Kirikaeshi history

by Olga

Do you know how kirikaeshi was invented and why kirikaeshi is so important in kendo? Why exactly that form (sayumen)? What does kirikaeshi means in kanji? Thanks!

Answer: Thank you for your post. This is a hard question! And also this is probably Alex Bennett sensei’s territory. :) But I will try.

I remember that there were some articles on this very matter in a kendō magazine but don’t remember which issue so I googled it.

According to One Consideration that is about “Kirikaeshi” of kendo regarding a content of modern – present “kirikaeshi” it today data by Shigeki Maesaka, many different kenjutsu schools have some kind of kirikaeshi like technique. And there is a form in Jikishinkage Ryū that kirikaeshi is originated from.

The word, kirikaeshi, appeared in a book called budō kyōhan (1895). But it sounds like it was a bit different from the one we do now. However, in a book called kendō yōran (1912), kirikaeshi explained seems like the one we do currently.

Kirikaeshi (切り返し; hope you can read this kanji in your browser) means “when you are blocked, you turn your sword and cut the other side”. So what we do is literal, isn’t it? :)

Kirikaeshi now has the fixed number of sayu men we strike. But in old days, there was not. Like in budō senmon gakko (Busen), the first year students only did kirikaeshi. And they could not finish until their motodachi end their kirikaeshi.

From such
training, you can train your

· Endurance

· Strength

· Tenouchi

· Speed

· and things listed in Uchikomi Juttoku.

Why sayu men? I could not find an answer so this is my guess. Men is seen as a target that is most difficult to strike. And we are told that if we can strike men we can strike anything. So striking men is the basic of the basics.

Then why not only men strike but sayu (left and rigth) men?

We should train tenouchi for striking the left side and right side of the body. And also when blocked one side, we should be able to turn our sword around (kirikaeshi motion) and attach the other side.

By reading the article by Mr. Maesaka, it looks like kakarite (striker) used to use ayumi-ashi not okuri-ashi. This is also interesting. I sometimes practice kirikaeshi with ayumi-ashi but I did not know it was used in old days. So it used to be training for tai-sabaki (body work).

Even though we do not have kirikaeshi with ayumi-ashi, kirikaeshi is still seen as the basic training method that has all the elements the kendoists must acquire. That is why kirikaeshi is seen very important.

The late Tsurumaru Juichi sensei used to call kirikaeshi uchikomi-kirikaeshi. And it is because the first men was seen as “uchikomi” and kirikaeshi is the movements of “sayu-men” according to Mr. Maesaka.

If I find the issue of the kendō magazine I was talking about at the beginning of this, I may be able to get additional info.

But thank you for asking. I learned a lot!

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