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Kata Crazy!!!

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  • Kata Crazy!!!

    I know many of you get to practice kata often so it is no bother to you at all. i really wish i were you now. here n japan ive only ever been shown near exam time and i havent been mentally or physically in the right place for 5 years to take my 2 dan. so ive been out of practice.

    i have all the books and dvds that you could have for studying kata.

    however after this last weekends camp being a shodan im needing to learn from scratch kata 3 and 4 for my 2 dan. ( 7 more weeks )
    have you any good tips on remembering it as my mind and body dont seem to function together.

    one of the teachers is willing to go through them all after general practice so my muscle memory gets it. also there will be kata seminars 4 days before the actual exam.

    ive found this you tube clip excellent -

    1 to 5 in just 3 mins. but from actually doing it im missing the finer points especially in 3 and 4.

    id even appreciate a list of foot movements - like left, right, left, left, right - or whatever the case maybe.

    honestly its not sinking in. kata no.4 slowly is going in though as i found that fun and a cool way of deflecting the shidachi's bokuto.

    but i still feel im in the deep end with arm bands on!!!

    any tips will be greatly appreciated forever!!!

  • #2
    Maybe this helps:

    Page 26 and onwards.


    • #3
      ive easily found some slower clips on youtube for 3 and 4. ( in japanese - no problems for me )
      they are very useful.
      but any other tips or advice you have will still be greatly appreciated. im always looking for short cuts!!! eg. extra long hakama so the judges cant see my feet??? LOL!!! only joking there!!!


      • #4
        arcticblizzard - youre a hero. thats exctly what i was hoping for. ive probably got similar in the 4 books on kata i have. but you hit the nail right on the head.

        thank you for your time and effort. always greatly appreciated!!!


        • #5
          There's really no substitute for practicing the kata but here are some points that I think tends to trip people up once the choreography is learned.

          Sanbonme (Kata 3)
          - both sides should make sure their sword is center in gedan; approach the aite so that you're in issoku-itto-maai for bokuto (closer than shinai) which means you have to develop a sense of maai without relying on the sword being in front as a measure

          - when the kissaki meet there should be some pressure to try to hold the center line as the blades rise up to chudan; the two aite should raise the kissaki at the same time. if one is too fast compared to the other it's failing to "meet the mind" of the aite which is an important point in kata

          - if you started at the proper maai then when the kissaki reaches chudan from gedan, then they should meet at the kissaki (issoku-itto-maai)

          - the correct thing is for shidachi to invite the initial thrust by relaxing the kissaki ever so slightly, but not everyone understands this so be ready for a motodachi who just comes in ready or not (conversely you may get a shidachi who doesn't invite)

          - when motodatchi thrusts, the thrust should aim for the suigetsu (solar plexus) with the blade rotating counter-clockwise so that the right hand is on top of the tsuka

          - shidachi should receive this thrust also with a counter-clockwise blade rotation (blade mune should contact teach other). When receiving the thrust, shidachi steps back while extending the arms with the net effect that the shidachi's sword doesn't travel back initially (it does when both sides bring their ams back to chudan). you might get a different take on the blade rotation however as some people practice it with the blades kept vertical. it will also vary within a few years depending on what the local technical committee decide. do whatever the sensei says.

          - when shidachi counter-thrusts and follows up with seme, motodachi now has some of the most complicated footwork in any of the kata to deal with. Once you've learned the choreography for this you can practice just this aspect on your own anywhere (including just imagining it while commuting on the train). I'm not going to describe this footwork as you're better off having it explained in the dojo.

          - the correct way for shidachi to seme in after the counter-thrust is to apply a lot of pressure so there's a noticeable pickup in pace as motodachi is driven back. However, until you get to probably 4-dan shinsa doing it this way might hurt your performance at a grading as not everyone understands this point until this level. It may potentially upset the rhythm of the performance if the motodachi isn't ready or aware of this point.

          - when shidachi "wins" the kissaki should be aimed between the eyes (this doesn't necessarily mean at the same level as the eyes though). some interpretations is for this to be around the center of the face.

          - shidachi withdraws when motodachi *starts* to bring his/her sword back to center. motodachi shouldn't rush this and it should only reach the center when shidachi has taken the first two steps back; the blades should then be in contact, ideally at the kissaki.

          Yonhonme (Kata 4)

          - check that the kamae are correct (have this explained in the dojo, too many small points to describe here)

          - the first three steps by both side should be smaller than normal, it should feel like you're too far away

          - when making the initial cut make sure to raise the bokuto up to jodan first

          - the initial cut should be a "men cut" to the chin; don't try to "meet" the aite's blade, just make a straight cut and it should meet correctly; trying to meet the aite's blade with a slight side movement will result in overshooting the center most likely; have faith

          - the blades should meet rather high on the initial cut; then brought down to chudan with the kissaki touching; like coming up from gedan in sanbonme, make sure there's a slight pressure as if contesting for control of the center

          - if the initial cut was made from too close, the motodachi can make an adjustment to the maai as the blades come down to chudan by stepping slightly back; it's important to finish at chudan kamae with the correct maai in order for the rest of the kata to work

          - like sanbonme, shidachi technically should invite motodachi's thrust by relaxing the tip a little but again, not everyone understands this so be ready for an uninvited thrust (again, you might get a shidachi who doesn't invite)

          - when motodachi's thrust comes, shidachi's kaeshi-men should take on the correct shape (have this explained in the dojo); often shidachi makes the movement too small

          - shidachi's kaeshi-men should be done stepping forward about 30degree to the left; it should feel like stepping under one's own blade

          good luck!
          Last edited by dillon; 18th June 2012, 05:50 PM.


