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Things the pros do that we don't.

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  • Things the pros do that we don't.

    I have been thinking about some of the habits I observe at the highest level of shiai, the championships, and thinking about what those kendoists do that I personally don't. Without immediately passing judgment on whether they are "wrong" or "acceptable for shiai but not something that should be encouraged," let me just sketch what I think some of those things are and encourage you to do the same, then we can pick them apart.

    1) Backing up. This is the most noticeable one, I think. Top level shiai players regularly back up in the face of attacks, dodging and blocking. In fact, often a shiai action consists of one opponent attacking, the other backing away and dodging, blocking or parrying, responding in kind, and this goes on for seven or eight minutes, perhaps with each opponent getting more and more bold, more ai-uchis, and then someone slips and, bang, ippon.

    2) Letting the left foot turn in. By itself, not a bad thing, I've heard some sensei say, but discouraged, especially at our level. The foot of some players is at a 30-degree angle or so instead of the proper 90-degrees.

    3) No big cuts. We've discussed this to death.

    Your thoughts?

  • #2
    I've also noticed a lot of faking or feigning. It seems that kind of takes away from the whole attack-without-regard-for-being-cut attitude that we're taught to have.

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    • #3
      Things the pros do that we don't.....

      Get paid to practice twice a day. This is a great job if you can handle the pressure that goes with it.

      In the four + months I spent at the Osaka police I saw them in a police uniform twice. And once was for some ceremony they were having.

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      • #4
        Curtis, did you get your arse kicked consistently there or were you sometimes able to hold your own?

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        • #5
          Yup.. They practice everyday.. IIRC, 2x per day for 5 days. Thats something I'll never be able to do since there is a little thing called work I have to do. haha.

          Also the Jp kids in college get no homework. They just study their asses off for tests and i've heard that even those are fairly straight forward. Therefore, they can practice too. They also have kendo scholarships like we do here with football, baseball, and basketball.

          Tim

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Charlie

            1) Backing up.
            Just my $.02:

            Backing up can be very effective when there is a good reason for doing so. Manipulating ma-ai to one's advantage is a way to gain an opportunity to strike. The problem for lower level people is that we often do things without having a good reason, and backing up without a good reason usually does not help one's situation.

            I think that ingraining the attitude of not backing up is not so much for physical reasons as psychological ones. There are a few seemingly small things that my teachers have always stressed to me, and I in turn stress to my students, because they seem to have a broad effect. One is to always step slightly forward as one rises from sonkyo with one's opponent. Psychologically, it conditions us to take the initiative to engage the situation, rather than wait for the situation to engage us. Another is to make the last attack/strike/kiai in a sequence the best one. The deeper message is that we must finish strongly and not allow ourselves to start to quit before it is really over.

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            • #7
              All very true. But I was thinking specifically about techniques, the actual, physical things that they do in shiai that are different than us mortals and non-Japanese.

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              • #8
                Say what?

                Originally posted by Charlie
                All very true. But I was thinking specifically about techniques, the actual, physical things that they do in shiai that are different than us mortals and non-Japanese.
                I think that you're going over the top here. Because IMHO Japanese are also mortals. When you cut them they also bleed, when they are sad they also cry and so on......
                Just because they get to practice more and earlier than us doesn't mean they are bodily lifted to heaven.
                The moment that Kendo is no longer compulsory for them a lot of them just plain quit. There is a lot of stress in the Japanese society as you may have noticed and a lot of stress that comes with competition Kendo is something they are willingly want to trade in for some peace of mind. I know a girl who was in her University team and had to attend a lot of tournaments and special practice. When she lived for a while in Europe she was so pleased that she only had to practice two times a week, she was actually enjoying Kendo again. So the grass is not always greener in Japan.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Charlie
                  Curtis, did you get your arse kicked consistently there or were you sometimes able to hold your own?
                  In general they mopped the floor with me. I was only 2/3 dan at that time. However I had a handful of people who took a particular interest in me and were very helpful. Not the least of which was Kenichi Ishida sensei, now 8 dan. Of course there were a couple not so friendly guys too. The very minority.

                  By the end of the trip I sarted to hold my own a little with the lower guys. Still most were just too well trained.

                  I went back to visit last year and the 8 dans once again mopped the floor with me. I got to practice with Ishizuka sensei and his son, a 25yo 5 dan.

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                  • #10
                    My understanding is that the pace those guys play at is amazingly quick, quite a bit faster than even the top guys here.

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                    • #11
                      eh..

                      the thing is that the "All Japan" we see now is getting soooo boring... Since Iwasa won nobody is taking any chances.

                      I don't care if people dodge, have dodgy techinque etc (it's all a question of style right? ) but if they can't give up a good fight when they are at this level (see ando vs suzuki in the 52th, this was one of the ugliest match i've seen) Ando kept backing up in the corner..(his kendo used to be so cool when he won...)

                      Kendo without sutemi is just not worth anything in my opinion.

                      Anyway, I think it's really sad to have that has models.

                      I wish I had some University Kendo video tape where there is actualy something going on...

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Fonsz
                        The moment that Kendo is no longer compulsory for them a lot of them just plain quit. There is a lot of stress in the Japanese society as you may have noticed and a lot of stress that comes with competition Kendo is something they are willingly want to trade in for some peace of mind. I know a girl who was in her University team and had to attend a lot of tournaments and special practice. When she lived for a while in Europe she was so pleased that she only had to practice two times a week, she was actually enjoying Kendo again. So the grass is not always greener in Japan.
                        This is something we have seen a lot of. They drop out. Another thing is the fact that when they show up someplace outside of Japan you hear from them that they now enjoy kendo again.

                        One of the things I have always found from training in Japan is the differance in speed and intensity. I come back home and people suddenly seem to be in slow motion and not as alert to followup attacks. We get in a rut very easily due to lack of high level peer pressure.

                        We recently had Ota sensei here and I asked him when he started kendo and the response was age 14. I would have thought it a little younger. Still that is 50 years of kendo.

                        One of the things that research has shown is that when you start at a young age certain physiological changes take place which enhance your abilities. I started my son at age 6 (now 11) and I can see those changes already. Ota sensei teased me about how his natural posture and movements were better than mine. Tell me something I did not already now.

                        The main thing is we simply do not have the pool of people outside of Japan needed to keep the pressure on.

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                        • #13
                          Top Japanese kenshi have speed, intuitive timing and strength, coming from, as mentioned above, tons of training. One can argue that they get paid, we have to work, etc., but the bottom line is they train like hell. I don't think I could train like that even if I had a chance.

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                          • #14
                            Pros have excellent footwork from what I can see. Their kamae is very strong.

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                            • #15
                              Sorry, JByrd, my last post was in response to Samurai999.

                              And I was being facetious in the use of the term "mortals." But the good points have been made, that these people train like hell.

                              J, you're hitting on the thing I think is most interesting to me (Neil, too, with his remark on speed):

                              Originally posted by JByrd
                              Just my $.02:
                              Backing up can be very effective when there is a good reason for doing so. Manipulating ma-ai to one's advantage is a way to gain an opportunity to strike. The problem for lower level people is that we often do things without having a good reason, and backing up without a good reason usually does not help one's situation.
                              This is why I didn't want to say in my first post that something was "wrong" or "not textbook." Watching the shifting maai of the top players is one of the fascinating things about it and something I not only don't do but cannot do. When top players shift backwards they end up at the same maai or in taiatari, their sense of maai is always on (and, as was said, they are moving very fast). Lower level players simply cannot do this most of the time, nor should they, as they are still in a formative stage where they should be going forward.

                              What did you mean, Max, about no one taking chances?

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