The act of successfully scoring a waza in kendo. The act of striking with ki-ken-tai-no-itchi.
See ki-ken-tai-no-itchi and yuko-datotsu.
A term which expresses an important element in moving for offense and defense; it is mainly used in teaching striking moves. Ki is spirit, ken refers to the handling of the shinai, and tai refers to the body movements and posture. When there three elements harmonize and function together with the correct timing, they create the conditions for a valid strike.
Making a valid strike. A valid strike which is considered ippon. According to the rules, a waza is complete when the following conditions are met: showing a fullness of spirit and appropriate posture, striking a datotsu-bui (striking zone) of the opponent with the striking region of one’s own shinai while using correct ha-suji, and expressing zan-shin.
If the necessary conditions are met, ippon is also given in the following cases: when ones strikes the opponent as soon as the opponent drops his/her shinai, steps out of court, or falls down, and when one strikes the opponent just as the signal for the end of match is given.
Ippon is not given in the following cases: when both players simultaneously make valid strikes and when one player makes a valid strike but the opponent shows full spirit and proper posture and the tip of his/her shinai is on the front of the chest of the striking player.
A number of years ago now I went to a shiai with my (then) girlfriend and her dad. He was a smart guy: a successful orthodontist who had turned down a teaching job at Harvard years before to look after his then young family. At that time he currently part time lectured at Rutgers in New Jersey while running his own clinic. After watching for an hour or so he said to me, “George, how do you decide whats a point and what isn’t?” After mumbling for a bit I realised that I couldn’t really answer him. I guess that was due to my inexperience at the time, and I still remember the look on his face at my lack of solid explanation. *
After a bit, he frowned and then said to me, “Well, it seems whatever it is that decides a point seems to be understood by those that practise kendo, as they not only fairly acknowledge strikes when they are called (generally unanimously by the judges), but the kendo-experienced spectators (i.e. the majority of people there) tend not to disagree.” Hmmm, I thought.
Although now I can almost certainly rattle of what it is that makes an ippon, there are still elements of it that can only really be appreciated by those that do kendo. People that do kendo know what a good strike feels like (to do and to receive) and they just know good style when they see it. Often this is hard to verbalise. A year or so ago I found a chart that attempted to explain what an ‘ippon’ is. Its definitely accurate and can be used as a great resource to explain to people with less (or even no) experience what constitutes an ippon. However, it cannot of course define those elements that are beyond verbalisation.
At any rate, here is the chart for you to check out (click to enlarge). Have a look and see what you think.
* Needless to say that relationship didn’t go far…
Update: September 2015
A full five years after this post was originally published Andy from All Japan Budogu used this as part of an extended video on the company YouTube channel. Check it out here: