View Full Version : Old School Kendo

Charlie Kondek
8th August 2001, 18:26
I'm curious about something. I'm a kendoka, and here and there I've picked up little scraps of conversation or snatches of reading that talk about how rough and tumble kendo used to be compared to these days. Has anybody heard stuff like this before? I'm not talking about the nationalistic push of using kendo to psyche people up for warfare - well, maybe I am - I'm really interested in the atmospheric and practical differences between the kendo of today and the kendo of yesterday.

For example, one person told me that when his sensei was younger, spontaneous grappling matches could break out when both opponents were in tsuba zerai. I've also heard that throws or trips were not discouraged. Also, these days when someone drops their sword or is disarmed, they grapple their opponent about the waist or arms and then the ref stops the match or the participants in jigeiko stop the match. In the old days, according to one sensei, you grappled the other person, wrestled him to the ground and fought him to submission in those cases!

Anybody got any stories to share? Were the practices harder? The shiai any different? Please share, and thanks in advance.

Mark Brecht
8th August 2001, 19:25
While I was on the train to one of the Inter. Budo seminar, one of the guys was talking about this. He was studying before at a dojo, where they pretty much kept this style of training. Which I think he mentioned was pretty common pre-WWII.
Interesting subject I also would like to hear more.

8th August 2001, 19:39
I've also heard some interesting stories about "Oldschool" Kendo.
A number of the senior students I have trained with a have gleaned various tricks from older teachers for closing with your opponent and grappling or throwing . There are a number of disarms that I have been told that senior Japanese Kendoka specialise in, and I believe there was an article in Dragon Times a few years ago that reprinted an Englishman's account of Kendo training around the turn of the century. I am told that such training sometimes even involved knocking an opponent to the ground and removing his helmet! When I trained with Kiyota Sensei at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I remember him being fond of throwing in occasional Judo throws...I even took ukemi in some public demonstrations that he gave!
I would also love to know more about the history of early Kendo.

Neil Yamamoto
8th August 2001, 20:14
My cousin's uncle, Dick Yamamoto, studied kendo in Japan pre WWII. ( No blood relation btw, so don't expect me to have any real useful information) Joe Svinth probably has more information on this than I do.

But anyway, he was in Seattle in the late 80's for a funeral and I got stuck next to him at dinner and he proceeded to tell me about the old days.

According to him, throws were very common, as were strikes, punches and in close strikes using the elbows, body slams, kicks to the shin, sweeps, were all used. Head butts were sometimes used as well.

I don't recall him mentioning any intentional submission grappling but I do remember him saying sometime you ended up rolling around on the floor but it was always stopped right away. IHe also mentioned throws using the shinai and beating on your opponent once he was thrown.

According to him, it was the way it should be, real kendo. None of this blind man with a stick stuff that passes for kendo nowadays. He then proceeded to tell me that he highly disapproved of my cousin doing aikido- that "Japanese dance crap" as he put it.

Somehow, I was OK with him, in spite of my also doing some of that "Japanese dance crap".

Don Cunningham
8th August 2001, 22:42
When I lived in Japan, it was quite common to practice judo with the local police department clubs. Some were a bit more competitive than others, but they were still just basically judo. It was also a place where I could be sure to find other older judoka like myself, instead of young, lean highschool competitors who have no fear of injury, for themselves or their randori partners.

So when I started practicing kendo with my engineering company's kendo team, I thought it would be a good idea to also try out the local police kendo club as well. My Japanese friends tried to dissuade me, telling me that police kendo is more like the pre-WWII kendo than the modern sport version. I didn't listen much, though, thinking it would be fun. I was a pretty badass judoka, so I wasn't worried.

I thought I wasn't going to make it out of that practice session alive. I've never been kicked, footsweeped, head-butted, and generally just knocked about in any other practice before or since. I did learn a bit, though. They used the tsuka to strike the men facemask and even to entangle their opponent's arms. They would often try foot sweeps and trips (de ashi harai or ko soto gari) when in clinches. The meanest trick, though, was they would sit on a fallen opponent's head, then by pulling up on the bottom of the bogu do, choke them out. It wasn't a carotid choke, either, but puts incredible pressure on the airway instead.

For the most part, I've found sport kendo to be more of a mental game instead of physical like judo. The timing and psychological elements are more important than the physical effort involved. If this is what pre-WWII kendo was like, though, I wouldn't have lasted long. It was certainly one of the physically toughest workouts I've ever endured. I also think that since more right-wing police are drawn to kendo than judo, it may have been a bit harder for my benefit. I can't imagine them working that hard when they don't have a gaijin to kick around.

8th August 2001, 23:25
Most of the police and "all" of the prison warders in my City have graduated from my school. A few years ago anyone not fighting back hard enough would end up on the floor with kicks, punches, throws etc . In addition to this I have seen as many as seven lying in the corner with contorted muscles due to oxygen starvation at one time. Comments are usually "Yappari yowai neh" (rather weak). A good stinging swipe across the backside really does get then to go through faster!

I have seen other kendo teachers in other dojo getting very physical, but in the wrong way. More like bullying than physically pushing someone to extremes and taking advantage of weak unbalanced posture.

Haven't had too many rough and tumbles really.
One visited policemans tsuki gave me a bloody mouth and I was forced to lay him out. Someone else put two very badly centred thrusts into side of my throat without so much as an apology. He took off to fly backward through the door, (the door was closed). Some years ago I would never have let anyone come to the dojo to watch.

Things are mellowing now, and so is the kendo. We even have a girls team!

So, I get invites to events. The Japanese police hold an all encompassing martial arts competition (mostly judo, karate and kendo) which includes a no holds barred event, Choose your weapons shinai, tanto etc kicks, punching throws allowed. They use three shimpan to see all angles but judging isn't up to much, as most of them specialize and would not recogize an alternative ippon if they saw it.

My private teacher's teacher was Oasa Yuji sensei (Japans last living tenth dan) Practice was rather more physical to say the least among his deshi.

I think we have to visualize the older style kendo to understand how physical it could be. There was "lots" of tai-atari and tsuba zeriai. Much more chance to do things close up, rather than quickly seperate. Using the opposite end (tsuka) to thrust with. Entangling the other persons tsuka to throw him. Grabbing the tsuki flap of bottom of the do to up-end him, elbows, headbutts, swiping throws with the shinai at the side of the neck. There is that one one point after fumikomi when the back foot is coming forward and the opponent is "very" unbalanced" Oops maybe Iv'e said too much?

It's just not fun anymore!

Hyakutake Colin

Earl Hartman
9th August 2001, 05:56
I practiced kendo with the riot squad police in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture for more than a year and a half (when I was younger and stupider). Practice was usually 5-6 hours a day, morning and afternoon (I attended the morning session and practiced kyudo in the afternoons).

Practice was, shall we say, intense. It was characterized by:

* liberal application of the tsuki (one guy got a cracked rib from taking a body thrust to the sternum)
*various leg sweeps from tsuba zeriai (usually an outer leg sweep accompanied by presssure to the opposite side of the neck with the shinai)
* very heavy and effective use of tai atari. I was on the floor more often than not, and it was alli I could do to keep my feet. When I got back to the States, I knocked a couple of guys over with tai atari numerous times during a match. One guy got so pissed that after the third time he tried to kick me in the nuts while he was on his back, and the other guy hit his head on the floor and knocked himself out. Of course, nobody on the police squad even blinked at my tai atari. They just weren't used to it here.
* grappling. One time, both guys lost their shinais and wound up on the ground. Everybody stopped practicing and gathered around to egg them on as they thrashed around. After a couple of minutes with no clear victor, the wrestling was halted.
* Rush and grapple if you lose your shinai. I was up against a guy once who had forearms like Popeye and the wickedest makiotoshi I ever saw. I simply could not hold on to my shinai. So, after getting disarmed for the umpteenth time (he was using me as a makiotoshi prqactice dummy that day), I rushed him and grappled (badly, and after getting hit on the head three times on my way in). I got him around the waist, and so he just dropped his shinai, stepped back, and I went face down on the floor. He straddled my head and reached down and pulled my doh up until it was pressed against my throat. I couldn't breathe, and after thrashing around for a bit and realizing I was helpless, I tapped out after I realized I would be choked out if I didn't give up. After I had regained my breath, if not my pride, the sensei told me I had done it wrong: you're supposed to grab the nodowa with one hand, put the other hand on top of his head, and twist in opposite directions.

Works like a charm.

Aaron Fields
9th August 2001, 06:54
I've heard similar stories about the pre WWII kendo in the Seattle area. That is kendo I could get into.

9th August 2001, 10:29
Hi all,

I have a quick question on this topic -->

(or rather, your opinions on the matter)

Was this stlye of kendo something that happened because of the situation within Japan - military wise - in the run up to WWII ?

Was stuff like this happening within Kendo during the 19th Century (and before) ?

I am using the term 'Kendo' to mean 'japanese-fencing with bogu', because - of course - there were different terms used and different schools.

Just a couple of things Ive thought about before and this thread brought them up again.

