Here is the advice that was given to my favourite teacher just prior to him passing his hachidan on this 4th attempt at the age of 49 a few years ago. The advice was given to him by the shihan of my dojo, a kendo hanshi who was in the last class of 5 people to graduate Busen (the legendary Budo Senmon Gakko in Kyoto). He was told to:
- With a vigorous spirit and sword, and a good posture, be decisive (in your actions and cutting).
- Apply pressure to your opponent by reading their intent and seizing his openings with a strong and confident spirit.
- Do this until your body can react and move naturally.
Luckily he goes on to expand it point by point:
- vigorous spirit: with a big kiai do your utmost to project your feeling of attack on your opponent;
- vigorous sword: using both hands correctly cut decisively and strongly with the kensaki.;
- posture: use your right foot to pressure the opponent, don’t forget to pull up your left foot always, and be careful of your movement after you strike;
- cut decisively: without showing your intention to strike and from uchima, throw your whole body (sutemi) into the cut;
- attacking with your spirit: hold the attack in your tanden until breaking point, whilst pressuring forwards;
- Apply pressure to your opponent by reading their intent and seizing his openings: using your seme, study your opponents movements, both his kikentai and his heart. Pay particular attention to the attack/defence of the opening cut (shotachi).
On top of the advice he received, he then adds his own points:
- Train your body to become stronger: run, do sit-ups, back stretches, and pushups;
- Kirikaeshi / Uchikomigeiko: continually practise kirikaeshi and uchimomigeiko. After jigeiko, practise basic men cutting;
- Continuation of kihon-waza practise: repeatedly execute decisive strikes at opportune moments.
This is a lot to digest, but just reading it has taken us all one step closer to hachidan!