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Things You Most Want to Learn As a Beginner

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  • Things You Most Want to Learn As a Beginner

    I was asked to take the non-bogu beginner class yesterday. The beginner class consisted of 11 people, including first-timer to those who have played for 2 months.

    I went through jogeburi, nanameburi and kihon-men, sayu-men and paired-up exercises at the start, reminding them the following points:
    • Left-hand is always in centre.
    • Left-heel must be slightly lifted.
    • Straight back; face squarely to the front.
    • Big and perfect movements; don't rush.
    • Ma-ai; check if you're cutting the men (not air-strike) if your partner doesn't block your cut.
    After running through the above basic exercises, I thought it would be good and fun for the beginners to learn kiri-kaeshi - which puts kihon-men, sayu-men, footwork and distance into practice.

    Interesting, the attacking movements were generally better than the defending movements. It seemed that no one before actually taught them the footwork for the defending side in kiri-kaeshi. So I made everyone execute kiri-kaeshi very slowly, so that the defending side could get the footwork right. Then, I got them to paired-up again to practice kiri-kaeshi again. I could see they executed the movements with much more confidence and were more enjoyable.

    At the end, I asked them what other things they want to improve on and practice...


    Then one of them said they needed improvements in everything. Aiyor... fair enough. But basically, I just want to know what beginners would like to learn.

    Any thoughts?

    I would especially love to hear the opinions from those who have just started kendo in a dojo in the past 3 months or so.

  • #2
    I have been faced with this problem and worse. I lead a highschool kendo club, instructing the basics to people who may be interested in Kendo. The ideal class size is no more then 10 people, but I've been stuck with 65 before... and that wasn't exactly 'fun'.

    Beginners tend to want to learn the more advanced waza first, but that's a no-no. I'm sure that they could always use more reinforcement in their footwork. After coaching the basics for a while now, I've managed to work out a little guide that might help.

    1. Warm-up

    2. Suri-ashi <-- Can't go wrong with doing this over and over again!

    3. Suburi <-- Just all the basic strikes, nice and biiiig

    4. Fumikomi-ashi <-- Don't push this one for obvious reasons :P

    5. Kirikaeshi

    6. Warm-down

    7. Return to #1 and work your way back down again, focussing on any major problems that you might have noticed before.

    This little list probably isn't exactly ideal for your specific case, but hopefully you can write something up just incase you draw one of those blanks again.

    Oh, and if it's of any help, when I was starting out I wanted to learn:

    -how to do the smaller versions of the cuts
    -how to do the fumikomi without bruising your heel and limping home
    -how to move at the seemingly lighting-fast speeds that all the armoured kendoka seem to be able to do
    -how to get ki-ken-tai in unison
    -how to do the 'snap' motion needed to get points

    Hope this helps!


    • #3
      Teaching Beginners

      I did kirakeshi for a long time before I learned the motodachi role. Like everything in Kendo, it's harder than it looks.

      Even though most beginners are pretty enthusiastic, I try to liven things up for them while they are still doing shomen, shomen, and more shomen. Things I do include:
      1. Drawing back at the last second so their shomen misses.
      2. Using mild harai waza, without following through to strike, to teach them about keeping the center. (At one point, I wished someone had taught ME that sooner.)
      3. Parrying when their form sucks, and making them start over.
      I think it is important to try and keep things interesting, especially when everyone else appears to be doing cool stuff, and all the beginners can do is men, men, men.


      • #4
        What newbies want to learn

        Personally, I wanted to learn what is possible through training. While not naieve enough to believe I was going to learn to be "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon," "Star Wars," or "Highlander," it was interesting to see what I was learning put into practice. Also seeing more experienced students sparing, showed me the importance of posture, footwork, swing etc...

        That is just me though


        • #5
          Thank you for everyone's replies thus far.

          Richard - I think I had the same mentality as you when I was a beginner. i.e. small, quick, and snappy cuts. I think all the beginners would like to do those cuts ultimately because they look so *cool*. Unfortunately, I think I was the one who had to crush their hope in practicing those sneaky waza until they grasped and perfected the basics. Agree totally with you about the Slow and Big suburi. Thanks for the post. It reminds me of myself a few years back, and the "quick and sneaky" mentality that I should not teach when they are still beginners.

          Stuart - I like the fighting-for-the-centre kensen practice while both partners are in chudan-no-kamae. I will try that next time in the class. Thanks mate!

          natehill13 - The beginners do have a little bit of time at the end of the training to watch the advanced class's jigeiko session. So hopefully, they will know what is good and pick the good stuff to learn.


