Kakashi jodan

There are some people that take jodan-no-kamae whilst sparring their sempai or sensei. Jodan is about overpowering the enemy and forcing their technique, spirit, and power to cower before yours, all the while unreservedly attacking any of their openings wholeheartedly (sutemi). To reach the point where you can do this requires a long and arduous training regime. Even skilled masters take 30 or 40 years after first putting on their bogu to reach this level… so its only really these people that are ready to take jodan. People that try jodan without first reaching this level have a kamae that is completely open to attack and – whether they are on the attack or are attacking – they just look clumsy. Their attacks are strangely groping-like, relying only on luck and good fortune for success. This type of jodan has been called KAKASHI-JODAN from a long time ago.

(‘kakashi’ means someone who takes the outward form of something for the sake of status or pride despite their lack of ability to do the thing they say or attempt to do. It can also refers to scarecrows – they look human, but they aren’t.)

It we gathered all the current active hanshi and split them into 4 groups and ask each “What do you think makes good jodan?” we’d have a lot of discussion on the matter… jodan is that difficult to master.

In other words, it is only superior level kenshi should be taking it up and beginners or low-skilled people using such a prestigious kamae against their sensei or sempai are simply rude. For people that wish to make their opponents look foolish (i.e. use the kamae in order simply to strike their opponents, win at shiai, or to get prestige and look cool through using it) I want to tell you that this is an unacceptable attitude.

Even if our partner is of the same level we are taught to say “GO BU-REI SHIMASU” (‘I’m being impolite’) before taking jodan; people using the kamae must fully understand why they say this.

My point is that there are many more important things worthy of study than simply the desire to hit people, and I want you to think of and work on these things instead. I’ve other things to say on the matter but I’ll leave it here. I hope this can be of some aid.

– Nakayama Hakudo

Editors comment

The above small piece is Nakayama Hakudo’s comments on jodan. He has a particularly strong opinion on who is eligible to practise jodan. Takano Sasaburo, senior to and probably a more influential kenshi than him, forced all of his students at Tokyo Shihan Gakko to practise jodan in their 3rd year of school (he was training people to be kendo teachers however). As a hanshi active at the same time as Nakayama, he serves to illustrate a different approach than the one above.

Although the era and the style of kendo in which Nakayama wrote the above is different from ours, it doesn’t take a close inspection of youtube to see that many people attempt jodan far to early on in their careers (never mind nito…). Kakashi jodan, as Nakayama would recognise it, is sadly still very alive today.


中山博道剣道口述集。堂本昭彦 (原者:中山善道・稲村栄一)。スキージャーナル株式会社。2007年発行。

By George

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23 replies on “Kakashi jodan”

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the “don’t do jodan unless you’re 9th dan” adage. Seriously.

I’ll readily accept it to be absolute truth, as soon as someone explains to me why the most basic bokuto exercise, the tachi no kata ipponme, teaches both participants to attack from jodan. That’s all I want: a believable explanation for why a kenshi would need three months of experience to assume jodan in kata, and 40 years to assume it in shiai. That’s a difference of, like, two orders of magnitude.

Are we to attach significance to the fact that only uchidachi ever assumes hidari-jodan? Point out that shidachi only assumes jodan as a reaction to jodan, and that hidari-jodan always loses? Interesting to think about, for sure… but at the end, the fact remains that the first time one assumes jodan is about the same time (or even sooner) as the time one first wears bogu.

Nobody is saying you have to be 9dan to do jodan.. simply that you should have reached a suitable level in chudan before attempting the kamae. I hardly think anyone can argue with this.

You argument is based on the incorrect assumption that the kata are teaching you ‘how to do jodan.’ Sure, you take the shape of jodan but the point is not teaching you how to fight from the kamae (as you can obviously see by the techniques executed in the kata) but more metaphysical aspects behind the kendo thinking of the teachers at that time; in particular a humans relationship to heaven. Most people – Japanese teachers included – don’t know anything about these teachings anymore (or more to to the point, don’t care for them) so explanation is usually lacking, and lack of knowledge understandable.

If your argument were correct, people would be able to spar in wakigamae or hasso as well…

I think that the ‘restrictions’ to Jodan (and Nito to some extent) have been blown our out proportion by westerners in the 20-21st centuries, alongside other allegedly metaphysical aspects of Kendo.

When I first started kendo back in 2000 under a Japanese police sensei, he was very clear and forthcoming about teaching Jodan as soon as the very basics where out of the way – that for him meant shodan, if training and shinsa went in a straight progression.

Whereas it makes sound sense that there is no point in taking an additional kamae such as Jodan when your chudan is clearly lacking, that I believe is for purely physical/mechanical aspects. The muscles and the knowledge for timing/opportunity are simply not there yet.

I have seen some Jodan on Highschool Kendo recently, and I think that the sport has a whole benefits from a little variety, so to speak.

Hi Alex,

Thanks for your measured comment. Shodan will almost certainly be a bit too fast for the majority of people but as you said, as long as basics are at a reasonable level (and for most people that takes years) then why not? I have trained with top-level professional police men for years and if I decided to take up jodan now I’d simply be laughed at… that might say more about my kendo ability though!

