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  • Bendy Kendo

    Bendy kendo is NOT good…just my personal opinion. Just read a post from an enthusiastic young man on WKN. I really admire the guys’ passion for kendo but his latest post was a face palm moment for me. What you want to do is learn how to *cut* through the aites center, not *hit* around the aites center.

    There are specific waza in kendo designed to kill the aites’ shinai, you can do this in any situation if you understand how to apply it. I think with young kenshi…the biggest misnomer in kendo today seems to be what *correct- kendo*exactly means.

    I don’t mean to bust the guys’ balls but c’mon man…instead of bending your arms in, just execute harai waza. You can execute omote harai hiki men or ura harai hiki kote. You never bend your arms to execute waza. Your understanding of waza is what gives you clarity moving forward in jigeiko, shiai and shinsa.

    It’s like I said, if you don’t focus on the basics, you start focusing on all the wrong things. I really feel bad using this guy as an example…he's seems to be a really cool dude.

    My 2 cents.

  • #2
    I have a feeling that if shimpan became really really strict about awarding points, or if the rulebook was more explicit about correct kendo a lot of the "youthful" movements would disapear.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for the reply HL, yeah…I see your point. I know discussing the subject of *sporty kendo* is taboo, especially here in the states, but for me, this is not how I was taught kendo. It’s a generation thing I think…

      When I started back in the early 70’s, for my brother and I kendo wasn’t a choice, I still remember that very morning my father telling us to make sure you finish doing homework because we’re going to the Japanese community center right after dinner.

      When we got there, sensei greeted us right away at the door and told us to follow him into the changing room where he handed us brand new shinais and then told to stand in line with the other kids. There was no *Have and seat and watch and decide if kendo is something you want to do.*

      That’s how it was for a lot of kids back then, it wasn’t a choice. Kendo was something we had to do growing up, just like having to go to Japanese school on Saturday. For this reason, I feel keiko was a lot more strict because our parents wouldn’t let us quit. It was nothing but suburi, kiri-kaeshi, waza keiko and kakari-keiko the first 3 or 4 years. There was no ji-geiko because there’s no point, we weren’t ready for it. Shiai was our ji-geiko.

      What were we told to do in shiai? “Just do your best men, kote and doh and don’t wait. Just attack.” That’s it.

      I don’t think kids today can handle it, they would most likely quit because of boredom. I think I was about 13 years old when I was told to do ji-geiko. I remember feeling kind of bummed because it cut into my screwing around time riding my skateboard in the parking lot with the other kids. Yeah, we were told to watch ji-geiko but we never really did, messing around was a lot more fun.

      With that said, everyone’s kendo (including shinpan) is a work in progress even for the people who win in shiai, that’s why we have shinsa. The question being asked of you is what have you learned about your kendo since your last grading? At higher levels, you can’t fake it, i.e. you can’t have the mindset “I’m going to do the kind of kendo I think the judges want to see.”

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      • #4
        Thanks for the reply HL, yeah…I see your point. I know discussing the subject of *sporty kendo* is taboo, especially here in the states, but for me, this is not how I was taught kendo. It’s a generation thing I think…

        When I started back in the early 70’s, for my brother and I kendo wasn’t a choice, I still remember that very morning my father telling us to make sure you finish doing homework because we’re going to the Japanese community center right after dinner.

        When we got there, sensei greeted us right away at the door and told us to follow him into the changing room where he handed us brand new shinais and then told to stand in line with the other kids. There was no *Have and seat and watch and decide if kendo is something you want to do.*

        That’s how it was for a lot of kids back then, it wasn’t a choice. Kendo was something we had to do growing up, just like having to go to Japanese school on Saturday. For this reason, I feel keiko was a lot more strict because our parents wouldn’t let us quit. It was nothing but suburi, kiri-kaeshi, waza keiko and kakari-keiko the first 3 or 4 years. There was no ji-geiko because there’s no point, we weren’t ready for it. Shiai was our ji-geiko.What were we told to do in shiai? “Just do your best men, kote and doh and don’t wait. Just attack.” That’s it.

        I don’t think kids today can handle it, they would most likely quit because of boredom. I think I was about 13 years old when I was told to do ji-geiko. I remember feeling kind of bummed because it cut into my screwing around time riding my skateboard in the parking lot with the other kids. Yeah, we were told to watch ji-geiko but we never really did, messing around was a lot more fun.

        With that said, everyone’s kendo (including shinpan) is a work in progress even for the people who win in shiai, that’s why we have shinsa. The question being asked of you is what have you learned about your kendo since your last grading? At higher levels, you can’t fake it, i.e. you can’t have the mindset “I’m going to do the kind of kendo I think the judges want to see.”