          • #6

            To me, when I first started out, my biggest concern was learning what maai was. I really wanted to learn that. Be sure to teach this as early as possible, IMHO.

            As for what else I want to learn? Everything! Oh, and kata. I think personally, it's a really bad idea to not teach kata early on. I learned kata from the first day I started Kendo. I LOVE kata. I always want to do kata.

            What always has mystified me... Why do some dojo wait until the last minute to do kata before gradings. That makes no sense to me. Beginners would likely enjoy the kata. Do people think it is boring? Always wondered that...



            • #7
              i found kata very boring when i started kendo, but lot of beginners seems to like it a lot.


              • #8
                Kaoru - good to hear that you also think ma-ai should be taught early. When I do jigeiko with those who recently just go into bogu, they tended to lose sense of maai and come into chikai-maai. So I agree with you totally that ma-ai should be taught as early as possible, so that the feeling is embedded in their head from day one.

                When I just started kendo, I thought kata was alright mostly because of the *cool* shidachi move in Kata #7. I guess to make kata interesting for beginners, and true for everybody, to learn, it would be great if the person instructing know how to relate a kata move back to a kendo waza.

                How does your sensei make your kendo/kata interesting and fun to learn?
                Last edited by vyung; 29th May 2005, 03:44 PM.


                • #9
                  I'm doing kendo for almost 4 months now.

                  What I really like is the exersize when the motodachi opens and you have to react. We did this exersize for the first time thursday and motodachi would tell us what to do but they also were pushing us to hurry as a mental pressure. This was something that to one point made me push myself go faster but didn't make me do it as good as I could do it which maybe would cost too much time.

                  Another thing that I am noticing is that some motodachi, especially the higher dan grade, block or evade when I do something wrong. for example: not bending the left arm enough when doing kirikaeshi and not lifting it up high enough would result in a yell from the motodachi and a block.

                  Other things that I know that mess up is how big the step should be especially when they change alot in the exersize from my first example.

                  Something I noticed last keiko was that now we were getting our first exersizes in which we had to use those snappy strikes that I had problems aiming them more then when I would do a big one and when I would hit things like fumikomi would mess up or in one case I hit way too hard, something I usually don't do.

                  Overall I noticed that whenever I get something new fumikomi is the first thing that goes out.

                  I think this is the beauty of kendo, there is so much to learn. I haven't had any kata yet but I expect to have my first kata class soon as they only teach it once a month at the dojo but then there is still so much to learn.


                  • #10
                    I have a fun one, kiai-shiai. Put two people against each other and let them fight with kiai, center and seme, no acctual cuts. Let them go on for 20 seconds or so then let the class vote for a winner.


                    • #11
                      kiai-chusen-seme shiai for non-bogu beginners

                      LarsCW - Sounds like you are in bogu now. I also remember that as a beginner, getting the chance to execute cuts on kendoka in bogu was so much fun. You have the whole, real "dummy" letting you to practice on them. I thought "wow, how good was that!" I guess uchikomi-geiko for non-bogu beginners could also be quite a welcomed challenge for them too. Okay, I will keep this "dummy" idea in mind.

                      NorthernKendoka - wow, you never ceased to surprised me. I have never heard of this kind of kiai-chusen-seme shiai before, and I think it is absolutely cool. I REALLY like this idea. I am sure the whole beginner class will be engaged in this kind of practice, and learn those important things out of it.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by NorthernKendoka
                        I have a fun one, kiai-shiai. Put two people against each other and let them fight with kiai, center and seme, no acctual cuts. Let them go on for 20 seconds or so then let the class vote for a winner.
                        Hey Northernkendoka, have you done something like this before at your dojo(s)?


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Richard Dybalski
                          I have been faced with this problem and worse. I lead a highschool kendo club, instructing the basics to people who may be interested in Kendo.
                          If you don't mind me asking, are you actually leading a high school kendo club when you're only 6 kyu? Aren't you a beginner yourself? I don't mean this as an insult, I'm just curious.


                          • #14
                            Yes I have done that, once. Its not like something to do every practice but it doesn't hurt trying it once. It works really good with younger students.
                            Last edited by NorthernKendoka; 29th May 2005, 07:15 PM. Reason: Forgot something


                            • #15
                              Your Favourite Non-bogu Exercise

                              So for non-bogu members, what is your favourite practice routine at the dojo? (Those exercises that make you wish the lesson was longer)