A practical guide to jodan-training.

This is not meant as a guide for learning jodan, but more a guide of how to implement jodan training in your dojo.

I’ll assume  that you already have permission from your teacher to practice jodan and skip the whole ‘why train jodan’ issue. I also assume that your are proficient with a variety of waza in chudan. Jodan does not have the variety of waza that you have in chudan, so compromises/work-around will have to be made and this list here is based on my own experience over the years in a couple of different dojo’s  and from training with people from a wide variety of experience.

The size and general experience level will greatly influence how you practice. In more experienced/smaller dojo’s it’s much easier for people to get used to practicing with jodan and working with the variations of the wazas. If you have a lot of beginners, it’s easy to make them confused and you should also bear in mind of how much benefit you’ll get from practicing jodan against a beginner.

Kirikaeshi:

It’s the most basic exercise in chudan and remains so for jodan. Depending on your left arm strength and your training partners, you’ll need to be aware of a few variations.

Variant 1: Katate-men, katate-sayumen. This one takes a lot out of your wrist/forearm unless the motodachi is skilled at receiving kirikaeshi.
A good motodachi will either let you hit their men on the sayumen or just block it slightly with his shinai, so that it still goes through to the men. However, most people, especially less experienced people, will block it completely and often pushing out against the cut. This makes it exceedingly hard to do katate-sayumen.  So..unless you know the motodachi well enough (or in smaller clubs, have talked about it beforehand) and know that they will let the sayumen go through, I don’t recommend this type of kirikaeshi.

Variant 2: Katate-men, morote-sayumen. The big straight men-uchi’s are still done as katate-men, but the sayumen are done with both hands, but keeping the right foot forward. The upper body movement should be familiar, so focus on the footwork.

Receiving kirikaeshi should be done from chudan.

Men-uchi:

The main thing to watch out for, is that people will often step in too close when they are receiving.Make sure to make people aware of the additional distance required. This is also the most important waza to learn. If you are not able to threaten the men with a strong attack, you will struggle with your jodan, so I suggest that whenever you have to ‘substitute’ a waza that cannot be executed from jodan, just practice your men-uchi.
Receive from chudan or receive strikes to either kote in jodan

Kote-uchi:

This is probably the most problematic for new jodan player, especially in more ‘gentle’ dojos. Katate-kote will always be hitting hard. You are cutting from up high, with  less than half the force available to apply tenuchi and it will be hard and often inaccurate. However, holding back will build bad habits, so you have to find the fine balance of doing something that probably will hurt the motodachi (to a varying degree)  while also preventing from building bad habits by slowing down the cut.  It will depend a lot on your dojo, but be aware of the issue and if you have concerns, talk to your motodachi/dojo-mates and adjust accordingly.

Receiving kote can be done from both chudan and jodan. More experienced people will take the opportunity to practice the cuts against jodan, but beginners should probably just focus on hitting your kote whilst in chudan.

Do-uchi.

Katate-do just doesn’t work. Even on a compliant opponent it’s hard to get the right impact and follow-through and frankly, I see no point in practicing it. Instead, you should make gyaku-do your default Do-uchi. The angle is more natural from jodan and most opponents will lift up towards their right side to protect kote & men, often leaving the gyaku-do wide open. You can go through(both sides), back, sideways.

Receive from jodan, but encourage people to hit gyaku do, as it’s the more likely side of the do to be open on a jodan player.

Tsuki:

In theory, doing tsuki from jodan is possible, but it’s rather difficult. I tend to replace it with a men or kote-uchi or do tsuki from chudan.
A key point for jodan, is also to practice receiving tsuki, as it’s important that you don’t flinch when people attack tsuki. Relish it and wear the bruises with pride.

Ni/san-dan-waza:

It’s possible to do katate-kote men, but it requires a compliant opponent and very strong wrists. Instead I prefer to do either morote-kote-men (stepping across with the left foot) or morote-uchiotoshi-men. You can use this is a base for any number of combinations, as once you’ve stepped across for the first attack, it’s the same as in chudan. (uchi-otoshi-do,uchi-otoshi-men-do etc). It is still worthwhile practicing katate-kote-men from time to time, but should probably be used more as a recovery (to kamae) exercise between attacks, rather than a nidan-waza.You should receive this in chudan.

Oji-waza:

The selection of oji-waza from jodan is very small. There are other than the ones mentioned below, but they will be more ‘tricks’ rather than something you can use repeatedly .

Debana-men/kote. Katate-debana-men should be your bread & butter technique. Debana-kote requires better timing.

Nuki-men: Very similar to kote-nuki-men from chudan.

Uchi-otoshi-men. As opponent starts the attack, knock his shinai down and hit (morote) men in one smooth motion.

Most other oji-waza simply aren’t that practical from jodan (kote-kaeshi-kote?..suriage-men?), so I recommend either substitute using one of the above, or doing them from chudan.

Tricky-waza.

Call them tricks, feints, deceptions. With the predictability of katate-waza, it’s important to have one or two techniques that you can use to catch the opponent off-guard. If you have a section of ‘free waza practice’, get your partner to react more or less realistic to these.

Semete-men-morote-kote: Push strongly forward with both the hands as if doing katate-men (I step across, but you can use regular fumikomi) and as opponent lifts up to block, hit morote-kote.

Semete-kote-morote-men. Push strongly forward and slightly down/left towards to the kote and as opponent starts to block, straighten up and hit morote-(yoko)-men.