I am thankful that I didnt have to go through that :cry:


- George McCall
Seishinkan Kendo Club, Edinburgh, Scotland

9th August 2001, 12:12
* very heavy and effective use of tai atari.
Thats the way to go Earl.

I usually get put on the receiving end and everybody else lines up on the other side.

Absolutely amazing how fast they go through if you do step to the side. An invaluable method of practice.

Hyakutake Colin

Don Cunningham
9th August 2001, 13:13
After returning from Japan and moving from North Carolina to Illinois, I thought about getting back into kendo. I went for a practice at the Chicago Buddhist Temple. During randori, my opponent rushed me, we clinched, and then I shoved him and he tripped backwards, falling to the ground. While he was still in the air, I scored a perfect men strike.

This was normal kendo even in my semi-competitive company kendo club in Japan. Afterwards, one of the main instructors in Chicago admonished me, saying that such "rough kendo" was inappropriate. My opponent kept repeating that the score was improper since he was falling when I struck. If this is the state of modern kendo, I prefer not.

Charlie Kondek
9th August 2001, 14:30
I couldn't be happier with this thread! This is exactly the type of stuff I was looking for! Y'all reminded me that I heard that before about grabbing the men and pulling it down to blind the opponent - choking someone with an air-choke using the do is all news to me, though! Holy moly!

As for the state of modern kendo, well, it reaches a broader audience than it used to. Obviously, not everybody doing kendo is a cop - especially not in the States! We also have to contend with a generally softer attitude toward combative sports, and we're lawsuit and insurance-crazy here in the States, non? I can understand your experience with the Chicago dojo, Don - a great dojo, BTW, I know some of those folks from Midwest Kendo Fedaration (I'm from Michigan).

What I notice most lately is if you do a technique well and it comes off a little rough, no one should complain, they should compliment you. In other words, if your tai-atari is good and it knocks me on my butt, shame on me. If you are not utilizing good technique, though, and are just shoving or tackling - well, it's like what Mr. Hyakutake said about that guy that tsuki'd him off center - lousy technique that filled his mouth with blood, the guy shoulda known better, so sensei, errr, took issue with him.

This is all too cool. I can only imagine kendo this way. I find myself often seeing openings for throws when in tai-atari or tsuba-zerai and thinking, What if...? Once in jigeiko I dropped shinai, grabbed my opponent's arms and boxed him on the side of the head (not hard) before I knew what I was doing. Another time in tournament I was getting relentlessly shoved towards the edge of the ring and, again, without thinking, I grabbed my opponent around the waist o-goshi style and kind of carried us both away from the edge. I was expecting a scolding for that one but it didn't come, maybe because my opponent was manhandling me.

I understand there are attempts here and there to revive this type of kendo in pockets of the American community. If such a thing were to be done in most dojos here, I suspect it would simply have to be an inner ring of the more accomplished students practicing on their own aside from the rest of the club, all of them accepting the harsher treatment. Part of the problem is that if you're doing kendo on a hard wood basketball-type floor, honest throwing isn't very safe.

I'm also really interested in what George was talking about. I asked about "pre-War" kendo and not 19th-century kendo because I knew there's probably nobody alive that could tell us about the 19th century kendo experience. But I'd love to learn more.

Don Cunningham
9th August 2001, 16:05
I didn't mean anything negative about the Midwest Kendo Club here in Chicago. I found them to be really nice people. It's just the state of sport kendo I was referring to, not them in particular.

I am constantly researching information on jutte technique. I read an interesting theory about how some of the jutte disarms developed in Nawa's book, <em><u>Jutte Jiten,</u></em>. Basically, he believes that some of them are an extension of using the tsuka to pry the opponent's grip from their sword. He cites several such techniques which are still in use within police kendo. For example, from a block clinch, let go with the left hand, snaking the end of the tsuka around your opponent's wrist with the right hand. Regrip the tsuka with the left hand and use a sideways leverage to twist their shinai out from their grip. I can't speak to the historical accuracy of his thesis, but it does seem to make sense.

Charlie Kondek
9th August 2001, 17:15
Oh, hey, yeah, sorry - didn't mean to twist yer words there, Don. I get you, though.

Interesting about jutte; I'm trying to picture what you just described. Maybe we'll try it out at practice this week. When you say snake the tsuka around opponent's wrist, is that right wrist or left wrist? I'm thinking right wrist... ;)

Also, FYI, some neat, probably staged images from the clipart archive that show kendoists grappling. You may have to cut and paste the links below...

