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  • Zanshin

    Expressing zanshin…another confusing topic in kendo, how does one express zanshin? In my humble opinion, this all depends on your level of kendo as well as how you’re being taught kendo which all translates to your understanding elements such as seme, maai, tame and zanshin.

    For example, for beginners (kyu) during waza keiko we express zanshin by making big strikes for men, kote and doh and follow thru past the motodachi, for kote we pass through the left side of the motodachi, the right side for men. For migi doh we pass through the left side and for nuki doh we pass through the right and then stop and turn to our left to assume kamae position.
    You see, in the beginning when we first learn to strike, the elements for seme, maai, tame and zanshin are categorized for us, we first learn to strike in four steps:
    1. Seme. We press forward from toma to…
    2. Issoku maai.
    3. Tame at this stage wasn’t taught to us until much later.
    4. Zanshin. We ended the execution with good follow thru, for example, for kote, we would strike the kote and immediately assume chudan position as we moved past the motodachi. For men, we would strike the men and maintain the position as we pass through the motodachi. The kensen always pointed forward just like in suburi, it was never pointed up during the follow through.
    For migi doh, we assumed chudan position as we passed thru the left and for nuki doh we assumed chudan as we passed thru the right.
    When I started kendo, we always had senseis and visiting senseis serving as motodachi, so they knew what they were doing.
    What we don’t realize at this point of the game is zanshin begins and ends in kamae, it always has from the very start. So, your zanshin is only as good as your kamae.

    My 2 cents and happy holidays everyone.

  • #2
    Just continuing my thoughts…when I reflect back to my experience from age 10 to 15 years of age (5kyu to shodan), my idea of zanshin(or lack thereof) became watered down. Even though my sensei was constantly watching my kendo (that’s what it felt like to me anyway), I was like everybody else, my focus was on speed, I needed to execute as fast as possible to win.

    What I didn’t realize at the time was that my kendo was getting worse, my attacking mind-set was stagnating. My thought process was becoming one dimensional during tame. It’s hard to utilize waza when you’re in this state. At this stage, unless I saw a clear opening, I was randomly executing strikes; I was trying to win with speed.

    Even though I had some success placing in shiai, I always lost to someone better, not because I was slower, but because his kendo was simply better. He knew how to utilize the waza he was taught better than me because his mechanics was simply better, in other words his zanshin over-all was better, not because he was faster.

    So for us, sensei would break everything down during summer camp every year. Work on your kamae and unify the body, tai-sabaki. For us this meant tons of suburi, kirikaeshi, waza keiko and kakari keiko. Very little ji-geiko. The only time we would ji-geiko was the third practice for the day at night when the adults would show up. It’s was just normal practice.

    You see, summer camps for me was kind of like kendo practice on steroids, the emphasis was always on improving your basic fundamentals, you’re always building and breaking down your kendo foundation, it never really stops if your trying to get things right, if you’re trying to right the ship, you always have to start from the bottom up, that’s why shu ha ri to me is a continuous spiral. You can’t really improve your kendo if you have cracks in your foundation.

    True story…I remember as a young shodan /nidan we had practice a day after a shiai, I remember placing 5th or 4th, anyway during jigeiko with sensei, instead of sparring, he had me practice big men strikes, it was just like kakari-keiko, just big men strikes. At the time I was thinking why is he treating me like a beginner? I beat 5 guys yesterday.

    I felt embarrassed, let’s just say my ego was definitely bruised. To make a long story short, my sensei said I was reaching when I executed men, even though I scored I was reaching too much. What about my kote or doh? Sensei said if I fix my execution for men, my execution for kote and doh will be stronger. I needed to use my hips and shoulders more, strike from the tanden and work on breathing into your kamae.

    At the time, I didn’t completely understand what he was doing because of my ego got in the way, but that experience eventually changed my focus on keiko, what my sensei calls kendo eyes. If I want to be stronger in kendo, I need to focus on the basics during keiko, not jigeiko. In my opinion, ji-geiko is good for two things; it’s a platform to show all the hard work and focus you have been doing in keiko or the lack thereof. One of the definitions for zanshin is being aware…

    My zanshin Christmas story

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    • #3
      " One of the definitions for zanshin is being aware…"

      One of my pet peeves.. zanshin - it's not just for after striking. Maintaining it throughout the practice - that's where it gets interesting

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