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  • San Dan to Yondan

    Hello all,

    I am planning on taking the test for yondan soon and was wondering if anyone had any advice to share about the test or preparing for it. I have asked many people this question and have received very similar answers. I just wondered if some of the sensei here at kendo-world had advice to share. If not, I'll start another discussion on testing in general.


    I currently run a dojo where I find I push my students to test to improve themselevs and find "their" kendo along with tournaments. What do you think of testing and the politicing that is involved? This has been touched on, but not at some of the lower levels. Thanks for the help and any comments. Have a good day. Cheers!

  • #2
    The main thing they're looking for is the ability to manage your opponent, mainly creating opportunties through seme and exploiting them. That's a hard thing to train for if you are the top dog in your club at sandan, so I suggest some travel to train with opponents at your level or higher.

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    • #3
      I've just made this transition this year and Neil is spot on.
      I was in the same position as the original poster and the only way I could improve was to make the time to practice at another dojo with Go-dan and Yondan kendoka.
      It is a significant leap not just in the kendo itself but also in your mental approach to your opponent.

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      • #4
        thanks

        The sensei that I train with regularly is Tagawa Sensei, the vice president of competition for the AUSKF. The dojo that I run is a brother dojo to the Detroit Kendo Club. As far as training with higher sensei my training is with Detroit, 3 Go-dan, 4 Yon-dan and Tagawa sensei along with many visiting sensei. Thanks for the advice, which is what Tagawa sensei and others have shared. I apprecieate it. Have a good day. Cheers!

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        • #5
          It is very lucky and fortunate that you can practice with Tagawa-sensei, one of the best Senseis in the U.S. Tagawa-sensei learned from Nishiyama-sensei, one of Kendo Masters in Japan, who unfortunately passed away recently. Please follow Tagawa-sensei's direction.

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          • #6
            I very much agree that I and everyone in MIchigan is lucky to have Tagawa sensei here. I was not posting this to find differning advice just to find out what other sensei around the world and country had to say. Thanks everyone for your help and have a good day.

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            • #7
              I'll be eligible to test in 2007. Ready to test? Who knows, probably not!

              Curious: in a yondan + test, if you have two persons testing, does one of them necessarily fail because the other is "managing him," as Neil put it? Unlike in lower grades where both persons can pass if they are doing their best kendo?

              I'm a member of the same dojo as Eric, by the way, and enthusiastically second what's been said about the Detroit dojo. I'll embarrass Eric by pointing out that it'd probably be easier for him to train at Detroit exclusively but that he keeps coming an hour away to lead the club. Wotta guy!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Charlie
                Curious: in a yondan + test, if you have two persons testing, does one of them necessarily fail because the other is "managing him," as Neil put it? Unlike in lower grades where both persons can pass if they are doing their best kendo?
                Well, in Kendo's Gruelling Challenge, both Ishida sensei and Abe sensei passed the 8th dan test eventhough they were partners for each other....

                So, I'm not so sure about the "one of them necessarily fail" theory....

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                • #9
                  Good point. I think that explains it, really. If one opponent were totally dominating the other it might be different.

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                  • #10
                    You need to get a point that you create through seme. Ideally it should be men. If both sides can do that, great.

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                    • #11
                      To pass 4 Dan, the following is what I think:
                      1. Solid Kamae is a must. Solid kamae to me is that your left hand in the right spot with live kensen. Plus you need to remain calm with your kamae until you strike. Do not often lose your kamae by the pressure/movement of your aite. If you sway back to avoid getting hit, you will fail.
                      2. Need to know what you are doing. Aim, create the opportunity, and execute. Lucky stike does not count. Execssive blocking is very bad as judges see you passive and reactive. Excessive hitting is also NG as it is like shiai. Focus on good strikes. Avoid hiki waza (if you execute, you need a very good one. I always avoid hikiwaza in a promotion test as I would like to show my forward striking, which jusges want to see). Kaeshi do is tough to execute properly as many of us tile or bend forward or side. You may want to avoid this waza. 2 dan waza, like ai kote men, is a good technique to show you know what you are doing to judges. Play in the middle so that Judge can see you well. Maintain "en" with your aite, always engaging in a good mawai (if some distance to your aite, you need to close in in order to maintain en. Debana waza is good. Get back to keiko soon after you show enough zanshi as time is limited and excessive zanshin gives bad impression (we kendoist strive with the spirit of "hit and reflect, get hit and be thankful).

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                      • #12
                        May I ask, Kento-san, what is "en?"

                        And by the way, did you ever get the chance to train with Nishiyama-sensei? I'm happy to say he attended seminars, tournaments and gradings here in Detroit two times, and I was there for them. I attended one seminar where he taught all the kendo no kata, which was inspirational! I have a poem of his that I clipped from the programs of those years and pasted into my budo journal. I should type it up and post it here.

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                        • #13
                          Hello Charlie-san

                          Nishiyama-sensei taught me in jigeiko when he was in NY with Tagawa-sensei and Kan-sensei 5 or 6 years ago...all I remember was it was HARD keiko where I felt his constant pressure (oh, I will meet both sensei's tomorrow as I am going to do referee for the US Team Tryouts at Rutgers Univ.).

                          "En" is connection, ties and relation. Maintain en is to keep being engaged in with your aite. Some Kendoists cut en in gokaku keiko too often by turning back after hitting, or missing hits. Tubazeri and wakare, you off-guard your shinai so that you can take a break: you are not maintaining en with your aite.

                          In a promotion test, maintaining en is very important as it does not matter hitting and getting hit so much. If you get hit, witout showing disappointment (usually when you are disappointed, you become off-engaged). We need to move on (or even acknowledge your aite's good strike) and keep on doing keiko. If you have a good strike, you need to get back to keiko right after enough zanshin (it is not shiai).

                          When we do keiko with great sensei's like Nishiyama-sensei, it is hard, isn't it? Why are we getting exhausted more easily and quickly even though we are younger? It is because sensei's do not cut en at all, constantly giving you pressure, making us nervous, mentally tired, urged to hit (hikidasareru) which exhaust us physically, and on and on...

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                          • #14
                            I understand what you're saying. Thank you! I'm embarrassed to admit that sometimes I break en as a way of resting, as you said, especially in tsuba-zeriai.

                            Sorry, Eric, I don't mean to clutter up your thread with my own questions, but may I ask another? Kento-san, you have said that there is such a thing as showing too much zanshin, that it is acceptable for shiai but not for grading. I have never heard this before. Can you explain more? I thank you.

                            I wonder if we have been at some of the same functions (Detroit, Chicago or Cleveland) if you are from New York. Where do you practice? There's some great, great teachers in NYC. I tried to Private Message you but it seems this function is not working. Sorry! Have a great time at Rutger's. Tagawa-sensei and Kan-sensei are such great teachers, both in practice and "second practice." Eric and I collaborated on an article about kendo in Michigan that will appear in an upcoming issue of Kendo World, and of course these teachers, especially Tagawa-sensei, play a huge role.

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                            • #15
                              I'm going to guess that "too much kiai" would be the shinai up in the air, banshee-scream, look-at-this-I-hit-a-good-one aspect of "selling" a point in shiai.

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