9th August 2001, 18:20
Dear Colin, Don et al:

I am continually asked to explain the difference between Kumdo and Kendo and usually have little trouble as there are a number of biomechanical landmarks. I raise this however, to share an interlude that occurred at the Kumdo school at which I practice here in Chicago.

Though most of the practitioners participate in sparring and adhere to the equivilent of Kendo rules, I was intrigued to watch our head instructor and the Director animate a discussion they were having to themselves by a series of moves which would have done any Hapkido class proud. The variety of thrusts, traps and locks using the grip of the sword as well as the use of knee elbow, sweep and throw to drop a partner were plainly evident.

I have never been a big fan of running around barefoot on a hardwood floor trying swat another adult male with a stick. On the other hand there is considerable material that I am sure is disappearing that inter-relates emptryhand and weapons work only because such "barbarian tactics" are considered uncivilized by our current culture both inside and outside of the MA.

Excellent String!


Earl Hartman
9th August 2001, 20:43
I should point out that I never saw grappling employed in any competitive matches. All of the sweep-and-grapple stuff happened in practice. Tai-atari and the tsuki are used very frequently and to great effect in shiai, of course.

The remove-your-left-hand-from-the-tsuka-and-wrap-it-around-the-other-guy's-shinai-and-disarm-him move sounds a little iffy from a "real technique" point of view, if for no other reason that in order to do so you will inevitably allow the opponent's shinai (supposedly a sword, right?) to come in contact with your body. Because modern kendo is a sport and practically nobody thinks of a shinai as a real sword, modern kendo tsuba-zeriai can be incredibly sloppy, with guys allowing supposedly razor-sharp swords to come into contact with their bodies (particularly the junction of the neck and shoulder), due to the nature of kendo tsuba-zeriai. The whole point of real tsuba-zeriai is to prevent that from happening. Unless you are heavily armored, tsuba-zeriai is potentially one of the most dangerous positions to be in, precisely because you are so close to the enemy's sword.

However, I knew some real magicians in tsuba-zeriai. A really good guy will approach it as a sort of "pushing hands" situation, and those guys with the touch are so sensitive that it feels like you are pushing on air, only to get whacked on the break before you know what is happening. A really good kendoka will be in tsuba-zeriai only for as long as it takes to set you up for a counter on the break. The bad kendoka will use it to try to manhandle the opponent or bulldoze him out of the ring a la a sumo-style "oshi-dashi", but this only works on people who are no good at tsuba-zeriai.

Also, on Japan vs. the US on the "roughness factor", my experience has been that kendo players who have no experience in Japan will assume that you are a violent sadist if you employ the tsuki too much or do anything that smacks of "real" violence. This seems to be simply a matter of whether the person has experience in Japan or not. I was once told at a US dojo not to employ the point in any way because of the danger of injury and resultant lawsuits. Frankly, I do not see how good kendo can be done without, at the very least, the implied threat of the tsuki or tai atari. Without this kendo is, well, no longer kendo. Kendo depends, ultimately, on having a strong kensen so that the enemy will be intimidated to the point of being unmanned and, thus, unable to attack. Without that, kendo kind of loses it's "point" so to speak. I have seen people completely defeated, and have myself been completely defeated, many times by an opponent with strong chudan no kamae, which always carries with it the threat of the tsuki.

However, within a dojo, the Japan-bred players will respond to a person based on the perceived ability of the opponent to "take it". At a US dojo, the (Japanese) sensei took me down with a hip throw once. I went head-over-teakettle and very nearly crashed into the chairs stacked up against the wall. I believe that he sensed he would have no problem doing this to me because of the way I was doing kendo. I make no claims to being any good, but Japanese kendo is very different from American kendo, and the Japanese-trained people know it and can tell who has trained in Japan and who has not, and, thus, where the boundaries are.

Also, riot squad police kendo is as to "normal" kendo, even in Japan, as pro sports are to amateur sports. Only the strongest players can aspire to being on the riot squad team, and their only job is to compete in and win the regional and national tournaments. If they lose too often, they are back to being regular omawari san, or beat cops.

In Kanazawa, the riot squad did nothing but practice kendo every day for 6 months out of the year, with mixed practice with "regular" kendo people on Sundays. The other 6 months of the year they had to do other work, so practice was reduced to 4-5 days a week. That is, they are true professional kendo men. They get paid to do it, and, as far as kendo is concerned, they are judged solely on their ability to win matches. Kind of like sumo, where a wrestler's rank depends on his tournament record.