        Comment


        • #5
          Apologies for the double post, it won't let me edit.

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          • #6
            I'm going to veer off topic then back on topic...

            Ok so off topic although picking up on G-Chan's experiences of youth kendo:
            I've observed a handful of different children's kendo in Tokyo and in a satellite city, including a local private dojo within the inner 23 wards, a Keishicho sponsored shonen kendo at two different police stations, and a machidojo in Chiba City (close enough to be part of Tokyo's economic sphere but far enough to have its own distinct indentity... kind of like Yokohama). Most adult kendo practices tend to be line-up-for-a-sensei jigeiko format and there are very few adult practices that pursue kihon (although if you are say, below sandan the sensei will usually spot that and insert quite a bit of kihon and keep the jigeiko part short). So for adult starters, a children's practice is often the best way to get kihon keiko.

            The private local dojo in Tokyo didn't feel the least bit harsh. Sure the kids were constantly corrected but there was never anything resembling an attempt to force kids to do anything they didn't want to do. It was a lot of gentle coaxing. The head instructor was an ex-police officer holding a high kendo rank although not one who pursued kendo specialization (budo senmon or busen, aka tokuren). The children's practice tend to be populated with grade school (elementary school) kids as older kids with interest in kendo can pursue kendo at school from middle school onwards. Middle and high school kids tend to show up for the "adult" practices. The dojo administration (basically the owner) runs all organizational aspects. Parents/guardians can just sit back and chill like taking their kids to music lessons.

            The Keishicho sponsored shonen kendo are taught by the kendo instructors of those police stations (there is one per station as well as a judo sensei per station). The "busen" instructors have the full time job of teaching kendo/judo along side other things like taihojutsu, keijo-jutsu, keibo-jutsu, other police actions, and general physical training. Anyway, as part of the police station's community service, they host shonen kendo and judo practice for the children who live within their precinct. Organizationally, there is a "oyakai" (parental committee) that runs things like preparing for taikai, etc. Police shonen teams tend to do well in taikai for grade school level kendo groups. These practices are up a notch in terms of discipline with the sensei speaking in a firmer way and coming down harder on poor technique. Not counting the very youngest children, the kendo demonstrated is noticeably cleaner than the private dojo but somehow still lacks a certain killer instinct.

            Finally, the Chiba City machidojo, which was a community practice that borrowed a local school gym and also administered by a parental committee. There are a lot of children through to middle school age and consequently a handful of instructors, including some police, joined by a few adult motodachi. Generally speaking "inaka" (rural) chlidren's kendo tends to be far more rigorous. I observed this in Chiba where the chlidren's practice ran for three hours and generally didn't let up except for a couple of breaks for water (the Tokyo practices were about 90min long in both of the above cases). After the regular practice is over, older children (middle school) stay on for another hour. I didn't see the kind of shoving that appeared on a Youtube video of a Japanese children's practice that shocked some members of the Western kendo community but I wouldn't be surprised if it happened occasionally. My understanding is that kendo in more rural areas of Japan do tend to be more old school in approach. In any case, the kendo of even a fifth grader was frighteningly good technically and with a lot of killer instinct (I got my ass kicked by a fifth grader who scared the bejeebus out of me).

            So aside from the fact that kendo today seems to be more... consensual? than in the past, there is also a noticeable difference between city slicker kendo, where it is approached more like a hobby, and kendo in more rural communities where more traditional mentalities persist. There is probably also a difference in priorities involved. The economy of Tokyo is more competitive and dynamic compared to rural communities so its residents are under more pressure to put their attention to other things... like getting one's place as an enslaved salaryman (I am told such impulses are noticeable stronger in Tokyo than the next biggest city, Osaka).

            Ok so back on the topic of sporty kendo:
            As an adult starter of kendo and one who basically didn't feel much need to prove anything through kendo (because I have other outlets for that and worked through a lot of that earlier in life... although like anyone else getting hit took some getting used to for my ego), I came in wanting to learn "proper" swordsmanship. I have very little interest in the competition aspect of kendo other than as a test. Even if I learned of a trick that could gain an advantage in shiai but did not make sense from the perspective of combat, I tended not to take much interest in it, especially if it is a defensive trick (mind you, attacking someone close to the edge of the shiaijo with the aim to knock them out for a hansoku strikes me as positive rather than defensive so I am ok with that).

            Having said that, I do see kendo as a path rather than a destination, which for me personally make it transcend the combative aspect of budo. This leads me to believe that the "corruption" that happens in pursuing the sporty competitive side of kendo may in fact be part of that journey. I posed this question before on KWF: are there any kendo 8-dan who did NOT go through a sporty phase? Maybe going through it and learning to overcome its corruptions are an important part of that journey. I personally will not be benefiting from this (if the benefit exists) due to starting in a later phase in life with both its psychological and physical limitations.

