What are those? I think you can guess what gamae is. It is kamae (stance). In Japanese sometimes voiceless sounds become voiced sounds. Don’t worry about these too much. So now we are going to talk about what mi-gamae is and what kokoro-gamae is.
Mi means body. So mi-gamae simply means “body stance”. You actually take a stance with your body. You show your readiness with your body so you are ready for something that might happen to you. We can call it physical preparation.
Do you know what kokoro means? The concept of kokoro is very difficult to explain with one word so I have a video for this. Please watch the “what is kokoro” video and article for detail. But in this case, mind. Your mind needs to be prepared too. This is mind preparation.
When mind preparation is not done properly, it will show up in your attitude. How so? You might ask. For example, when you walk into the dojo, you don’t greet to your dojo, your sensei and your friends. You just walk through with a frowny face. Something might have happened to you at work or school. But you must be ready to learn before you walk into your dojo. Your mind is not prepared for kendo here. So your attitude shows your kokoro-gamae is not well established here.
In jigeiko, many people tend to fill themselves up with ki after standing up from their sonkyo. So up until then, they are not ready. They have mi-gamae but they don’t have kokoro-gamae there. My favorite moment to execute my strike is when these people try to prepare right after standing up from the sonkyo. They breathe in big to shout their kiai. That is a vulnerable moment.
It is very important for everyone to be mentally ready even before we bow. We know we are going to fight so we should be ready even before we bow. To be stricter, we should be ready before we walk into the dojo.
Zanshin must be mentioned here. Many people think zanshin must be followed by the chudan no kamae, which is mi-gamae. But only when you can. You need to show your ki-gamae.
The difference between kokoro-gamae and ki-gamae is very difficult. Ki-gamae is more like preparation directly toward what will happen in front of you whereas kokoro-gamae is more comprehensive mental preparation.
So when you show zanshin, you must focus on your opponent even after you execute a valid cut on him/her. This “focus” on your opponent is the kamae of your “ki” toward your opponent. May be you are well prepared regarding planning what to do in jigeiko (kokoro-gamae) but you are not focused enough to execute what you planned out (no ki-gamae).
Sometimes people take their chudan where his/her opponent is nowhere near they are pointing their shinai at. They are just doing it after they execute a valid cut. What is the point of taking the chudan if you don’t point your shinai at your opponent? I would say, they might have the kokoro-gamae toward shiai but they don’t have ki-gamae toward their opponent.
You can practice mi-gamae, kokoro-gamae and ki-gamae in kata. I understand why people cannot take kata seriously. They know their opponent won’t hit them. They know what is going on next. So they are going through the motions. No seriousness, no tension, no kiai…
I can say the same thing in jigeiko as well. I often don’t feel tension from my students when they are in their sonkyo position. They are not ready yet even though they have an opponent right in front of them. So I tell them to get more serious in the bogu training and kata training. Then probably they can improve their ki-gamae and kokoro-gamae.
When kokoro-gamae is not well established, your mi-gamae will show that in a form of a bad attitude. You cannot lack any of these kamaes, mi-gamae, kokoro-gamae, and ki-gamae. Go to the dojo with good korkoro-gamae and mi-gamae. Do not forget ki-gamae especially when fighting your opponent.