When you think about kenjutsu study in classical times we think about all the different styles practising without wearing bogu and using bokuto. Starting about a 100 years ago various schools started to use men, kote, and dou. This allowed for more freedom in practise and was a way to train your body, polish your techniques, and had the advantage of allowing you to strike each other amongst other things.
This was a lot different than the classical period method of practising where – if you went too far – you could cause injury to yourself and your opponent. Due to this there was also an element of fear in this type of training. As you move you can sometimes strike strongly even though the movement was light, or strike lightly even through you thought you were strong. Practising armour-less with bokuto becomes very hard without a sufficient understanding of this matter.
When we talk about the correct transmission of swordsmanship, the essential/secret techniques etc, there are actually no real special or mysterious methods; winning in a duel is simply a matter of attacking the enemy when they attack their preferred area. By “attack their preferred area” I mean that when two people come together and fight with swords, the feeling of striking a particular area will arise in your opponent. At that time, you should give your entire body over to your opponent. At the exact moment when they see their chance and attempt to strike you should strike them and win…. this is real victory.
Take a look at the video below. This is the winning point of this years Zen nippon senshuken taikai (All Japan championships), held in the Tokyo Budokan on the 3rd of November 2010.
This is the shiai that determines/determined who is the strongest competitor (young/male) in the country (and by extension, the world), and is the most prestigious of all kendo competitions. At such a high level you would expect the shinpan to be able to discriminate between a hit that’s on and one that’s not. But – as you can see – the men-strike does not actually connect.
Kendo is a combative discipline where you fight with a sword, and it as such it may be thought of as a brutal and bloodthirsty art by some, but thats definitely not what it is: it is method of physical education that includes educational, moral, and spiritual training. The kendojo is a place where this cultivation occurs.
Nukitsuke and nukiuchi are different. “Tsuke” means you are acting to forestall an opponent’s attack before it begins. Nukiuchi on the other hand means, precisely, to cut down an opponent. Without understanding the difference between these two, your swordsmanship will not be effective.*
－ Kamimoto Eiichi sensei, iaido hanshi 9 dan, kendo hanshi 8 dan
This short statement highlights and clarifies an important point about iai (particularly regarding Muso Shinden ryu, Muso Jikiden Eishin ryu and ZNKR iai). It is a simple linguistic point, but even if you speak Japanese it is easy to overlook.