            A great many, if not a majority, of kendo 8-dan come from police ranks. Kendo busen/tokuren policemen go through a competitive phase. In fact, they have to as part of selection for busen. Once selected though, the busen training basically beats that out of them even though they will stay deeply involved in competitive kendo. At least this is the case for Keishicho who see themselves as the guardians of proper kendo.

            I don't want to judge the situation originally described by G-Chan since I am not sure if I understand it correctly, but it sounds to me like plain bad kendo rather than sporty kendo. If I were to cut a bit off center in iai and then explain to my sensei that kasso-teki had too strong a center so I imagine going around this, he'd give me a firm and somewhat ironic "NO" in English before telling me (in Japanese) to cut straight. There are angled cuts in iai but no "attempt at cheating" cuts... at least not in the iai I am taught.

            My mostly recycled two yen.

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            • #7
              Dillon, I really enjoy reading your posts, thank you very much for taking the time and once again you bring up some interesting points. My definition of sporty/ bendy kendo is really just a reflection of my sensei’s which is more or less *That’s no good.*

              With that said, I think everyone goes through some form of sporty kendo phase. Mine was and still probably is *defensive dodging.* As a teen during summer camp, I remember sensei commenting watching us ji-geiko as being very painful. What he meant was that we were so afraid to get scored upon we were willing to get hit on the side of the head, shoulders, arms etc. That’s very bad kendo.
              He said there are 2 things you need to understand and they go hand in hand:

              -How to protect yourself. You should never sacrifice your body to block/dodge. That’s not sutemi, that’s just crazy and not good kendo. You need to just use your shinai to suppress or reflect the aite’s shinai by extending the arms. Sensei said my problem was that I have a hard time accepting the fact that I got beat. That’s why I dodge. If the shinai was a real sword, are you going to dodge? Even if the aite misses the intended target, you still die.

              -How to be a good partner in ji-geiko. We all want to win, nobody likes losing, that’s just how we’re all conditioned to be in this life, being competitive. The irony of ji-geiko is learning how to be more appreciative when you get beat. It’s all for the greater good of the dojo, we’re all there to learn and improve our kendo. For me, my problem is I block too much…every time I do this, I technically got beat because I wasn’t ready. It’s a very hard habit to break.

              It’s when I get badly beaten to the point my last resort is to dodge… I’m not doing the aite any good; in fact they apologize for missing in which I immediately apologize to him for my own stupidity.
              Anyway, I try to treat ji-geiko like jian-ken po. (rock, paper, scissors) There is no blocking in jian ken po…that’s just my idea of being a good training partner.

              Comment


              • #8
                O-G-Chan

                Your sensei's two points are spot on an pretty much what I was also taught. Nevertheless, the first point was emphasized to me in a slightly different way. As you mentioned, an off-cut still has the capacity to maim or kill so makes little martial sense, but what was emphasized to me is the missed opportunity to practice a response. Pull out an oji-waza instead. Of course, if it seems that aite came in too suddenly it means one's kendo still has a long way to go as surprise is one of the four sicknesses. Better then to accept being beaten and work on anticipating the aite better. I was taught that a perfectly timed debana waza as the gold standard, preferable to an oji-waza that waits on aite (ideally oji-waza should be practiced with the same attitude as debana-waza but tends to be more forgiving of shortcomings). "If you have time to deflect, you have time to cut instead."

                Not missing an opportunity is to me is the true value of kendo... there is always an opportunity if one is prepared for it. It is a lesson for other aspects of life as well (and no easier to develop either... an "attacking" mindset and not going on cruise control is hard to sustain).

                Oh and of course... contorting to spoil aite's cut leads to bad shisei. Bad shisei against an aite with a strong center is a recipe for getting knocked over so that is another martial reason not to do it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hi Dillon, yup, we were told the same…I think I was about 15 or 16 (shodan) when sensei told me to concentrate more on my kamae, I needed to breathe into it. Back then, the older high school kids were not only fast, but some had a really good understanding of waza. They knew how and when to execute in multiple ways, so if you were a random striker, you wouldn’t last a New York minute.
                  You needed to have some *game* to stand a chance. So that particular summer camp, sensei really worked with me on my kamae, physically it was okay, but I was way too hyper, I needed to relax my kamae more, hence breathe into it. When I got better at doing this in keiko, the better focus and physical/ mental self-control I had. I had less and less of those *Oh Shit moments.*

                  With that said, the human element is still there, if I jab my finger towards your eye, you’re going to blink or dodge your head out of the way. It’s a hard thing to overcome for me…it’s bad kendo.

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