          • #6
            Correction (edit window timed out): initial cut in yonhonme should be a men cut but not to the chin. that would meet obviously too low.


            • #7
              I've found the way I was taught to think of the motodachi's footwork beginning with shidachi's counterthrust in sanbonme really useful for remembering what foot to step back with and when, though whether I can explain it well here might be a different story.

              As motodachi I've just had my thrust deflected and I've missed my target so I know there will be a counter attack, I want to get my body out of the way of the sword that is about to come my way. My right foot is currently in front. Taking a step back with my left foot won't move my body very far however stepping back with my right foot will and will also give me room to block. I see another strike is coming, so I need to step back with my left foot this time to get out of range and give myself room to block again. With that done it's time to withdraw with dignity, so I step back going left, right, left.

              I hope this helps.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Tasha View Post
                With that done it's time to withdraw with dignity, so I step back going left, right, left.
                This description of the footwork is correct but not the "feeling" of the overall action. The feeling should be to back away under immense pressure from a shidachi who has seized the momentum and is pressing in to prevent the motodachi from acting any further. There is a slight break between the two parries by motodachi, at the end of which it is clear the shidachi has seized the advantage, and being pushed back with the shidachi's kissaki coming up to the face, which might explain the switch in footwork (I suspect the real explanation is one of those things that has become lost). However, there is no "dignity" in being forced back as it's not really at the "will" of the motodachi. This is the only kata aside from kodachi sanbonme where the motodachi isn't killed or maimed (in theory of course) so I suppose one could argue that overall there is dignity (or not if losing and not getting killed is undignified).

                But as I mentioned before, this particular point is not widely understood so it's likely the grading partner is not going to perform with this feeling.


                • #9
                  I was taught that the reason for the switch in footwork for the uchitachi on sanbon me after the first 2 retreating steps is due to the change in kamae. Just like when starting the first kata uchitachi steps forward with left foot to assume hidari jodan that step is not a step, it is assuming kamae. In sanbon me the first two steps leaves you with the left foot back, then there is a change in uchitachi kamae so footwork starts again and now that the left foot is back you start with that foot. I don't know if that is correct or if it is just an interpretation by the sensei I learned it from, but it makes it easy to remember.


                  • #10
                    You're going to get a lot good, detailed, technical advice in this thread, in addition to what's already been written above.

                    I'm going to go on a bit of a rant here, but I don't do ZNKR kendo, so feel free to completely ignore me. What I'm going to say might be a bit controversial, and from the POV of respected, high level folks here might even be wrong. It's merely an outsider's opinion, so I harbor no illusions of inherent "rightness".

                    Do the kata with the same feeling, intensity, and commitment as when you do a shiai. Even if it means you get some technical details wrong. Even if getting those details wrong means you fail. If you do that and they fail you for some minor mechanical defects, they weren't worthy to judge you in the first place. Inspire someone. Make some bored onlooker in the stands sit up and say, "Holy <expletive>, I want to do that!" Make the kata live. Don't let the other person back up because that's the way the kata is designed, make them back up with your absolute focus of mind and body, and the threat of you actually hitting them. Be absolutely ready to nail them if they mess up (even if you don't actually do, just be ready to do so). Be ready to respond if they break the kata and do something completely off kilter. Pour your heart, your soul, everything you are into the kata, leave it all out on the floor, so that the people afterwards feel awkward and ashamed to follow you. Summon the spirits of Takano Sasaburo, Tsuji Shinpei, Naito Takaharu, Negishi Shingoro, Monna Tadashi, and all your ancestors with your performance. The Nihon Kendo no Kata deserve nothing less. They are 100 years old, and legend has it Takano wore a tanto to the design meetings, ready to kill himself in protest if the meetings did not go well. They've been brought down to you through war and social change, with blood, sweat, and tears. They shouldn't be done like they normally are.


                    • #11
                      Josh, it's a nidan exam. If he does all the dance steps OK and doesn't fall over, it will be good. He's going to be paired with some random partner so if he goes into it with a lot of fire it will likely not work out very well.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                        Josh, it's a nidan exam. If he does all the dance steps OK and doesn't fall over, it will be good. He's going to be paired with some random partner so if he goes into it with a lot of fire it will likely not work out very well.
                        No doubt. But that's kinda my issue with how the Kendo no Kata are done.


                        • #13
                          Well I have been, and I assume most others as well, taught to use ki and zanshin and to have spirit focused during the kata and approach it as if it is a real sword duel. However, it is a sword duel that is intent on perfection of technique and not just on who gets a strike in. Without both spirit and technique (the level of which of course varies with the grade being tested at) it is less than it can be. Lower levels of course will not have as refined spirit or technique as higher levels.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ArcticBlizzard View Post
                            Maybe this helps:


                            Page 26 and onwards.
                            Does anyone know how to get in touch with the author (Stephen Quinlan)? I'd like to post a link to this document on our dojo website, but I am not sure if it's meant for public circulation, since I couldn't find an explicit link to this document on


                            • #15
                              The footwork of kata #3 by far is the most troublesome for me. I tried every mnemonic to remember the sequence of steps, but ultimately, nothing works better than muscle memory, i.e. practice, practice, and more practice.

                              Kata #4, you have to be really careful that both uchidachi and shidachi engage their bokuto once they return to chudan from hasso/waki. At my nidan shinsa I saw a couple of shodan candidates completely miss and hit thin air. I don't know if they passed.