And the Kanazawa squad I practiced with was, on a national level, no great shakes, regardless of how much better they were than I. In Yokohama, for example, the kidotai did nothing but practice kendo all year round. So it's just a matter of degree. But absolutely no other single kendo group in Japan is anywhere near as strong as the riot squad, unless it's the JDF guys.

9th August 2001, 21:48
Don Cunningham said

This was normal kendo even in my semi-competitive company kendo club in Japan. Afterwards, one of the main instructors in Chicago admonished me, saying that such "rough kendo" was inappropriate. My opponent kept repeating that the score was improper since he was falling when I struck. If this is the state of modern kendo, I prefer not. [/B][/QUOTE]

I suppose it's ok between "consenting adults". It is a bit difficult going to a fresh dojo. Takes a while to see the lie of the land and what goes and doesn't it.

There were two guys who used to stand head to head and literally try in drill each other into the ground in my old dojo. You could really feel the animosity. I think even I would put a stop to that.

Also always meet someone with the peacock syndrome now and again. I dunno something like the head rooster of the dojo who wants to try it on. I always try to put them in their place with some nice firm, polite to the point kendo.

It always worries me when someone starts to levitate. Frequentley they do fall straight and back and with the old heavy Men it was even worse with the possibility of banging the back of their heads.The up-ending shove I mentioned just as someone comes forward and is off balance is definately a no no.

I think it requires some basic training of breakfalling with Bogu on before one gets too involved. As Mr Hartman says that sideswipe is better.

Mr MCall

How's Nenriki these days. Used to get quite physical there. Often been pinned against the wall by Victor Harris. Also Geof Humm was a bit over the top and used to seem to take a delight in up-ending people. Has he calmed down now?

Hyakutake Colin

10th August 2001, 02:00

...Often been pinned against the wall by Victor Harris.

I understand he's a nuclear physicist?? Did you ever keiko with David Chambers? He's told me stories about Victor's wedding and such.


10th August 2001, 08:57
Hi Colin,

I didnt practise much in Nenriki when I was in London but i've been a few times. It is, i guess, the most physical of the dojo in London.

As for Jeff Humm -> he is my main instructor in the UK at the moment, as well as being the National Coach (Squad training this weekend, so I'll see him tomorrow). I guess he isnt as rough-n-tumble as he once was though. He will be going for his Nanadan in Japan this November.
He runs the biggest dojo in the UK, Hizen : http://www.hizen.org/


- George
Seishinkan Kendo Club, Edinburgh, Scotland

10th August 2001, 14:48
Originally posted by ghp

I understand he's a nuclear physicist?? Did you ever keiko with David Chambers? He's told me stories about Victor's wedding and such.


Hello Guy

Victor works for the Oriental Department of the British Museum. He has taken me down to the vaults in the past and shown me some fine Japanese works of art. Had my hands on a few choice swords too (not literally of course).

Hyakutake Colin

Don Cunningham
10th August 2001, 15:09
When you say snake the tsuka around opponent's wrist, is that right wrist or left wrist? I'm thinking right wrist...
It's been awhile since I looked at the text and illustrations, but I think they showed it working either side. Personally, I think it would be easier to do around your opponent's left wrist since it is lower on the tsuke. I've only seen something like it a couple of times in randori, and then I am not sure exactly since it was lightening fast. It must be done very quickly, I guess, or it would be fairly easy to counter.

The remove-your-left-hand-from-the-tsuka-and-wrap-it-around-the-other-guy's-shinai-and-disarm-him move sounds a little iffy from a "real technique" point of view, if for no other reason that in order to do so you will inevitably allow the opponent's shinai (supposedly a sword, right?) to come in contact with your body.
See previous comment.

11th August 2001, 00:04
From tsubazeriai, right foot forward

1. lower your center of gravity while stepping in on your left foot (or "retreat" one step for the set-up);
2. slightly yield pressure, allowing you to
3. (with both hands) rotate your tsuka-kashira upwards, between opponents two hands;
4. twist your tsuka-kashira downwards, placing pressure on opponent's left wrist (effectively locking him up)
5. while opponent is locked up, tai-sabaki clockwise by pivoting on left foot and sweeping your right foot rearwards (this places your hip into his body)
6. simultaneously with #5, lift your left hip and pull down with your sword (both hands)

Results: hip throw, opponent flies!

Colin, is this how you do it?


13th August 2001, 12:40
I know it is going back up the thread a bit, but I have been told a few stories by all the guys I train with. That if a Kendoka lost his shini it was acceptable practice pre WWII that you could be grappled to the floor using what ever means necassary and then the match would be won by removing the the Men of the oposing Kendoka. This practice aparently led to the people tieing there men in a different way i.e the men himo cross over the Nodo as well as the top of the men. I beileve this then led to several people having there neck broken as the men was being forceably removed by their oponent.

