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How does waza correlate to creating opportunities for you?

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  • How does waza correlate to creating opportunities for you?

    Happy New Year KWF

    Since the forum is back and running (fingers crossed), I thought I’d make a post based on subjects I’ve read on other sites so please feel free to comment…

    -What are your thoughts on waza and how does it correlate to creating opportunities for you?

    -What is your best waza and are you able to execute it in any situation? If it’s a hiki waza, you need more study…no offense.

    -What signs do you look for from the aite when executing a strike?

    -What do you do to take control and adjust to various situations fighting an aite you find the most difficult?

    Rank does not apply to these questions so anyone can respond, but to the experienced kenshi, think shinsa, you only have 90 seconds to show your kendo.

  • #2
    I somehow suspect that this is a trick question but here goes:

    The two "waza" I use the most and find most natural are debana men and degote. What is important about these techniques is that they require the fundamentals to be strong in order to make "simple" men and kote effective. On the physical side this means explosive movement, cutting from the core and cutting in a non-telegraphic manner (stepping in only at the very last part of the cut all the while avoiding give-aways like leaning in). But in order to create the opportunities and conditions, seme and tame are needed to force the aite into a revealing position and launching at the right moment.

    I personally think "waza" isn't the point of kendo. It is developping kihon in an unpredictable live ego-filled situation. This is hard to produce in iaido and kata based keiko (although possible at higher levels).


    • #3
      Thanks for the reply Dillon

      I think throughout the history of kendo practitioners’ *men and kote* were and still is the best waza to execute for everyone. After all, in shiai, this is what you see the most isn’t it? The only thing I don’t agree with is your take on waza, everything else is spot on in my opinion.

      However, as we progress in kendo through years of keiko, the attacking mindset between shiai and shinsa seem to be different as we try to attain higher grades. Why is the attitude and focus different between the two? Why is my men/kote good enough to score in shiai but not in shinsa? Well, there’s no easy way to express my thoughts on this, but I’ll try my best to keep this short.

      It’s easy for me to say listen to your sensei and always focus on your basic fundamentals and there’s no doubt in my mind that people try to do this every time in keiko. What I’ll do is make a few bullet points and give a brief explanation for each one…

      -Slumps. For me, being in a slump is when something feels a little off in jigeiko or I feel that my kendo isn’t progressing like it should. A lot of people might attribute slumps as not winning in jigeiko or shiai, whatever the reason, being in a slump is a good thing because it forces you to dig deeper and analyze what you’re doing wrong in keiko. Your focus becomes more detailed and it should always start with your kamae.

      My sensei always said, if you’re in a slump, do more suburi. But be aware that your suburi is only as good as your kamae, same for kiri-kaeshi and especially for waza keiko. The better your kamae, the better your kendo becomes. So if you really think about it, everyone who practices kendo is in a perpetual slump…even if they win in shiai. It took Mochida sensei 50 years to have a good understanding for the basics. If you were lucky enough to be taught by him, in theory, it would take less time for you.

      -Focusing on the wrong things. Look, I totally get it, ji-geiko is fun, shiai is fun and shiai is a very important way to promote kendo and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Competition is fun but there are pros and cons when people focus solely on shiai.

      In my opinion…there’s a big difference between people who focus on the basics and excel in shiai and the people who don’t focus on the basics and use unorthodox methods to win in shiai. I feel this is a gray area for a lot of people in kendo today. They don’t understand what they’re looking at. All that matters is winning no matter how ugly. The bottom-line is this; the people who focus on the basics do the same exact type of kendo in shiai and in shinsa.

      -The importance of learning how to cut and not hit. I cannot stress enough how important this is in kendo. It seems like the attitude in kendo today is,* a shinai is just a stick and not a sword.* Well that’s certainly true, but what people might not get is there is a real method to swinging that stick. (ki ken tai ichi)

      -Waza. Understanding waza is what gives you clarity moving forward into ji-geiko, shiai and shinsa. The more waza you know how to execute with confid
      ence, the more opportunities you have to seize and create. If you don’t focus on your mechanics in waza keiko, your ability to execute waza in ji-geiko will be limited. And this is where people hit the wall in shinsa in my opinion. And what’s the reason for this? Well, in my humble opinion, their understanding for the basics is lacking.

      -Shu Ha Ri. I’m pretty sure you know this already, but the process of kendo isn’t linear, it’s a continuous spiral as in everything else in life. I think some people might get the impression that the process is linear because of the ranking system but Mochida sensei is a good example that it’s not.

