Nukitsuke

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.

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Miyazaki number

The kendo community is extremely small. I can’t even compute the number of times I’ve been chatting to someone (real life or online) when a connection has been made to a mutual friend. I’ve lived in three countries (U.K., America, and Japan) and have done keiko in 15+ more, so I’ve had plenty opportunity to meet various people. Through this website, Eikenkai, and via people visiting me for keiko in Osaka I’ve met even more.

One night a couple of weeks ago I was reading an article about how the net has changed our sense of community, and how more collaborative we have become, when I remembered trying to calculate my Bacon Number at some point (not being an actor this was the best I could manage: I saw Robert di Nero in Central park one day, and he worked with Kevin Bacon in Sleepers!). This got me to thinking: surely we could do something like this for the kendo community.

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Yuko-datotsu 有効打突

Ippon (n.)

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.

Ki-ken-tai-no-itchi (n.)

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.

Yuko-datotsu (n.)

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.

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The effect keiko has on the character of its practitioners

As it is said that ‘the eyes can speak as well as the mouth,’ it must follow that the language of the eyes is delicate and subtle. French philosopher Georges-Luis Leclerc de Buffon stated that ‘words’ express the character of man; an insightful remark. The sword is also considered to reveal the character of the person wielding it and as such, each person has their own individual kendo style. Courageous people, cowardly people, honest people; everyone’s character is reflected in their swordplay. The character of instructors will be passed onto their students as well. It is important to learn under a good teacher of virtuous character, for even the simple act of exchanging blows with a shinai can influence students in many ways. Among the lessons of kendo, there is a teaching that ‘if the soul is just, the sword is also just.’ This teaching is deeply connected to the path of discipline and is a kind of warning against unjust thought and skills.

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shinai complex 竹刀コン

It must have been in 2001. It was the night before the European kendo championships (Bologna I guess) and I was chatting with the then U.K. kendo team coach Honda Sotaro sensei about shinai. In particular, I was unhappy with the shinai I had taken with me to use in the competition and was seeking advice. Many of my friends proclaimed to be happy to use anything that came their way, but I was a little bit more picky than that. I remember being told by Honda sensei quite specifically that it was important to understand what shinai is right for you, and that being fastidious in shinai choice isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I felt reassured that my worry was for nothing but of-course these were the days when internet ordering of shinai was pretty much in its infancy, and when European kendo suppliers were extremely uncommon, so I didn’t really have the chance to be picky anyway.

Fast forward a little bit to 2006. I had been living in Japan for a few years and it had become amazingly easy for me to go to a kendo shop and physically choose and purchase a shinai. In that years June edition of Kendo Nippon there appeared an article called 私の好む竹刀 or “my favourite (type of) shinai” The article got 24 kenshi from around Japan and asked them about their shinai preferences (along with a picture).

I won’t translate all 24 here (read the mag!) just the Chiba Masashi hanshi section. I will then briefly post the name, height and weight, favoured shinai type, and main quote from the other 23.
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