I am sure most if not all regular kenshi247.net readers have at least heard of bokuto ni yoru kihon waza keiko ho if not already actively practising it (some people for years I guess). The first time I was introduced to it was in 2000 (or 2001?) at a seminar in Brussels, Belgium (Editor: see Serge’s comment below). What we were doing wasn’t explained to us and we rushed through the practise of it. 10 years later I find myself in a position where I must actively teach this to my beginner students as – starting this year (2010) – it has become a requirement for ikkyu across Japan.
Although I’ve been through it a few times and I think it an extremely simple set of exercises, I thought I had better go to a seminar and find out exactly what it is for and what I am meant to teach. What follows here is (selected/partial) translated information from the materials provided by a seminar held in Osaka earlier this year. The seminar was taught by 5 hachidan and the participants had to be at least godan (exceptions where made for school teachers lower than this). I also recently received direct instruction on the method by a sensei who had recently attended a hachidan-only seminar where this was taught.
I will leave my personal comments to the end.
Bokuto ni yoru kihon waza keiko ho
In order to acquire kendo techniques based on the the concept that “the shinai is the katana,” a bokuto is used to execute various carefully selected techniques. Use of a bokuto (i.e. it approximates a sword better than a shinai) helps the students to understand TOHO more easily (literally “sword methods” i.e. not only the basic physical movements of using a sword but also the principle and concepts that lie behind this)
2. Basic pointers
- this method is preparation for the study of kendo-no-kata;
- the aim is for the acquire correct kendo through using a bokuto;
- you should use a bokuto that matches your development level (i.e. one that’s right for your age/size);
- for rules on the basic movements see “Yoshonen kendo shido yoryo” (Kendo teaching essentials for kindergarden children and juveniles) and “kendo shido yoryo” (Kendo teaching essentials);
- this method is normally used for teaching large groups so in order for everyone to be on the same level use the terms “motodachi” and “kakarite” (i.e. not “uchidachi” and “shidachi” which presupposes a teacher-student relationship);
- if you teach in a large group, movements must occur on the teachers order;
the teacher should chose the waza to teach based on the level of the students;
- in aiming to increase the level of the students, the teacher should try various strategies, for example he stands in front of the class and acts as motodachi and all the students face him and perform the kakarite side, etc.
3. Points to be careful of
( this section is heavily cut )
- Kamae: everything is in chudan;
- Metsuke: look at your opponents eyes;
- Maai: all waza start from issoku-itto-no-mai (UCHIMA) and the completion of each set finishes in YOKOTE;
- Datotsu (strike): strike with the correct flight path, using the monouchi and pull up your left leg (hikitsuke). All strikes should be made in a single motion (ichibyoshi). Although the strikes stop just before the target, the student must be made to understand that they are cutting or thrusting with a sword;
- ashisabaki: use okuriashi;
- kakegoe: call the name of the target area ie men, kote, do, or tsuki;
- zanshin: after striking return to chudan without a lapse in concentration.
4. List of waza
Kihon 1 – Ippon uchi no waza: Shomen. Kote. Do (hidari). Tsuki
Kihon 2- ni-san dan no waza: Kote-men
Kihon 3 – Harai-waza: Harai-men
Kihon 4 – Hiki-waza: Hiki-do
Kihon 5 – Nuki-waza : men nuki-do
Kihon 6 – Suriage-waza: kote suriage-men
Kihon 7 – Debana-waza: debana-kote
Kihon 8 – Kaeshi-waza: men kaeshi-do
Kihon 9 – Uchiotoshi-waza: do uchiotoshi-men
(Feel free to skip this portion!)
As a basic introduction to kendo and as a training tool for children, I think this kihon waza keiko ho (KWKH for short) is an excellent tool. For experienced people that already have acquired kendo movements this set is not only simple to execute, but can be remembered within a very short time, i.e. its easy to teach. Although its not written anywhere that this is specifically for children, it was said repeatedly that this is who it was aimed at in the seminar that I attended, and was echoed by the hachidan from whom I received recent direct instruction from. That its now a mandatory part of ikkyu exams across the country cements this position (ikkyu is a childs grade. Its common – but not exclusively so – for adult beginners to be given ikkyu without an exam).
Of course, the most important piece of evidence to support the KWKH as a childs teaching methodology is that BUDO will become a mandatory subject in Junior high schools throughout Japan in two years time. With the introduction of KWKH we now have a very simple and – importantly – very cheap method to teach “kendo” to children. Even P.E. teachers with only elementary kendo experience (e.g. a course at university) will be able to teach it. You don’t need dogi or bogu, simply a bokuto*. This was a smart piece of maneuvering on the part of the ZNKR over the judo association… as its potentially cheaper now to teach kendo over judo in schools.
( * Recently a safe, non-wooden “bokuto” made to sell to schools has been released. It seems that there is potentially a lot of money to be made here by someone somewhere… )
I have to teach this to beginners. Its a bit of a pain (I have a lot to teach already) but I will manage. Although I mentioned that it was an “excellent” tool and it was “simple” to learn, I am really puzzled by three of the waza included: harai men, hiki waza, and do uchiotoshi men.
Harai-men: orthodox kendo methodolgy teaches omote-harai-men to knock the shinai/bokuto down (not up like the KWKH) before striking. If doing the waza on the ura side, then the shinai is knocked up and either kote, men, or kote-men is struck. Why teach a waza that is – if perfectly valid – not one high on the teaching charts?
Hiki-waza: I think the method used is just too convoluted to apply in shinai kendo, part of the aim of the KWKH. I also question its relevance to TOHO.
Do-uchiotoshi-men: A valid technique but one that is rarely used nowadays. I must admit I enjoy performing it, but I question its usefulness when it comes to the stated aim of the KWKH.
Of-course, I am not and never will be hachidan like the people that put the KWKH together, but I actively teach beginners and these particular waza choices leave me with unanswered questions.
Adults are better off with kata
I think as an introduction to kendo for adults then the KWKH is great. I don’t really see its value after kihon1 and 2 over kendo no kata though. Sure kids don’t really understand the value or purpose (nor history and tradition) behind the kata, but adults should be able to “get it.”
Part of a larger move to Pure kendo?
Its a sad fact that kendo no kata isn’t given the respect it deserves, especially here in the Japanese kendo community. As the kendo community is moving towards a more Pure Kendo culture (i.e. where kendo is a combat sport based on the shinai), perhaps it would be easier to drop or reduce the importance of kendo no kata in favour of the much more shinai-kendo-orientated KWKH? If teaching TOHO is an aim of the znkr, then surely they should preserve the kata as designed by people from actually sword traditions? I am sure you all know, but the people on the 1912 board that designed the kata (Teikoku kendo no kata) were: Takano Sasaburo, Ono-ha itto-ryu; Mona Tadashi, Hokushin itto-ryu; Naito Takaharu, Hokushin itto-ryu; Negishi Shigoro, Shinto munen-ryu; and Tsuji Shinpei, Shingyoto-ryu… all leading swordsmen of their generation.
Perhaps TOHO (刀法) is not the right word except in abstract. What we are learning today is a shinai-ho (竹刀法) based on the bokuto-ho (木刀法), itself an abstraction of the sword. Mind you, it could easily be said that most of the extant swordsmanship traditions themselves are more bokuto orientated than aimed towards realistic sword combat…
These are my personal musings – for what they are worth! Generally I try to keep my own feelings out of my articles, so feel free to ignore or argue with them at your leisure!!