Importance of Jigeiko and Shiai in training

by Stefan

How relevant are jigeiko and shiai during practice for development of a person’s kendo? Is footwork, kihon and waza training enough, or is jigeiko a necessary component of kendo practice? If so, what kind of ratio kihon/geiko would you advise?

Answer: Good questions! If you just want to learn the movements, then your kendo training will become a physical exercise. Your partners, i.e. motodachi, will not hit back or attack you in the drills for the basics. In the drills for your techniques, you know what they are going to do. You are training your kendo under a controlled situation.

Now in jigeiko and shiai, you are testing yourself. Now you are testing how well you can execute techniques you’ve trained against someone who are no longer willing to receive your strikes.

Many people forget their basics in jigeiko and shiai because they don’t want to get hit. Or many people keep striking like they are doing their drills, as if they are ignoring the fact that they have an opponent.

Kendo is to train the intangible (your mind) through the tangible (shinai). You can train your mind and body through drills as well. But there is something that you cannot feel from just drills. You cannot feel pressure from your opponent in the drills. You cannot feel fear from the drills.

Surprise, fear, doubt and hesitation are 4 sickness you need to fight in you. We call it “shikai” in
Japanese. While fighting an opponent, you feel one of them or a combination of them. When you feel any of these, your strike won’t be successful. After all, through training, we remove these sicknesses from our mind. That is one of the main goals in kendo.

You might have heard of “sutemi”. Commitment in English. And you must fully commit when you execute a strike. These sicknesses will stop you from committing fully into your strike. Also, you might have heard of the word, heijōshin. You must be always calm. When you are not calm, something is going on in your mind.

You really cannot find out what is going on in your mind by just doing drills. It is much easier to find out what you need to work on in your mind when you have an opponent.

The ratio is difficult. It depends on what you are working on. But what I do at the dōjō I instruct, 30 min for kata, 45 or 50 min of basics (suburi, kirikaeshi and single cuts/renzoku waza) and 10 to 15 min of jigeiko. 10% to 16% of keiko is jigeiko. I don’t know if this is a lot or not, but that is what we do at our dōjō.

We don’t do a lot of waza training. Simply, we don’t have time for that. Instead, I tell my students to focus on everything they do at the dōjō. Kata can also teach them techniques. And they can test what they learn in jigeiko.

Hope this helps.

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