By baptiste Tavernier
The Tankendo-no-kata’s ultimate purpose is to impart the essence of tankendo. The forms combine the basic techniques with a fixed order, and through learning the combination of techniques, students of tankendo develop a strong spirit, good posture and technical ability. The practitioner learns to understand and judge correct maai, identify opportunities for thrusting or for irimi, polish their technique, and experience the exquisiteness of zanshin. The student must try to understand the principles underlying the technical combinations and postures, rather than just going through the motions superficially. It is also important to train with the purpose of cultivating mind and body. The role of uchikata is to highlight the techniques of shikata. It is particularly important to execute the techniques with powerful kiai and maintain the symbiotic relationship between uchikata and shikata.
The Tankendo-no-kata consists of eight sets, which can be divided into two groups. From ippon-me to gohon-me, shikata uses basic thrusts or cuts to overcome his oponent. From roppon-me to hachihon-me, shikata uses irimi seitai techniques.
Tankendo literally means “the way of the short sword”. It is in fact the art of detached bayonnet, as devised by the Japanese army during the Taishō period. Tankendo is nowadays an allied discipline of jukendo, within the All Japan Jukendo Federation. It encompasses kata and bōgu practice. Interestingly enough, during the Shōwa period tankendo eventuelly fell under the influence of some high-ranked kendo instructors: the use of curved kodachi with tsuba instead of straigth wooden bayonnet became widespread; a few techniques were modified to look more kendo-y, and kiri-kaeshi was introduced as well. Although this trend is still present in modern tankendo, practitioners must never forget that their actual weapon is a chokutō, a straight blade with no tsuba, and that rather than cutting, the main technique in tankendo is thrusting.
Irimi seitai is a term used by tankendo exponents to denote an offensive action where the attacker enters into the maai of his opponent and stab him at close quarters. Irimi seitai is generally made of several phases: entering into the maai; suppressing the opponent’s weapon or controlling the opponent’s wrist; grabbing the forearm or the elbow of the opponent, then breaking his balance; and finnaly stabbing to the torso.
Ippon-me: nodo no tsuki – sen
Starting from the front foot, uchikata and shikata take three big steps forward. As soon as they enter into the maai for attack, as uchikata tries to move in to stab, shikata takes the initiative and thrusts at uchikata’s nodo.
While taking a big step backwards, shikata pulls his tanken back strongly, and immediately shows zanshin by taking a small step forward keeping the kissaki pointed at uchikata‘s wrist.
Uchikata and shikata go back to chūdan-no-kamae and then disengage their weapons to close the kata.
From the rear foot, both take five small steps and return to the original starting position.