Don Cunningham
13th August 2001, 12:54
I've not heard that removing the men was a way to win, but there are many different styles of tying the cords. Although ZNKR has standardized many aspects of kendo, it is still possible to tell which school or style one trained by how they tie the men cords, as well as how they fold and store the bogu.

Earl Hartman
14th August 2001, 21:17

Sounds like a pretty good move. The cops would often do something similar, rotating the tsukagashira around to the left, pressing down the opponents arms, and then hitting the men or the kote on the break, rather than throwing the guy. It's a pretty standard move.

It is, however, different from the one originally described, which I still don't understand too well. Of course, in kendo, as in anything, any succesful technique depends on speed and timing. Brute force works only when the physical diffenece between combatants is such that the stronger guy can just ignore the other fellow and do whatever he wants. Saying that "you must do it quickly for it to work" is sort of like saying that "you have to hit him when he's not expecting it, or he'll block it". Well, duh. When the timing is right, it is certain that the technique will succeed. Thus, a successful technique looks "fast" because it was done at the perfect time, when the other fellow was unprepared. If the timing is wrong, all the speed in the world will not help.

Don Cunningham
14th August 2001, 21:43
Saying that "you must do it quickly for it to work" is sort of like saying that "you have to hit him when he's not expecting it, or he'll block it". Well, duh. When the timing is right, it is certain that the technique will succeed. Thus, a successful technique looks "fast" because it was done at the perfect time, when the other fellow was unprepared. If the timing is wrong, all the speed in the world will not help.

I think you misunderstood what I wrote. I didn't write "the technique must be done fast to work." What I meant was that the technique was done so fast I could not be sure exactly how it was done. While I agree that speed and timing are important, skill in execution of a technique plays a major role in kendo as well.

There is a difference between me as an observer trying to understand or report how a technique was done and someone trying to tell another how to do a technique. I don't know if it would be very effective if I were to try the technique, for example. I doubt it would be much use even if I did it quickly or at the right time.

On the other hand, it sure as heck looked pretty darn effective when I saw it done by someone else who apparently did know how to do it. That they did it quickly may have helped make this particular technique successful, but it also prevented me from being sure of exactly how they did it. Skill was certainly a major factor. Duh.

Earl Hartman
14th August 2001, 22:30
Perhaps I didn't explain myself clearly enough. It seems to me that "skill" is a combination of a few things:

1. The physical ability to do a certain technique.
2. The ability to do it with the necessary speed and/or strength
3. The ability to know when it is the right time to do the technique combined with the ability to execute it instantly.

In a general way, I think this combination defines what we mean when we say "skill".

What I was tring to say is is that knowing the technique is not much help if you don't know when to do it properly. Developing the feel for the timing of when do do something is part of the skill of kendo. I don't know how many times I saw lightning fast young bucks in their prime get their asses handed to them by 70 year olds who loked like they needed crutches. It's all in the ability to see and feel the whole "gestalt" of a match.

So, of course skill is important. Duh.

Don Cunningham
15th August 2001, 01:12

I am not that experienced in kendo, but I do recall that a match score requires three separate elements. These are often referred to as shin-gi-tai. Shin refers to "spirit," that is, the kendoka must show the proper spirit in execution. The strike must be done quickly and with full mental commitment. Gi refers to mind, that is, the technique must be correctly applied, not sloppy or without demonstrated skill. It must be on target and with the proper area of the shinai. Finally, tai refers to body and means the strike must be done with the correct application of physical strength. I don't mean the strike has to be so strong as to knock your opponent down, but it can not be done weakly like a limp handshake.

Therefore, I disagree with your thesis that skill refers to all the aspects--speed, strength, and proper application--as you described. Great skill can be shown in the proper application, but if the strike (or technique) is done without spirit (commitment) and the other physical aspects (speed, timing, amount of strength), then it is not complete. Great strength may be used, but if the technique is not proper, i.e., the strike is slightly off target or other than the cutting portion of the shinai is contacted, then it is still incomplete.

I hope this is a clear explanation. Duh. ;)

Earl Hartman
15th August 2001, 01:21
Of course. Shin-gi-tai are all elements of skill as it appears to the observer. When I say a technique must be done "properly" I mean all of those things. Distance, targeting, speed, and timing are all elements of that. Without the mental, spiritual, and psychological factors (in addition to grasp of physical technique) it will appear to the observer that the kendoka is no good, that he lacks skill. You can see the outward technique, and you must have it, of course, but it is driven by inner factors, which appear outwardly as a quick eye, impeccable timing, courage, and rock-solid technique.

