Shinai length, stomping steps and ai-techniques

by Adam

I have some questions about shinai length, stomping steps, ai-techniques and some behavior in kendo:

1) I've read that shinai basically is a training sword, which was designed for safe practice and its form and balance were copied of a traditional Japanese sword. Why it is that shinai is much longer than a traditional Japanese sword?

2) Why do you do tobikomi/fumikomi in kendo? I think it's really bad for your knees and heels to stomp with your feet so often and with such power. Does it have practical meaning? I mean, you can "jump in" without stomping and I'll be the same thing, just with less visible "impact".

3) Ai-techniques, why do you do them? There's often a split second difference between when you cut your opponent and when he will cut you. You'll both end up dead even if your opponent will die a second earlier. I know that kendo is not about killing your opponent, but if you're supposed to think of a shinai as a real sword, then should your mentality for a shiai be the same, as you're holding a real sword?

4) Why do a lot of experienced kendoka hit the floor with their shinai after they strike kote or tsuki? If you hit the ground with your sword after a cut it might get damaged or even worse, it might get stuck. And I never seen that it'd be written, that it's a bad etiquette to do so. Is this way of treating your shinai acceptable and does it have any practical meaning?

I am sorry if these questions are stupid and/or rude, but I wasn't able to find any information on those. Thank you.

Answer: Thank you for your questions and it is not rude nor stupid! So please do not be sorry.

1) Why it is that shinai is much longer than a traditional Japanese sword?

Please refer to “A Bit Of History About Shinai” under “Kendo Stick:Shinai” for its history.

Why the length?: Shinai got popular and used for matches between different schools as well as for their training. Around the mid 19 century, very long shinais were used for matches or shinai because it was advantageous to beat their opponents.

So Kōbusho (Martial Arts School officially founded by the Edo Shogunate in 1856, wikipedia) set the length of shinai to 3 shaku 8 sun (it
is called 38; thirty eight in English speaking countries: 117 cm). Now for adults it is set to 39 (120cm) due to the change of the average height in Japan.

Info from shinai length in Wikipedia Japan

2) Why do you do tobikomi/fumikomi in kendo?

Please refer to the answer to Why fumikomi-ashi in Kendo?

3) Ai-techniques, why do you do them?

This is a very high level question. Are you really a beginner? :)

I think you are talking about ai-kote-men and sorts. In ai-kote-men, we cancel out our opponent's kote strike with our kote strike (this is ai-kote) and strike our opponent’s men.

Yes, this is a technique in kendō. If you do that in a real sword, you and your opponent would be hurt at the same time.

Let me explain a bit more about ai-uchi (striking at the same time). And this is very high level and I am not even that level. So I may not be able to explain well.

Ai-uchi is seen as the ultimate and ideal technique in some kendō schools. Here is why.

Kendō should be Katsujin-Ken (the sword to make others live). If you want to beat up others, it is Satsunin-Tō (the sword to kill others). This is only “me” kendō.

So ai-uchi is seen as Katsujin-Ken because there is no ego between both kendō practitioners. Their kendō level is high and they have reached the level of “mu” (the spiritual state of “nothingness”).

But when they really reached the highest level, it is called “ai-nuke”. What it means is that they would not even hit each other. It is said that Sekiun Harigaya (the founder of Mujushinken) and his 1st pupil were the ones who reached the level of ai-nuke.

Even though I read some articles about it, to be honest with you, I cannot really picture what it really looks like.

It could be like they both would try to cut each other but they just could not. “nuke” means “through” so I think their swords pass by each other without actually cutting each other.

4) Why do a lot of experienced kendoka hit the floor with their shinai after they strike kote or tsuki?

Good question. It is because they are so carried away during matches (adrenaline rush). Most of the time, they do not mean to do that. Please don’t do that.

Hope this helps.

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