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Thread: Old School Kendo

  1. #16
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    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.
    Last edited by Earl Hartman; 9th August 2001 at 21:58.
    Earl Hartman

  2. #17
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    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

  3. #18
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    Default VH

    Colin,

    ...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.

    Cheers,
    Guy
    Guy H. Power
    Kenshinkan Dojo

  4. #19
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    Default UK Kendoka

    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/

    Cheers,

    - George
    Seishinkan Kendo Club, Edinburgh, Scotland
    http://www.edinburghkendo.co.uk/

  5. #20
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    Default Re: VH

    Originally posted by ghp
    Colin,



    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.

    Cheers,
    Guy
    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

  6. #21
    Don Cunningham Guest

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    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.

  7. #22
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    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?

    --Guy
    Guy H. Power
    Kenshinkan Dojo

  8. #23
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    Exclamation

    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.

  9. #24
    Don Cunningham Guest

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    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.

  10. #25
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    Guy:

    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.
    Earl Hartman

  11. #26
    Don Cunningham Guest

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    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.
    Earl,

    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.
    Last edited by Don Cunningham; 14th August 2001 at 22:56.

  12. #27
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    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.
    Earl Hartman

  13. #28
    Don Cunningham Guest

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    Earl,

    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.

  14. #29
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    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.
    Earl Hartman

  15. #30
    yamamatsuryu Guest

    Default Now Now Now

    OK, Mr. Hartman and Mr. Cunningham, can't we all just get along???

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

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