for us at 3-dan is if we are ever not merely "guessing" at openings. But even we at 3-dan do not really guess at an opening, not the way a beginner might. We have some idea as to what is open and what is not. It is just not very developed. So, I think when we "guess" at an opening, we are really "deciding" on an opening to develop. That is how I perceive it to be for me, when I think carefully about my practice. I think "hmm. kensen is a little low, men might be open, how can I take advantage of that." That is a surmise, an operating theory, and as I operate on that I stop noticing what is or is not open in reality.

                    The common point between these notions of "think" is that lack of grounding in reality. That is, they are all about living in our own heads and acting out what we want to do or what we want to perceive instead of seeing and reacting to what is real.

                    However, notice that it is "gan" -- eyes. That is, I think, about seeing and perceiving what is there in front of you. Not really so much "thinking" in any of the preceeding senses.

                    So I think the key is to learn to see the truth of the situation in front of you and to act on it correctly. This is not a mindless activity because perception and understanding is not mindless. But it is at the same time not a mindful activity. Obvious examples are all around us. As I write this, I am not really mindful of most of my grammar, spelling, and language -- I do not think over each individual word, or make an elaborate plan of what each sentence will be. I simply type it out. And, yet, it is obviously also not a mindless sort of reflex activity. The same is true of many things we do -- walking, cooking, driving, whatever we do at our job, and so forth.

                    So to summarize briefly, I think the goal is not so much "to think" as it is "to know." This distinction also, I think, goes a long way to explaining some other concepts, such as attacking with sutemi. But that is a different topic...

                    This is where I am currently at. I hope other people will comment, as this is a very confusing topic for me.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Charlie
                      Basically, I have always felt that attacks are "guesses," for lack of a better word, that you anticipate where the opening will be or work to create the opening through seme and attack it, ready to follow it up with another attack.
                      Hi Charlie,

                      I'm working on the same.

                      I can't remember who told me this, but someone told me that when he did tobikomi men, it feels like he wants to pat their head, much like how one would pat the dog on the head....

                      Weird thing is, lately, when I feel that I can pat the other person's top of the head, I can hit their men 99% of the time.

                      That probably didn't help you...except what I'm trying to say is, you can "feel" in a very visceral way when someone is open.

                      Also, I've been working on feeling my opponent by crossing the kensen...it's not really a problem when they refuse to have kensen contact because then their kamae is open, and they have to over-compensate when you move.

                      Regards to getting a feel on what your opponent is going to do...that's why I always mumble "omote/ura".

                      A very basic practice.

                      Seme as if to strike hidari men by riding your shinai over the opponent's chudan.

                      If you feel the opponent isn't going to respond to your seme, go for the men.

                      If you feel the opponent is going to respond by protecting his men, go for kote.

                      Omote is the hidari men, or the apparant target.

                      Ura is the kote resulting from him trying to cover his hidari men, or the alternate target.

                      If you are really industrious, you can sort of "pre-decide" your options for each of your actions and have them linked so they come full circle....The more complete your links are, the less opening you present to your opponent.

                      Ever notice how tenken's jodan seme conveniently transitions into kasumi if the seme didn't work?

                      Another thing is, in order to practice being aware of your opponent, you need to give them "time" to respond to your seme...if you transfer too fast from seme to strike, then how can they respond?

                      I benefitted a lot from Nanbanjin's post on "seme-tame-kuzushii".

                      After seme, you need to tame, or let the tension build so the opponent collapse his posture (kuzushii) in response to your seme, so you can strike.

                      FWIW.
                      Last edited by DCPan; 4th March 2005, 06:08 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by DCPan
                        If you are really industrious, you can sort of "pre-decide" your options for each of your actions and have them linked so they come full circle....The more complete your links are, the less opening you present to your opponent.
                        Or, if you keiko a lot, your actions will link themselves out of simple survival needs!

                        Katana wa hito wo kitaeru!

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                        • #13
                          An analogy of what I'm trying to say about omote/ura is like playing chess.

                          There are certain cornerstones/end-games you can memorize because they happen a lot (i.e. how to check-mate someone when there are only so many pieces left on the board) eventhough each individual game is unique.

                          That way, when your body recognize a familiar end-game, it's all sutemi from there....

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                          • #14
                            Interestingly, the footnote in my old copy of The Kendo reader (a freebie I downloaded from the net, might be the one in Lucien's post) translates the ichi gan proverb as: Eyes, Legs, Guts, Strength (strength can also be interpreted as perception, footwork, spirit and technique). And yes, Hidashi seems to indicate that footwork is everything, but that the eyes are given the first place. He's getting deep on me, though, Lucien, talking about the superficial eye and the psychic eye, and then even suggesting confusing the opponent with your eyes!

                            I seems we are talking about mind as well as eyes. I have always thought of the eyes that see openings (suki, neh?) in kendo as what we in the west call "the third eye," an intuition rather than direct observance. (This could be confusing as "the third eye" can also note all kinds of metaphysical stuff.) My point is, I, on my best day, "sense" the kote is opening, either on its own or through some effort of mine, and go after it. This sense is not enough, or not developed enough. I think what sensei is saying is I should look closer and longer.

                            I said to him at the time that speed played a role in my fighting, that I was always going as fast as possible because I have found that simple speed can decide the match. He replied that I was probably as fast as most of my peers and that it wasn't the most important thing, timing was.

                            ...nah, confused again. Had a thought and it flew away like a balloon I accidentally let go.

                            I am reminded of a chess game I am playing with a friend right now. He likes to jam the middle board with all kinds of development whereas I am uncomfortable with that, I like to start swapping pieces right away. Similar, isn't it? I am not letting myself, what, David, tame the seme to break the kuzushi?



                            EDIT: Whoa, I was making my chess analogy the same time you were!

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                            • #15
                              This is a really interesting thread. Thanks for the kendo reader guys! I printed it now at work and I shall go home and read it. Well not tonight, because there is keiko. I always get yelled at by my sensei when I try to strike when his kamae is straight. He tells me that I have to break his kamae and center before attacking, which is hard to do on a 7-dan. Basically I take it that sensei is telling me that I need to work on my seme.

                              There are other threads on seme, but I think this thread looks at seme from a different angle. If you have good seme, you don't have to guess because you can "control" how your opponent will react. I think speed contributes to seme, but there is so much more to it than speed. I think it is your seme, which helps you to sense where the opening will be.

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