This is also called "ki-ken-tai-itchi", or "spirit, sword, and body in accord". There is no kendo (or any budo) without this.

Duh and double duh.;)

15th August 2001, 22:22
OK, Mr. Hartman and Mr. Cunningham, can't we all just get along??? :toast:

This is an excellent thread, BTW. As a spectator of Kendo, I find it interesting that this sport (Pre WWII) closely parallels Ken-jutsu.

Don Cunningham
15th August 2001, 23:49
I didn't realize we weren't "all getting along." I enjoyed the discussion very much. Made me recall a lot of kendo background. I just wish there were some other kendoka out here in the sticks of Chicago's western suburbs. If so, we could play instead of just writing about it.

One last double-dog duh! ;)

Earl Hartman
16th August 2001, 00:02

Were we having an argument?

Don Cunningham
16th August 2001, 00:18
Who, me? Argue? You must have mistaken me for someone else...:D

16th August 2001, 01:11
Who mentioned argue :laugh: I save those for the Juko Kai

Stuart D
31st August 2001, 01:16
This is a really interesting thread. I've always heard about old kendo but never to this depth.

Some of the references to riot-police kendo reminded me of things that my sensei does if people aren't being aggressive enough. I've seen him take some folks down, pin them, and remove their men. It's nothing serious though. It's more of a reminder to toughen up and be more forward.

Also, the mention of tsuki being discouraged is very interesting to me. I've seen tsuki used just like any other hit. Use it if it's appropriate. Where have you guys seen it discouraged?

-Stuart Davis

31st August 2001, 01:46
Also, the mention of tsuki being discouraged is very interesting to me. I've seen tsuki used just like any other hit. Use it if it's appropriate. Where have you guys seen it discouraged?

At the kendo dojo I train in presently, tsuki is reserved for those at or above the rank of First Dan.

Earl Hartman
31st August 2001, 04:47
In Japan, I rarely saw the tsuki used by anyone under 3rd dan level. It is a difficult technique to do properly, and the possibility of injury is so great that only people whose fundamentals were strong and whose tenouchi was up to it, which usually means someone 3rd dan and above, would use it. Needless to say, any junior who used it on his seniors was usually lookin' for a serious ass-whuppin'. I don't think there are any hard and fast rules, and each dojo is different, but there seemed to be a tacit understanding that it was a technique reserved for the upper ranks.

It was in a US dojo where the use of the point was discouraged. I have never seen or heard of such a thing in Japan.

Stuart D
31st August 2001, 22:18
Sorry if I gave the impression that everyone and their brother uses tsuki. At the dojo I'm part of, tsuki isn't taught to, used by, or used on anyone below a certain dan rank. I'm not sure what that is since I'm not there yet.

I thought it was being said that tsuki use by anyone was discouraged.

-Stuart Davis

1st September 2001, 01:05

13th September 2001, 00:22
Sorry to interrupt, but you guys are making me cry missing my old Kendo School (yes here in the US). This is exactly the way we use to train. But only after you have been there a while. We would kick, hit, head butt, wrap arms through the opponentís shinai, remove the Men, through you through the Dojo Doors (yes closed), and absolutely insult you. As far as training the Tsuki point. We would teach all to target it but if a junior would try it on a senior they would usually end up either on the floor or with a huge headache. This is kind of like pre WWII Kendo except they would get violent. But I think that 14th Century or so Kendo would have been the worst because the Bogu had not been perfected to our modern extent. Also they would go for either Kote point as well as the feet. Have to remember that then they were training to KILL. :nin:

14th September 2001, 20:03

What Dojo in the US are you from? I'd be interested to know of a Dojo stateside that practices this way!

Who's the sensei?

Is there a webpage?

Thanks in advance!

15th September 2001, 02:04
My Original School was in Memphis TN. My Sensei was Harry Dach Sensei. I trained with him there for about 7 years then I moved here to Orlando FL. I have been trying to get a school together here but with no luck. Seems that no one wants to learn Kendo here (at least that I can find). Memphis never did have a web page for the Kendo but I do think I remember a page that one of his Iaido students put up. If I can find it I will post it here. As far as where he learned was in Iwakuni Japan under Nakahama Sensei and the Sassebo Police. The last time I talked to my old Sensei they had fallen to hard times and had few students turning out and a lack of a place to train.

15th September 2001, 10:33

I mean no disrespect with the following question, I'm simply a little confused.

