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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


    • #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


      • #4
        Happy New Year Ron, maintaining zanshin throughout the entire practice from start to finish, how does one do this, that’s the million dollar question isn’t it? I’m not an expert; anyway I’ll continue my thoughts on zanshin. I’ll try to keep this short.

        I said earlier that there are different levels of understanding for zanshin and I don’t think you can really distinguish this by rank anymore in kendo today because kendo has grown so much all over the world. You really need good senseis around you to guide you through keiko. My opinion is that people who have a hard time moving to higher level kendo still mimic movements they were taught; there is a disconnect between the mind and body. What the mind perceives, the body can achieve, this can’t happen if there is no real connection…you can’t really do this by mimicking movements just as you can’t hit a baseball like Ichiro Suzuki by copying everything he does, that’s not how it works simply because you don’t have his body, you don’t think the same way and you can’t see what he sees. You need to find your own way through keiko and it always starts with your kamae. This is what keiko is about for me, unifying the mind and body.

        I hope some people found my posts useful this year…

        HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE and be safe driving home.


        • #5
          Weight on the soles of feet. Zanshin.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Gin View Post
            Weight on the soles of feet. Zanshin.
            I'm worried I'm misunderstanding something. Weight on the soles of the feet, as opposed to...?


            • #7
              "Wait ...... on your toes"

              This is much better.


              • #8
                Waiting goes against everything I was taught in kendo.


                • #9
                  We aren't going to let him live this down, are we?


                  • #10
                    on your toes

                    ​ Someone or something that keeps you on your toes forcesyou to continue directing all your attention and energy to what you are doing:

                    online dictionary.....


                    • #11
                      Zanshin-less hikiage and yuko-datotsu

                      When did zanshin start to factor into yuko-datotsu anyway? The answer is 1982. Yup, you read that right. Zanshin as part of a valid strike is relatively new. Before this, none of the shiai rules mentioned zanshin, rather, they mentioned something you SHOULD NOT DO called “hikiage.”


                      “Don’t try to force zanshin, but rather allow it to happen naturally after a strike. Do this by attacking with your full mental and physical power, then allowing yourself to relax directly after. This will allow you to assume a mental and physical condition where you can react quickly and appropriately.

                      If you make an effort to relax before striking, strike with abandon, and move naturally into a focused and stable posture after striking then, eventually, you will acquire True Zanshin.“

                      Mitsuhashi Hidezo

                      It’s me again…just read a very interesting article about zanshin on kenshi24/7. Andy Fisher made a very good video on the subject of zanshin also…What I’m about to say is just my own opinion, in no way am I saying Mr. McCall’s opinion on zanshin is not correct, it’s just his opinion. I love reading articles on kenshi24/7 by the way; I always look forward to new articles coming out.

                      What Mr. McCall says about today’s modern shiai is for the most part, true, there is a lack of understanding for zanshin and therefore you see a more sporty type of kendo…or *hikiage type of kendo.* This seems to be the norm at all the big tournaments. This in my opinion really needs to be addressed otherwise kendo will become a sport like judo and karate; it might as well become an Olympic sport…I’ll take it one step further, you might as well use electronics to keep score.

                      The ideal for big tournament kendo is turning into a *do whatever it takes to win attitude.* this kind of attitude for me doesn’t always translate to beautiful kendo; it normally turns out to be ugly because it lacks Zanshin. Kendo is becoming two people swinging sticks at each other because there is no real substance behind the executions. Kendo to me is becoming watered down. The more you practice kendo, your kendo is supposed to evolve from just swinging the shinai at each other.

                      So in shinsa, where you need to express zanshin, they’re clueless. They look robotic and totally unnatural in kamae, they try to simulate what they think is proper/ correct executions. At higher levels, you_ can’t_ fake_ this. Judges can see right thru this, if they face you head on in jigeiko, they can read you like an open book.

                      Zanshin is not just what you do at the end of an execution, for true zanshin, there is a beginning, a middle and an end. Zanshin begins and ends in kamae. This is what people don’t understand about zanshin, it always circles back to your kamae. With that said, if your kamae is crap to begin with, that is it’s not in the_ state_ of_ readiness, your ability to utilize and execute waza is going to be crap, and then it circles back to your crappy kamae…it’s just that simple.

                      Everyone goes through this phase; the people who really focus on the basics during keiko will express zanshin better in a shiai than the people who don’t. That’s a fact. The people who don’t have the right focus in keiko do weird stuff in shiai, and yes sanpo mamori to me is weird because you’re exposing a major weakness in your kendo both physically and mentally.

                      Zanshin is and always will be a big part of kendo; it’s a required element in kendo, that’s why we have shinsa. If you change the rules just because zanshin is too difficult to understand for people is not a good thing…if you do that, then there’s no reason to have a shinsa, kendo will become a simulation…just people swinging sticks at each other, if that’s going to be the case, you don’t really need shinpans anymore either, just use electronic scoring. Striking correctly with yuko-datotsu, correct hasuji with ki ken tai ichi is not just a physical act, neither is seme, maai, tame and zanshin. All these elements are categorized for us in the beginning. If you want to become a better shinpan, you need to focus on the basics when you keiko. The better your understanding, the more you understand what you’re looking at in shiai.

                      Zanshin encircles these elements when it becomes internalized in your kendo as one element. When these elements become internal, then you will have a better understanding for sutemi, sen and waza. At higher levels, this is what the judges look for. With that said… I’m happy Mr. McCall has the balls to write about this, his article really inspired me to post my thoughts here on KWF…this really needs to be discussed otherwise kendo will change for the worst in my opinion. I know it’s a pain to post here, but I would love to hear your thoughts.