      I think it’s not possible for anyone to reach the stage of RI. Humans aren’t perfect and how could you possibly ever gauge it? Can you honestly say Musashi achieved the stage of Ri? If so, what do you base that on? Do you base it on the fact he never lost a fight? Maybe if Sasaki Kojiro didn’t get rattled and irritated by Musashi’s tactics the outcome would have been different. What would you pay to see Musashi vs. Sasaki at All Japans? All things being equal, who would win?

      Anyway, in my opinion, the process always spirals back to Shu, basically your kamae.

      I hope I didn’t bore you with another long response.
      Last edited by G-CHAN; 5th February 2017, 08:09 AM.


      • #4
        Trying to post on here is so....
        Last edited by G-CHAN; 5th February 2017, 09:47 AM.


        • #5
          I find that posting on this forum works best by hitting the post or post reply button once, have faith things are working and leaving things alone for a couple of minutes while the server takes its time to publish. Often it looks like nothing is happening when in fact things are.

          Originally posted by G-CHAN View Post
          I think throughout the history of kendo practitioners’ *men and kote* were and still is the best waza to execute for everyone. After all, in shiai, this is what you see the most isn’t it? The only thing I don’t agree with is your take on waza, everything else is spot on in my opinion.
          Originally posted by G-CHAN View Post
          -Waza. Understanding waza is what gives you clarity moving forward into ji-geiko, shiai and shinsa. The more waza you know how to execute with confid
          ence, the more opportunities you have to seize and create. If you don’t focus on your mechanics in waza keiko, your ability to execute waza in ji-geiko will be limited. And this is where people hit the wall in shinsa in my opinion. And what’s the reason for this? Well, in my humble opinion, their understanding for the basics is lacking.
          On the point about waza, I am happy for people to challenge my view because I say that "waza is not the point" as a thought provocation. I also say it from the point of view of practicing other weapons arts, namely iaido and jodo (both through ZNKR) so my motivations for kendo may be different from others.

          I am 100% in agreement with the later point about having to develop a wider repertoire of waza and that a detailed understanding of mechanics is important. I am not saying that anyone can have a long kendo career based only on debana men and degote. If my aite knew that I only go for debana men or degote I would be at a disadvantage because the range of possibilities are limited. But still, debana men and degote are the core as being able to successfully execute these two makes working on the other things a lot easier (except hiki-waza). So in terms of training, these two "waza" are the foundation.

          To me waza are stepping stones towards the ultimate goal in any Japanese martial art, which is the liberation from constraints. To be able to move at will to any given situation and also to control situations in order to set up and constrain the aite are common threads of many if not all Japanese sword and other weapons arts that subscribe to the sen-sen-no-sen approach (go-no-sen arts have a different take).

          Having an array of waza and being able to execute them correctly as well as freely is the vehicle towards this. Ideally there would be no "style" and no "form" but I think it's safe to say that most of us will never reach that level of liberation.

          I practice iaido and jodo (which one has to remember is half sword based) and think about how, along with kendo, these arts fit together. They share some things in common but have different strengths and weaknesses in terms of training methodology.

          Although it is said that there are 50 kendo techniques, another way to look at it is there are only 4: men, kote, dou, tsuki.

          By contrast, ZNKR seitei iaido has 12 kata. Muso Shinden-ryu has a few dozen. The iaido community calls these kata "waza" and although some share the same sword movement, there are differences in body movement. Anyway you look at it though, there is a larger range of movements and methods for delivering cuts and thrusts.

          ZNKR seitei jodo has 12 kihon tandoku waza (or 13 although one is a mirror of another). I believe Shinto Muso-ryu jojutsu has pretty much the same number. These 12 waza are sufficiently different from each other such that taking the most strict view there are at least these 12.

          So when I practice these three arts I think about what does kendo give me that the other two cannot, at least not efficiently. Physical toughness is one, as getting exhausted in kendo comes very quickly. This is expedient from the point of view of learning to relax the movement, not to mention increased stamina.

          The tobikomi-men that we use also requires being able to cut from the hip in order to make it both efficient and beautiful. Arts that use a more natural leg movement seem to me more forgiving but I say that as someone who started with kendo first.

          Finally, tame and seme are developed more expediently in kendo. If these are not good enough in kendo, the attack will fail. In iaido kasso-teki is a nice idea but extremely difficult to develop. In paired kata arts like jodo, if the tame and seme are not good enough the kata still continues... until at some point the sensei wants to move on to these higher concepts and starts ass-whooping for not getting it.

          Someone who has done kendo can have a better idea what the difference is between the forestalling seme of ZNKR seitei iaido ippon-me Mae and the stronger koryu seme of the cognate MSR shohatto.