Why can't a junior use tsuki against a senior?

Tim Fong

15th September 2001, 13:28
Well in our school it was not a matter of being allowed, most of them simply did not have either the speed or accuracy to make the thrust. They usually will end up telegraphing the technique and being stopped by a seniorís keen eye and their own technique. They were allowed to try though and sometimes even encouraged.

Earl Hartman
17th September 2001, 19:28
The reasons a junior will get messed up if he tries to use the tsuki on a senior:

1) A person who cannot do the tsuki properly is very dangerous, since if you miss, you can really seriously injure someone. The other kendo strikes hurt, and you can get bruised if a clumsy idiot hits you in the wrong place, but there is little or no danger of real injury. With the tsuki there is. If you cannot do the technique properly you shouldn't do it. Trying to do it before you are ready shows a lack of respect for the opponent and the technique itself.

2) A junior who is arrogant enough to try to use a dangerous, high level technique before he is ready for it will be taught proper manners, which usually involves an ass whuppin'.

3) Unless it is a match, the senior is usually not trying his hardest to beat the junior. Rather, he is working with the junior to help him improve his technique. Therefore, the senior does not go all-out; rather, he will often give the junior openings or attack at half-speed so that the junior can learn. In such a situation, if the junior is stupid and arrogant enough to think that he can really take the senior, and tries to use the tsuki, it shows that he does not understand how to practice. So the senoir will show him what's what.

However, this is a matter of degree. If a 1st dan tries to use the tsuki on, say, a 4th or 5th dan, he will be instructed on proper behavior, either gently or harshly, depending on the senior's mood. However, once a person is above the 3rd dan level, his fundamentals are usually good enough for him to use the tsuki. So if he is fencing against someone who is "only" a 4th dan or a 5th dan, that is, with someone whom he has a reasonable chance of defeating, there is no "rule" against using the tsuki. If a 3rd or 4th dan were to use it against a 6th, 7th, or 8th dan opponent, this would not be bad manners, but the 3rd or 4th dan player should expect his opponent to turn up the heat a notch.

Basically, everyone knows that a tsuki carries more potential danger of serious injury that any other technique. So, when it is used, people should expect the kendo to become much more serious and to not be surprised in things turn more "violent" (perhpas "intense" is a better way of putting it).

The tsuki is like the "harite" (face slap) in sumo. It is a legitimate technique, but is hurts a great deal and is very dangerous. So people sometimes get mad if someone uses it too much.

18th September 2001, 01:17
Thank you Mr. Hartman for clearing up my misunderstanding.

I am a complete beginner at kendo. I started practicing only a few weeks ago here in Korea. Before anyone jumps down my throat about the whole kendo/kumdo thing, let me say that the other students will use the word kendo on occasion.

Now that I think about it, I've seen a couple of people get hit in the throat during practice, and it didn't look like much fun. I can see why seniors frown on lower ranking students using a technique that could result in serious injury.

Kendo is very different from in philosophy and technique from my previous weapons training in escrima, but I enjoy it all the same. Watching the advanced students fence I definitely see appreciate the emphasis on a training a strong spirit.

Tim Fong

Charlie Kondek
18th September 2001, 13:12
Good for you, Mr. Fong! Ya know, accidents happen, too. One of the dangers of the kote strike is that, after the strike, your seme is supposed to be focused on tsuki (which is sort of your focal point the whole time). In other words, you cut the wrist, but the shinai sort of "bounces up" into tsuki. Sometimes, without meaning to, the tip of the shinai bounces up and under the tsuki and inside the men and gives your practice partner what we call a "kendo hickey."

Which is not as bad as going for do and getting up under the tare and into your sempai's package. Yes, it happened to me! How embarassing; my buddy dropped like a stone. Usually, tare saves us from an embarassing blow to the jewels or thighs, but I, er, got lucky this time.

18th September 2001, 21:53
We always trained that the Tsuki, although a valid point, was not truly intended as a strike. We were taught that you use it to start your motion to make your opponent backup a step then strike. If he was not paying attention then the point was made. But for all intentions, it was a waza of all motion. Kind of like saying hey if you donít backup I will stick you in the Tsuki, see I told you I would stick you in the Tsuki if you didnít backup. Also that was a very good point about pointing to the Tsuki after a Kote strike. In all basic movements (even Kendo Kata) the tip should be pointing at the opponentís Tsuki.

18th September 2001, 21:55
All so just relized for any of you around the Charlotte, NC area, on October the 20-21 there will be a South East Uninted States Kendo Federation Tournament in Charlotte, NC. I will allso post a notice in the proper thread.