Gyaku-do should be executed in similar fashion. Strong forward movement towards the men and as they lift to block, hit gyaku-do.

Hikiwaza:

There’s no specific hikiwaza for jodan, but if you are intending to take part in shiai, you should also put a lot of focus on this.  Jodan can be tricky to defeat, but it’s not that difficult to obstruct and opportunities can be hard to create.Especially in team matches, you’ll often see the opponent, especially if they’re weaker, be instructed to just seek refuge in tsubazeria. (For the same reason, jodan players often end up as chuken in team matches, as they work well as ‘stoppers’)

Uchikomi/kakari-geiko:

This is mostly an issue for motodachi, in making sure that the extra distance is allowed for and that there’s little point in offering ‘kote-men’.
With kakari-geiko, pay attention to recovery, give them just enough time to get to kamae (or a little less).
Ai-kakari-geiko is possible, but chudan side needs to be fairly experienced to make it worthwhile. Consider using chudan when doing this with less experienced people.

Ji-geiko:

Etiquette will vary from place to place, but whenever I practice with new people, I will start out in chudan. When we have both given what we got (or progression of the ‘fight’ stalls), I will try to pick a natural break, excuse myself and change to jodan. This means, that sometimes in mawari-geiko, that I wont always get to change to jodan. (But then that also means that practising in chudan was productive/interesting, so nothing was really lost!).

Other general ‘rules of thumb’ is that I usually don’t use jodan against in-experienced people, as the usual experience on both sides will be minimal.

Many seniors (as in age) also have little interest in practising against jodan and I try to respect that as much as possible, however when anyone calls ‘Ippon’, I will always use jodan.

I recommend reading Honda-sensei’s excellent articles on ‘Attitudes to Ji-geiko‘ and adjust your own practice accordingly.

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Published by

Jakob Schmidt

Jakob started kendo at Hizen dojo in London, but now lives in Vancouver, BC, where he trains at Vancouver Kendo Club.

17 thoughts on “A practical guide to jodan-training.”

  1. Thanks for sharing these tips. I only dabble with jodan myself but have a dojomate who is focusing on it more exclusively. These will be good for both of us to work on.

  2. Jacob an interesting article. Coincidentally Chiba sensei has just run a seminar in the UK and his advice to the only jodan player in the group was ” learn how to make correct posture and ki-ken-tai-ichi from chudan first, otherwise you are wasting your time with jodan”.

  3. @Geoff. I very deliberately avoided the whole ‘when to start jodan’ issue, as it’s a bit of a can of worms. Even Chiba sensei’s comment is wide open for interpretation; What is ‘correct posture and ki-ken-tai-ichi’? Looking at the various grading-requirements, one might say that you would have achieved that at shodan, but then compared to a say, 4th/5th dan, they’re still far away from achieving that.
    I think it’s not possible to generalize the ‘when to start jodan’. It will all depend on the teacher, dojo and the individual.

  4. Thanks Batman, a very useful article as one of my students has just started practicing jodan seriously. You’ve confirmed a lot of what I’ve already said to him, but coming from someone who practices jodan full time it carries a lot more weight. b

  5. Great article! But would you explain what morote means exactly? I never heard it before, from reading now I would guess it means changing from left foot forward to right foot forward. Is that correct? And if so, is it one motion, e.g. after doing the fumikomi with left, immediately doing the next cut and using the right foot from behind for fumikomi? Or do I, after cutting with left fumikomi, first realign the right foot behind the left one and then taking over with the right or even first realign the right foot in front and then starting? Thanks for clarifying!
    I just asked my sensei a few weeks ago if it was okay for me to occasionally do jodan during practice and even though I got permission and he explained when and how it would make most sense, it’s great to have this very detailed list to check back on occasionally. Thanks

  6. Thanks Jakob, great piece. Being a full time Jodan player myself, I think you’ve nailed it on the key things to practice basics. Personally I don’t take Jodan for Kakarigeiko as it is usually high energy and an expectation to do as many fast good cuts as you can by seme, suriage, uchiotoshi etc. This is in direct contrast to how I play so I’ve found it of more value to do this in Chudan.
    If I might humbly offer a couple of other training ideas to consider:
    * As I play Hidari Jodan (which is left foot forward as many of you know) I practice suburi of jogeburi, nanameburi, hiyasuburi etc during warm up in this stance. I would recommend alternating between Morote and  suburi to ensure your right shoulder warms up also. Even if I’m not doing it katate, I still use this footwork as I found it helps greatly.
    * Per your accurate comment on Kote, I’ve set up a dummy to allow me to practice kote & he doesn’t complain if i miss. Not ideal but can increase your accuracy before you practice seriously with motodachi
    * Technique of kote nuki morote men. So lowering kote slightly to invite attack, raising hands (ala Kata 1) when the opponent attacks and then striking morote men.
    I also like your comment on bruises (in your tsuki section). This is an important point that I always mention to people who ask my advice as they are considering practicing Jodan. Ie be prepared to be a punching bag for a while. If you can’t look in the mirror at new bruises and smile, perhaps Jodan isn’t for you.

    Thanks again and say hi to Big Dave B for me.

    Nick

  7. I realize I’m two years late in the comment section, but still want to send my thanks for this great piece. I searched the Web for beginner tips on jodan, and this gave me far more in a comprehensive, compact way than I ever could have hoped for. I feel more confident now even before I start. Your text lives on the net and is still helpful, thank you.

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