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My thoughts on positive kendo

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  • My thoughts on positive kendo

    Developing and maintaining an attacking mindset or engendering positive kendo…just read another article from kenshi24/7, thought I’d share my thoughts. There is no easy way to explain my thoughts on this, this may take a few posts so my apologies in advance, I’ll do my best to keep this simple and to the point.

    Ockham's razor (also spelled Occam's razor, pronounced AHK-uhmz RAY-zuhr) is the idea that, in trying to understand something, getting unnecessary information out of the way is the fastest way to the truth or to the best explanation.

    A defensive mind is a physical condition, that is to say when we see something we’re unsure of, we act defensively or cautiously. This is what we see in shiai today, defensive_ executed_ strikes; sutemi or zanshin doesn’t even exist in shiai anymore.

    What do I mean by defensive executed strikes or executions that lack zanshin/sutemi? Here are some examples:
    1. Kenshi tend to feint first before executing. They do this to get the aite to move into a defensive position or move their left hand from center.
    2. They move into teubazeri just to execute hiki waza.
    The first thing I like to say to the beginners reading this is that every kenshi you see in shiai videos even 8dans is a _work _in_ progress. There is always something they’re working on that they need to improve, even those that win.

    With that said, if you don’t correctly train the physical body during keiko, the mind wavers in shiai. It’s prone to the 4 sicknesses. (Doubt, confusion, hesitation, surprise) You just can’t go through the motions when you suburi and kirikaeshi, it’s not just a warm up. It’s how you improve mechanics for kendo, if you find it difficult to execute waza in shiai…that is you need to modify it in some way, it’s the result of your mechanics. If you develop physical problems such as tennis elbow or foot problems is the result of your mechanics.

    If your mechanics are flawed, the mind starts to look for other alternatives hoping to make things work better. The problem with this is that any solution you come up with will be flawed as well; this is the kendo you see today in shiai. You hardly see any beautifully executed waza anymore, you see a lot of half-baked modified versions of it, I’m not even talking about advanced waza because you hardly ever see it in shiai anymore…I’m talking about for men and kote, this is all you ever see kenshi execute.

    If your mind is defensive when you compete, you need to work on your mechanics, it’s just that simple. Take skiing for example, I’m not a great skier by any means, it’s just a fun activity for me. My sensei even taught me to ski as a kid, anyway, in order for you to conquer the mountain; you must first conquer your own fear of going down the mountain. What conquers this fear is your mechanics and knowledge.

    For most people, what people fear the most in the beginning is falling down, but when you’re taught how to fall when things get out of control, this fear dissipates therefore your confidence level improves. Your level of fear becomes less and less the better you mechanically become. The better you mechanically become the less you fear skiing down bigger and steeper slopes. This makes sense right?
    With that said, you don’t need to be a great skier to ski bigger and steeper slopes, I wouldn’t recommend doing this if you don’t have the skill, but you can try and it can be beneficial at the same time. For one, right away it teaches you how much you still need to learn in order for you to make it down the hill properly. This isn’t to say that you can’t make it down the hill without falling, that’s certainly possible, but there is a difference, and that is whether you’re attacking the hill with confidence or is your approach more defensive?

    What I mean by defensive is that instead of skiing through the difficult parts of the hill like you’re supposed to, you tend to ski around them instead or you gingerly go through them. Of course there’s nothing wrong with taking the safer approach because you don’t want to get hurt, but let’s face it, that’s not what the slope was designed for is it? You see, to make it down the hill is all about your body mechanics, it’s not the skis. The only reason to buy better skis is if you’re technically better for them, if you’re not, it’s just a waste of money. Better skis won’t improve your technical ability, understanding balance (center mass) and proper body mechanics does.

    This is how I see shiai in kendo today it lacks these two elements; balance and proper mechanics. Without natural proper balance in your kamae, you’re mechanics will be off- balance and if your mechanics are off-balance you won’t be able to execute waza properly. Your expression for zanshin is nonexistent or at best superficial. If you’re off-balance executing waza, you modify them by modifying your posture. In other-words, instead of skiing down the slope attacking it head on (sutemi), you take a more defensive safer approach down the slope because you’re afraid to fall. I feel kenshi in shiai today unknowingly take this second approach. You can still ski down the hill without falling, but your execution of technique sucks, it needs work.

    The problem I see in kendo today is that most kenshi don’t understand what it is to maintain an attacking physical kamae and executing waza from the tanden. You should begin to study this by at least shodan or nidan. As I said before, in the beginning, we mimic movements, we try to copy everything we see, that’s phase one in learning kendo, some people never leave this phase, they just continue to copy and mimic movements, this includes waza. Physical accuracy is important when executing waza, especially advanced waza, it’s what emboldens our confidence when we fight, if your mechanics are inconsistent, that is you’re not incorporating your_ hips _and_ shoulders executing forward and the_ shoulders_ and_ hips executing backwards, then your accuracy executing waza will be inconsistent. This is what suburi and kirikaeshi teaches you or should anyway. If you’re still swinging the shinai from the hands and feet, I’m afraid you never really left the start line, the shu stage.

    This is just how I would describe kendo in shiai today…shu level kendo, I know this is a harsh statement to make, I’m just being honest. Rank really doesn’t seem to matter anymore because I just see a lot of modified versions of kendo even in higher ranked kenshi. I don’t see a lot of kenshi attacking the downhill head on; they take a more defensive approach down the hill. In my opinion, this is all due to body mechanics (tai sabaki), a misunderstanding or misinterpretation for Ki Ken Tai Ichi and zanshin. This just leads to more misinterpretations and misunderstandings executing waza.

    I will continue my thoughts later….

    PS. If you want…I have my men and tare on writing this, so feel free to throw bricks and bottles at me. I’m not too worried about people on the net rolling their eyes; it’s more from the people I know personally because they always seem to read what I write, they feel I say too much, that it needs to be taught at the dojo or seminars… anyway, I’m not holding anything back anymore; I just feel differently about it, I’m just going to put it all out there for every kenshi to see, it’s my hope that people will understand my *old school*point of view.