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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Don’t give advice to other peoples students

他人の弟子をアドバイスするな。

子供たちは順調に伸びていくわけではない。
右に行ったり左に逸れたりしながら伸べていくのだ。
右に曲がっているものを矯正するには、
真っ直ぐではなくて。
左に行きすぎるぐらいにしないと真っ直ぐにはならない。
それが解って指導できるのは、直接の師匠だけなのである。

出稽古などに行って、よその門下生と稽古するときは、
スキがあったら打ってやればいい。メンばかり打ってくる子に、
「コテもドウもあるよ」などと言わない方がいい。
訳あって「メンの稽古をしろ」と言われているかもしれないのだ。

Don’t give advice to other peoples students!

Kids (kendo) doesn’t always improve according to plan.
If you go too far to the right the only way to fix it is aim left, not by simply going straight ahead.
In fact, if you don’t bend extra far to the left then things won’t straighten themselves out.
The person who understands how to do this is the kids direct teacher alone.

If you go for degeiko (training outside your dojo) etc and keiko with other teachers students you should strike them whenever you see an opening. If all they do is attack your men you shouldn’t stop them and say “you can also strike kote and dou as well you know.”
After all, they might have been told (by their teacher) to “practise only men” as far as you know…


Arriving in Japan back in 2003 I immediately started searching for a dojo and a good teacher. Although I finally found a good dojo, and practised there constantly for 2 years, I didn’t really find a the kind of teacher I was after. Strong sensei, yes, but nobody that inspired or mentored me like Mr Miyagi did Daniel.

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