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Move without the shinai

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  • Move without the shinai

    Anyway, if you’re not familiar training this way, I’m going to start from the very beginning:
    1. Placing your feet in kamae. We’re all told in the beginning that our feet should be spaced shoulder width apart. Personally, I place my feet hip width apart for 2 simple reasons:
    -If you stand upright, your feet should be naturally spaced hip width.

    -Try walking with your feet spaced shoulder width apart. It feels a little un-natural to me.

    If your left heel is turned in when you kamae, your feet are spaced too far apart, placing your feet hip width should fix that problem. Placing your right foot forward is a little tricky because I’m not you; we’re not physically alike. Since our centre of gravity/mass continually shifts as we move, use the feeling of your hips to place your right foot forward.

    When you locate your center of mass, you should feel just as comfortable and relaxed as you do standing upright. If your feet are placed correctly, you should be able to roll your hips (*only,* keep the rest of your body perfectly still)) forward/backwards and side to side and in circles without losing your balance. Make sure your knees are not locked; the knees should have a slight natural bend to them. As far as my heels go, my right heel is slightly elevated (paper thin), my left heel is elevated a little more than an inch. (more or less) When you kamae, you should be on the balls of your feet and toes.

    That’s the lower half of the body, now the upper half. There are 3 things you need to remember regarding the top half of the body, keep your chin slightly tucked, your shoulders slightly back and keep your hands soft and light. This is the correct posture you need to have when in kamae. Keeping the shoulders slightly back and relaxed seems to be an issue with some kendoka, the easiest way to learn this is to not focus on the shoulders, just slightly stick out your chest, doing this will keep your shoulders slightly back and relaxed and down.

    Since this is about moving without the shinai, you can still practice your grip without your shinai away from the dojo. Keeping the hands soft and light is an issue for a lot of people especially when they put on the kote, they grip the shinai too tight. Personally, when I suburi, it’s not all about speed or how fast I swing the shinai that’s important, it’s all about feeling my body move as a whole. Correct natural body movement and keeping your hands light and soft are a big part of that. I think what most people don’t realize is that when they put the kote on; they slightly alter their grip because of the added weight and feel of the kote, it’s a different feeling from gripping the shinai with your bare hands.

    So, in the end, when people put on bogu for the first time, they naturally tend to use strength of their hands and arms and feet to compensate for the added weight.I think this is why my sensei told us to *practice our grip*to maintain the feeling of softness as well as focus on practicing body movement (hips and shoulders) without the shinai.

    We’re all told to grip the shinai with the pinky and ring fingers and caress with the index, middle fingers and thumbs. What I do is place my pinky and ring fingers in my palms applying the appropriate pressure for both hands (you apply half the pressure on your right hand) and gently rub the tips of my index, middle fingers and thumbs, that’s it; pretty simple stuff.
    1. Practice using your hips and shoulders to move your body. The natural movement of your feet in kendo should be influenced by your hips/shoulders moving forward (forward strikes) and your shoulders/hips moving backwards. (hiki strikes) When I suburi without the shinai, I imagine my body as a string of a bow and arrow, that’s the feeling I have anyway.
    When I practice my movements, I always do it in a slow and relaxed state and work my way up.I like to do slow and big movements because I can really feel how my whole entire body is moving. It’s harder to feel the faster and smaller body movements, so it’s important to do this in a slow and relaxed state first. This is the process; don’t put the cart before the horse.Be patient. Learning how your body moves for kendo by feel is how the mind and body connects.

    To be continued in pt3

  • #2
    This should have been number 2, my bad. Suri-ashi. When you practice suri-ashi, you should have the feeling of driving your right foot into the floor, this is really important because when you fumikomi, your right foot should be angled downward and not upward. If you fumikomi with your right foot in an upwards angle, chances are your landing heel first. As you know, that’s very painful; your right foot should be landing on the ball of the foot first.

    So when I practice suri-ashi, I take long strides and medium strides. A typical long stride for me would be about the same distance of my fumikomi. At the dojo, I like doing long strides when I suri-ashi across the dojo floor as a warm up.

    So to practice suri-ashi at home, you need a smooth surface…if you have sticky feet use a little baby powder on your feet. (side note: be sure to clean up the mess afterwards to save yourself some grief from wife/mom/girlfriend sensei). With that said let’s begin, find your correct placement for your feet/ center of mass, place your hands on your hips, chin slightly tucked with your shoulders slightly back and relaxed. You shouldn’t be struggling at all to stay balanced, remember to use the feeling of your hips to place your right foot.

    When I push off, I don’t focus on my feet, I focus on my hips. So for starters, slowly roll your hips forward and back. When you do this, you should notice how your knees naturally bend to compensate for weight of your centre of mass shifting forward. What I want you to do first is roll your hips forward first and slide your right foot forward followed quickly with your left foot. Keep doing this until it starts to feel natural. Once it begins to feel natural to you, take a little longer stride; keep doing this until you reach your maximum stride (fumikomi distance). The longer the stride you take, the feeling becomes more intense.

    Once this starts to feel natural to you, the next thing is you need to learn how to *push off* from the hips. This is the tricky part; your hips influence how your legs and feet naturally move for kendo. So next time you’re at the dojo… when you suri-ashi across the dojo, focus on rolling the hips forward when you push off with your left leg, you should have the feeling of driving your right foot into the floor when you suri-ashi. The longer the stride, the feeling becomes more intense.

    Until you get use to pushing off from the hips, start off by rolling your hips forward just before moving your feet. I know it’s going to feel awkward at first, but your legs and feet will naturally move like they were designed to do for kendo.

    That’s it for now…I think I covered everything for now…


    • #3
      Thanks for this! Good description, will give it a go next training


      • #4
        Thank you.