          Someone who has done kendo knows what it means to move too soon out of the way when performing the evasion in ZNKR's seitei jodo kata Tsukizue or parrying too soon in MSR's Ryuto. That is that thing called tame.

          So in conclusion, while kendo has 50 some variations of men, kote, dou, tsuki, it is the kihon that allows the 4 basic techniques to proliferate into 50 techniques that is important. The style of training that promotes development of this kihon: a big diet of kirikaeshi, uchikomi and kakarigeiko is extremely efficient at imparting lessons that do not come efficiently in kata based arts. Given that the early founders of modern kendo were all practitioners of koryu kenjutsu and in many cases also iaijutsu, that is probably what they had in mind. So from the context of practicing kendo as part of a larger package of sword arts, the value is what it can bring to developing kihon while the 50 techniques may or may not have any direct applicability to swordsmanship beyond the dojo floor.

          If we talk about kendo as an isolated art, yes, it is necessary to pick apart in detail those 50 techniques in order to become more skillful and unconstrained within the context of kendo. This too helps the other arts in terms of being able to have a wide range of motion when faced with an onslaught. Nevertheless, I often see beginners with an obsession with width rather than depth (I will admit I am one too). Kihon is like drilling a hole into a hard bed of rock. When the hole is deep enough, that is when you can stick dynamite into it and blowing it up from the inside.


          • #6
            Up to 50 variations? That’s insane, I had no idea, anyhow I breakdown my executions to 4 basic movements:

            -Forward. Shikake/oji

            -Diagonally forward to the right. Shikake/oji

            -Diagonally backward to the left. oji

            -Backward oji

            You just add waza to these four movements. For me, 9 out of 10 times I try to execute forward. Depending on the ebb and flow of the match, the other 3 movements I sprinkle in waza I feel is a good time to execute. Even though kendo is the only art I know, I can understand why it’s difficult to develop seme in non-contact arts. Let’s face it, seme is a difficult concept to explain for anyone because in my opinion your seme…is kind of like a personality trait of your kamae, it’s what ultimately defines your kamae and kendo.

            True a teen during ji-geiko, there was one sensei that I avoided like the plague. Not because he was mean or anything, he was a very nice man; anyway, he would always pick me out of another line I was in, this particular sensei was a master at suriage. I would try everything I knew; he would just suriage me to death. No freebies, no nothing. Finally, I told another sensei “Every time I ji-geiko with X sensei, all he does is suriage,” and my sensei said “That’s good a thing, you need learn how to beat his suriage.” When I said I’m doing everything I know, he simply said my kamae had no seme.

            To make a long story short, I had to learn how to breathe into my kamae to engage my tanden. When you learn to do this, that’s when all your physical body movements for kendo become natural. That’s how you develop seme into your kamae. In my humble opinion, that’s when the mind and body truly becomes one and the elements of seme, maai and tame becomes intrinsically connected internally and not just externally when you kamae.

            So, in the end, everything we’re taught about kamae, mechanics,seme, maai tame etc. in the beginning stages of kendo is generalized physical/external information. To get beyond this, you really need good senseis’ around you to push you to the next level.



            • #7
              Probably pretty easy to come up with 50 waza. Just consider men: Tobikomi-men, Degashira-men, Katsugi-men, Sagari-men then yoko-men variations on those and maybe you count them as big and small to double your count. You have several flavours of kote and doh as well. Now add in all your ohji-waza combinations, nidan and sandan waza, etc: I'm sure it will come out to 50 or more.

              Anyway, my tokui-waza is degote. So of course anyone that likes men is going to give me plenty of opportunity. And if they know my tokui-waza, they will hesitate to try the men which opens up other waza, particularly degashira-men.


              • #8
                I had in mind the sometimes cited 50 waza from Itto-ryu as described in this Kenshi24/7 article.


                As noted it was reduced from 68... and I would say 50 was an artificially chosen limit to pick an easy to remember number.

                That is before even asking the question when is a waza unique rather than just a variation?


                • #9
                  That's an interesting list and still largely relevant.


                  • #10
                    Hi Gendzwill sensei,

                    Yeah the more I think about it, I guess it is possible because any waza in kendo can be countered. Dillon, is that another thought provoking question?

                    I don’t think any waza is unique per se…unless you do something crazy like a super-duper I zig & you zag men. That would be unique…but in reality, that’s just undisciplined hands and feet kendo. Kendo to me is like any martial art or sport, it’s mostly mental.

