Awesome Kendo Summer Festival in Indiana

I had an awesome kendo night with two 8th dan from Japan! How often that kind of an event has happened in Indiana since I came to this state in 2005?


Besides, we had many kendoists from not only all the places in Indiana but also from Ohio and even Kentucky despite of the starting time. 8:30pm at night!

For me, I had not practiced with 8th dans since 2005.

It was so exciting and I could not believe that that even happened in Indiana!!

8th dan seminar in Indiana

Anyway, I would like to share some points we learned from Shigeki Yamanaka Sensei (Hanshi 8 Dan) and Shigeki Saito Sensei (Kyoshi 8 Dan).

  • The basics is important.
  • Suburi is not a warm-up exercise. 
  • Do not just swing up and down but cut down.
  • Grab shinai properly.
  • A trick when striking one-handed men.
  • Strike from Issoku Itto no Ma.
  • Ki Ken Tai Icchi is important.
  • Do not strike with only hands. (Do not leave your lower back behind).
  • Throw the shinai onto kote.
  • Do not drop your hands when striking kote
  • Look at do when you strike do.
  • Strike do in front of you.
  • Do not let the left hand go after striking do.
  • The basics is important.

We all know that, don't we? But why do these 8th dan keep saying that? This is something we have to really think about it.

  • Suburi is not a warm-up exercise. 
  • Do not just swing up and down but cut down.

I hear this quite often too.

We need a good warm-up but these suburi should not become JUST warm-up exercise.

When do you talk about kendo, which part of kendo are you talking about? Maybe training in amour (bogu)?

We should be talking about everything including suburi, shouldn't we?

I also emphasise this in my class.

I do not want to waste of our time just swinging a stick in kendo class because we are at the dojo to do kendo.

So I always tell my students to do suburi right. If we do it right, we are not only warmed up but exhausted. That is a good suburi, I think.

  • Grab shinai properly.

This is kind of vital, isn't it? How to grab a shinai in chudan affects your cuts. So this is very important to know. Yet many do not perform this well.

If you want to know more about those basics, i.e. suburi, men strike, kote strike and do strike, please read the following articles.

If you have done kendo long enough, you may know this. This is very useful to know and can be applied to your kendo too.

From chudan, instead of trying to lift up your sword, turn your left wrist up and bend your left elbow.

Now your sword is standing straight up in front of your face.

From there, push your sword straight up above your head with slightly moving the left hand close to you.

In this way, we use less energy to lift up the sword.

  • Strike from Issoku Itto no Ma.
  • Ki Ken Tai Icchi is important.
  • Do not strike with only hands. (Do not leave your lower back behind)

First of all, we have to know what Issoku Itto no Ma means. It means "a distance where we can reach our opponent with one step and kill him/her with one cut". (To know more about Issoku Itto no Ma, click here)

Ki Ken Tai Icchi should be performed from Issoku Itto no Ma. Ki Ken Tai Icchi means Ki (internal energy), Ken (sword) and Tai (body) should be integrated when executing a cut. (To know more about Ki Ken Tai Icchi, click here)

If we strike with only hands (leave our lower body behind) when striking, that means we are not performing Ki Ken Tai Icchi.

So these are all related.

Kendo online workshop, Fumikomi Mechanism, may help you with this.

  • Throw the shinai onto kote. - Do not drop your hands when striking kote.

At that night, people tended to drop their hands too low when striking kote. So Saito sensei demonstrated how we should have struck kote.

It was not a big kote he demonstrated but small kote. However, I think both kote strikes should have the same principle.

The reason that people dropped their hands was that they were too close. They tended to step in as they struck men.

As a result, they had to drop their hands to control the distance.

So Saito sensei says that we should throw (extend our arms) shinai forward to strike kote.

In this manner, we do not have to step in as much as we do to strike men. It makes a perfect sense, right?

The distance should be learned very carefully and receivers (motodachi) should also be careful with the distance too.

For the basic kote strike without armour on, please refer to Kote Uchi: san-kyodo, ni-kyodo, ikkyodo.

  • Look at do when you strike do.
  • Strike do in front of you.
  • Do not let the left hand go after striking do.

This is the basic of striking do. If you do not have an instructor, it is hard to acquire a do strike since do is actually hard to do.

  • Do not let the left hand go after striking do.

This is hard to believe for some people who watch many videos on youtube. :)

In the basic do strike, hence all the time, we should not let the left hand go.

If we have to, we have no choice, right? But those 8th dan senseis hardly let the left hand go.

I was closely looking at those sensei but they did not let the left hand go when they struck do.

Even when they did let the left hand go, their left hand grabbed their shinai again really quickly.

This is again a distant issue.

If we strike do too close to our opponent, it is hard for us to pull our sword out with the left hand still grabbing our sword after cutting our opponent's do.

That is why we have to strike our opponent's do in front of us. In other words, do not strike do too close to our opponent.

If we go back to the basic do strike (with no armour on) we know exactly what Yamanaka sensei and Saito sensei meant. (Please refer to Do Uchi: san-kyodo, ni-kyodo, ikkyodo for the basic do strike)

These are the main things they mentioned in the training session. And what they mentioned was all about the basics.

The basics is everything in kendo. If you look at these 8th dan senseis, you can tell why they became 8th dan.

They have really solid basics and their basics never falls apart. And on top of it, they can execute many different kinds of techniques.

We tend to focus on these techniques but we do not forget the fact these 8th dan senseis have practiced and still are practicing the kendo basics.

That was a great night and I enjoyed the beating I got from the 8th dan senseis. :)

They were very nice in training and also in person.

I would like to thank Yamanaka sensei and Saito sensei for coming to Indiana and also thank Central Indiana Kendo Club for hosting this great training.

I am happy to inform that Kendo-Guide.Com could make a donation to this event. 

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