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How do I see or create an opening?

by Sarah

One of the problems that I am having, which is severely setting me back in kendo, is how to tell when there is an opening.


Right now, even in keiko, I usually just push forward and try to strike, but this often means that my partner's shinai (in kamae) would stab me in the men or I would get blocked.

I am not sure how to "start" or how do you see when would be a good time to strike.

Our club hasn't taught us kata and I don't have anyone to practice kata with, so I want some advice on how to proceed. I am starting my 2nd year of kendo.

Answer: Thank you for the question. OK so you have two questions.

1. When to strike and how to make an opening

2. When to start kata

OK, No.1: When to strike and how to make an opening

There are “three opportunities that you should not miss”. In Japanese I think it is called “Mittsu no Yurusanu Tokoro”. Not sure if Japanese will come out well but I will try, “三つの許さぬところ”

1. When your opponent is just about to execute a technique (degashira)

2. When your opponent is blocked

3. When your opponent is done striking

These are probably the basics of good opportunities. Of course, there are more such as

4. When your opponent is retreating

5. When your opponent is in the state of itsuki (mentally and/or physically frozen)

6. When your opponent is in one of the states of four sicknesses

The reason that you are stabbed when striking (we call this tsuki, mukae-zuki) is that it is not a good opportunity. And I am sure that you were already told that you had to do something to get the opponent’s shinai away from the centre. And that is the exact question of yours, correct? How the heck do I do that???

Try followings to keep the opponent’s shinai away from the centre.

· Push it down

· Slap it up, down, to the right or to the left

· Flick it up, down, to the right or to the left

· Tap it up, down, to the right or to the left

· hook it up or down (so called maki-waza)

Not sure those English expressions are good but I hope you can imagine what you should be doing to the opponent’s shinai with your shinai.

Sometimes one of them works but most of the time a combination of some/all of them should be used to get the “path” for you to get in.

And of course, your footwork should go with those movements. So you should go forward, backward, to the sides while doing some techniques of the above.

But if you are going against people with a higher grade, probably none of them work. In that case, don’t worry. Just strike and see what happens. That is also important because if you don’t strike, you never know exactly what you should or should not do.

Important things for you to remember

· Learn your distance: So you know when you have to strike. Most of the times, you have to strike no matter what when it comes to your distance. Why? That is how you learn your distance and when not to strike and when to strike.

· See what happens to your opponent’s shinai: Once you have a good idea of your distance, you should learn how to “read” your opponent’s mind by contacting to your opponent’s shinai with your shinai as mentioned above.

· When you “feel” that you should strike, then strike: this is very important. You never know until you strike. So don’t be afraid. Just go for it. That is why you need to know your distance first.

· Don’t look away when your opponent’s shinai comes into your throat: If you do that, the shinai will come further in especially when they do not pull it out. Receive it properly. It is to protect yourself.

Question No.2: When to start kata

Now. Unless your club has some policies on when to start kata, you should practice it now. I instruct beginners kata as soon as they learn how to strike with a bokuto. So if your club allows you to do kata, you should learn now.

Hope this helps.

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