Kendo Terminology: Sashimen

Sashimen is a term to express a men strike that is executed without much involvements of wrists, elbows and shoulders.

"Sashi" is a form of a verb "to thrust", "to stab" or "to slice" and creates a word combined with a noun.

For example, sashimen means a men that looks like thrusting or slicing men.

First of all, what we all must know is that sashimen is not equal to small men. They are completely different things.

Sashimen as mentioned above does not involve much movements of wrists, elbows and shoulders, while in small men we use wrists, elbows and shoulders.

Sashimen is not considered to be a "correct" men strike because it does not involve the cutting movements, i.e. using the wrists, elbows and shoulders.

It is against the principle of katana, as in the concept of kendo by All Japan Kendo Federation. Therefore, sashimen was considered to be a cheap shiai technique when I was a kid (1980s).

However, as recent trend in Japan and also other countries, the word small men is referred to as sashimen.

This is causing a big confusion.

Traditionally, sashimen is not equal to small men and sashimen is not an appropriate way of striking.

Even Japanese people may not know the difference, but I do not want you to mix them up.

I personally do not recommend that you should use sashimen all the time if you want to improve kendo in the future.

After asking two 7th dan -- one is shihan (the main master) of a university kendo club and one works for International Kendo Federation -- and one 6th dan who runs one of the biggest kendo websites in Japan, I conclude that sashimen is not appropriate to train kendo.

If you are into shiai-oriented kendo, then sashimen is a good technique to take a bit of advantage in shiai. In other words, your kendo will not improve if you keep doing that all the time.

Why does sashimen stop improving your kendo for the future?

Kendo is to train yourself (to be better individual to contribute to our society) through the principle of katana.

Because we must keep the principle of katana in mind while practicing kendo, our each strike should be a cut.

It should not a tap on one of the targets (men, kote, do and tsuki) to gain a point.

Cutting movements will give your opponent opportunities to strike you because cutting movements are big. In small men strike you still have to use your wrists and elbows in order to execute a cut.

When you use your wrists, your kote will be open to your opponent. That means there is a strong possibility for you to lose the match because your opponent will tend to strike your kote.

Now, you do not want to get struck and lose, do you?

This is where the real kendo comes in.

Real Kendo Training

Do you remember shikai?

You do not want to get struck or you do not want to lose. That means you are afraid of losing and getting struck. You have a doubt in your kendo.

You have got to get rid of this state of your mind. You have to overcome the fear and doubt you have.

Sashimen (not small men) looks like an easy solution for this because it does not involve the wrists movement so there is less exposure of your kote to your opponent. That means less possibility to lose the fight. Because you do not want to lose you want to use sashimen.

However, it does not mean you have overcome your fear. No, let me put this way. It does not mean you have trained hard enough to fight off your fear and to have confidence in your kendo.

You are relying on one little technique. In kendo we should be learning how to fight off shikai and improve the strength of our mind. This is what we should learn from kendo.

Fear as a Kid

Do you remember how fearful it was to learn how to ride a bicycle as a kid?

I was so afraid that I could not learn how to ride a bicycle without training wheels. But as I became more comfortable and confident, I took off one of the training wheels.

And when I became more comfortable and confident, I took off another one. But still I asked my father to grab the bicycle just in case.

Sashimen is just like these training wheels. You do not want to rely on it forever.

Our Goal in Kendo

If you use sashimen because you are afraid or lack confidence, it is maybe ok If you know your goal....

Our goal is to strike men without fear and lack of confidence. After all, you must know how to deal with shikai. That is one of our goals in kendo.

Let's think about why we do kendo again.

Are we learning kendo to come up with some techniques not to lose in shiai or jigeiko? Are we learning kendo to satisfy ourselves for a moment of our life time by hitting the targets of our training partners?

It is good to know what sashimen is and how it works. Even it is a good idea to use it once in a while to tell your kohai how it works. However, it does not mean that improves your kendo and life.

We now know why we should not use sashimen. We must learn how to control our mind, just like how we overcame the fear when we learned how to ride a bicycle. :)

There may be some people who use the term, sashimen, as small men but you do not want to do sashimen, OK?

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