Striking from too-ma and chuushin

by Felipe

Good day, Imafuji sensei. As my senpai ordered me some months ago, I started to study a lot about 'chuushin no torikata' (ways of taking the center) in order to improve my Kendo.

After 2.5 years of training, I think I am starting to slightly grasp the basics of the concept of center in Kendo and I feel it has helped me to improve my skills while doing keiko.

As I have read in Japanese texts on internet, you must take firmly the center before launch any kind of strike, and there are lots of ways to achieve this hard task.

But, in the other hand, I have read that if I have a long range - if I can strike from a far distance (too-ma), I should use this physical condition to take advantage and strike from a far distance. I am not a tall person, I am 1.73m but I have been told that I have a good impulse.

If I am not wrong, when you and your opponent are in chuudan no kamae, in the too-ma distance, the points of the shinai are not even crossed.

So, my question is: How can you strike from too-ma if your shinai is not touching the opponent's shinai, which means (for me) that the center is not assured. It seems to be the opposite of the 'rule' of taking the center to strike.

I don't know if I was clear and my question is well built, but I'm counting on your kindness to help me solving this complicated question.

Thank you!

Answer: Thank you for your question. It is hard to know if you are taking the center or not if you are in tōma. OK, now let me tell you why it is said that you should strike from tōma since I was told to strike from tōma when I was a child.

1. Physically challenged: Striking from tōma is challenging. Simply you cannot reach. But if you keep trying without breaking your posture, you will be able to strike further than your previous striking distance. And also your opponent won't expect you to reach them from tōma.

2. Commitment: Since you are striking from tōma, as you mentioned, it is not easy to take the center. Your opponent is more likely to stay in the center. So you are striking knowing you'll be stabbed by your opponent's shinai. If kendo is to train
your mind, this is very an important way to train your braveness and commitment.

3. Confidence: Thanks to No.2 above, you will gain confidence. In kendo, it is important for us to remove fear as quickly as possible. By No.2, we do that. After you remove the fear from you, you will start gaining confidence.

4. By No.1 you can train physical side of kendo. By No.2, you are learning commitment. Thanks to No.1 and No.2, you gain confidence so if you do the process properly, you are ready to strike from anywhere anytime.

5. It doesn't matter where you are or what stance you take, you should take the center of your opponent. You must give your opponent some kind of feelings that they cannot come in close to you. Even when striking from tōma, your shinai must be pointing at your opponent's, i.e. taking the center.

6. In the West of Japan tends to learn striking from tōma because the dōjō was bigger in the old days. The East of Japan, on the other hand, cannot have a big dōjō like the West so they tend to be close to their opponent.

I saw my friend executing a men strike from a far distance. It was more likely he started moving in from the tōma and by the time he launched he was in his striking distance. It was so amazing and for his opponent it was out of blue. He had no choice but got struck.

Definition of Tōma
I should have introduced the definition of tōma at the beginning. Tōma is the distance that is far from issoku ittō no ma (the distance you can strike your opponent with one step). So it doesn't mean your shinai and your opponent's shinai is apart. If your shinai and your opponent's shinai are touching (shokujin no ma: the shinai are touching) but you cannot strike your opponent with one step then it is tōma.

Now if your opponent can strike from the distance where you cannot strike your opponent, it is not your opponent's tōma. So the names of the distances can be different from you and your opponent. Interesting, huh?

Anyway, tōma is considered to be a good distance to train your physical and mental sides of kendo so I recommend you to train in tōma sometimes. If you train children, I recommend you should have your students to start from the tōma to train their physical abilities.

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