                    I’m sure you heard sensei say so and so’s kendo is beautiful. This is my take on what beautiful kendo is:
                    1. One who possesses a strong natural kamae (State of readiness)
                    2. One who posseses the ability to execute strikes smoothly and with ease.
                    3. One who knows how to utilize waza to seize and create opportunities.
                    Sensei’s might have different theories and philosophies but keiko at the dojo is basically the same all around the world. We all learn kendo the same way. How does ones kendo become beautiful? You need to focus on the basics.

                    Anyone can do this if you focus on the right things. Body type doesn’t matter, even though it helps, speed doesn’t matter. I think the uniqueness of ones kendo as a whole is having the right mental state of mind so you develop the ability to utilize waza to seize opportunities.

                    My 2 cents
                    Last edited by G-CHAN; 8th February 2017, 04:57 AM.


                    • #11
                      O'G-Chan, I think we have aligned views but perhaps differences in semantics. I use the banal definition of waza, which is a set of physical movements requiring skill in order to acheive a desired result. I would put kihon, including the cultivation of the mental attitudes we strive for in kendo as something apart from waza. However, I see waza and kihon being points on a continuum. Maybe that continuum looks like a circle or spiral with many kihon points and many waza points stacked. Hence where is the boundary between kihon and waza? I agree with your three points by the way. It's a good logical summary.

                      Every waza can be countered and there are entire theories devoted to structuring this. Our own Nihon Kendo-no-Kata contain the gogyo theory of how the five kamae have either strengths or weaknesses against another kamae. A nice article from John Howell-sensei describing this can be found on the BKA website:

                      Since shinai kendo sticks to chudan 99% of the time with the only other kamae practically seen being jodan, nito (which doesn't really fit into gogyo theory) and a kendo specific version of kasumi (which also doesn't fit into the above version of gogyo theory), and because the limited number of targets in kendo make many classical kamae disadvantageous, the general kendo population is largely unaware of or uninterested in these inter-relationships.

                      Nevertheless, if we look back when kenshi had to practice a larger repetoire of kamae, waza and counters to waza through koryu kenjutsu and iaijutsu, we see the problem that no single ryuha can possibly anticipate every single waza that another ryuha may come up with. Shinto Muso-ryu jojutsu has kata where the uchidachi uses nito. I have read that the nito techniques in SMR would basically be considered ineffective by a Hyoho Niten-Ichi-ryu practioner. SMR did not have the benefit of getting in a HNIR practioner to have a friendly exchange back in the day so had to imagine what the other guy might do based on previous experience and formulate derivatives for instilling appropriate kihon.

                      So in lieu of anticipating every possible waza that the aite may throw at you, I think seasoned kenshi all eventually came to the realization that rather than focusing on physical speed, strength and waza (important as they are to polish), the real meat of swordsmanship is the anticipation and swaying of the aite's kokoro or kimochi while keeping one's own hidden and unmovable. A strong swordsman does not need to be able to counter every physical waza if the swordsman can force the aite into a situation where the aite has only a narrow number of waza available to them. With the aite trapped, the stronger swordsman can counter as they please. This is as I understand it, the thinking behind sen-sen-no-sen. Ideally, the aite realizes his bind and backs off (like Nihon Kendo-no-Kata Sanbonme) so both can avoid bloodshed, although of course, in kendo the aite is expected to attack anyway.

                      Hence my statement that kendo is not (really) about waza is one I stick too. I have enough waza to worry about with my other arts (and eventually my sensei for those arts will want me to get to a point where I can move on beyond waza). Keeping kendo simple allows me to focus on those kihon we agree are the necessary platform for the effective execution waza. Stronger kihon affords me more waza eventually (I still have a long way to go). Practicing more waza without the necessary kihon likely leads to diversions. Horses and carts: they need each other to deliver goods but one comes before the other.

                      My two yen.


                      • #12
                        Dillon, I feel our views are very similar, your last summary proves it. I completely understand where you’re coming from and I totally agree with your assessment. What you’re concentrating on right now in kendo anyway is spot on and to be honest; I just misunderstood your point about waza. I think... if you think in terms of shu ha ri, there are no real boundaries between kihon and waza, I think if one feels there are boundaries, it’s mostly self-imposed, a limited mental thought process in my opinion. One who sees shu ha ri as linear, while in fact this is just one of many cruxes in kendo that keep the wheels spinning in place. (shu stage)

                        By focusing on the basics in keiko you’re at least spiraling forward, if you don’t, you will eventually hit a wall at some point and just spin. Your physical and mental understanding of kendo including waza literally stops and you start focusing on the wrong things.

                        This is why having access to a good sensei is important, this is really important for people who practice kendo in smaller areas to attend seminars…if you can, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It was different for me because I started in a kendo mecca where my senseis were on me like white on rice.

                        There’s more I want to say…maybe later. Life goes on.