High school kendo culture (which we aren’t talking about here) is a little bit different to adults kendo, so there are certain things that you may allow in that short 2.5-3 years of their training that you otherwise wouldn’t. For example, I have personally taught jodan to a student before she even reached shodan as I knew that she probably wouldn’t continue kendo after she graduated plus it would be useful in shiai (which it was). I know many many adult kenshi that gave up jodan as soon as they left university (i.e. shiai life is over and so its time to do kendo ‘properly’).

i.e. high school and university level kendo in Japan is not indicative of kendo at large. Nor are the ZNKR champs either!

Not sure what the ‘allegedly’ refers to above, but within kendos tradition/pedagogy there is a ton of teachings that deal with things on a more… um… grandiose level. For kata (since thats what we are talking about here I guess?), whats referred to as “Yin-Yang” in Chinese (as most people will more than likely be at least partially familiar with the term in this language) was deliberately and consciously built into them. This almost certainly stems from the fact that the designers of the kata themselves came from older traditions that had these teachings. Remember also that there was a set of 3 kata created before the ones that we use today that used metaphysical teachings, and we also have the earlier gogyo-no-kata from Takano that dealed specifically in Yin-Yang theory. Of-course there is a point in your training when you should be looking into the deeper theory of kendo and a time when you shouldn’t…

Please note that the original comments are by Nakayama Hakudo, not myself. I have no problem with people doing jodan as long as they can do chudan. Perhaps the people that seem to get defensive about this are those that recognise themselves in the kakashi-jodan description?

Mr McCall, unless I misread your article, someone *did* say that you have to be 8th dan to assume jodan. Nakayama Hakudo claimed that the necessary experience level for one to assume it is 30-40 years, which sounds about right for hachidan. It might have been an exaggeration for me to say 9th instead of 8th, but it was only a slight one.

Jodan does have a higher standard than chudan when it comes to knowledge of basics. Any short-comings one has will be magnified immensely if one changes kamae from chudan. However, that begs the question… If “defining good jodan is hard”, then is “defining good chudan” easy? If it’s a matter of one’s basics, then what level is considered “suitable” or “reasonable”? How many years (decades?) does it take for the basics to be “out of the way”? And, for that matter, what does “basics” even refer to? If memory serves, the kendo examination guide-lines require attention to the examinees’ basics up to rokudan, and Alex Bennett specifically mentioned that good basics are the key to nanadan. Do we, so to speak, ever really leave our “base”?

I might be 100% mistaken on that, but I always find myself focusing on improvement over level. Case in point: Can a player improve his/her kendo by doing something unorthodox that he/she prefers over chudan? If so, he/she will have my support. If not, I’ll kindly suggest that he/she returns to chudan.

Also: You’re saying that kata resemble a religion more than a fight. What say I just express my disagreement and we’ll leave it at that.

Lastly: I’m relieved that you’re not against jodan players in general. I do think it was easy to mistake your intention, however: the “it’s obvious that kakashi jodan is very alive today” comment did sound very derisive. And, for that matter, underhandedly accusing people isn’t exactly polite either.

Please call me George. I don’t bother with anonymity nor formality and I usually don’t bother replying in detail to people who aren’t polite enough to tell me their name (maybe I can just call you ‘Crabby’????). Anyway, I don’t like to leave the comments section hanging on a negative note, so I’ll add something briefly.

I think you have hit the nail on the head regarding acquiring good basics and, I bet, you and I are not so different in our viewpoints. I apologise if I’ve upset you.

Let me try to very briefly address your points (something of them too nit-picky for my likes). Take from it what you will:

– 8dan or 9dan almost certainly didn’t exist when this teaching (its not a writing) was recorded, so Nakayama could not have been referring to this grade;

– I know many many people with 30 or 40 years experience that are not 8dan nor never will be, in fact, its normal, so time does not necessarily equate to grade nor ability;

– Mochida famously stated it took him 50 years to acquire the basics (this is a bonus… his famous quote is hanging on the wall behind my computer);

– I did not mention religion once. The kata (and those they are largely based on) do have yin-yang theory embedded therein (fact) and its obvious from original sources that part of the original intention was to transmit this knowledge;

– To be blunt, a quick skim of youtube shows some terrible kendo. Some of that in chudan, some of that in jodan and what have you. I’m sorry that you seem to take this personal and you feel offended by that statement.

In addition – and I talk from my experience in Japan here – the fact of the matter is jodan is utilised almost exclusively in the high school and university shiai world. Sure, some people who are shiai-orientated will keep practising into adulthood, but most will return to chudan for the serious business of ‘real kendo.’

Unless you want me to post video of me doing terrible jodan (kakashi style) onto youtube, I’ll leave it there.

p.s. the ‘crabby’ remark is a joke!

Hi George,

Thanks for the (very)thorough response. Allow me to apologize if I came across as defensive or hostile, that was not my intention.

I understood that the article was based on the view of Nakayma Hakudo, and I think that the points you made all make sound sense.I do, however, hold a certain ‘grudge’, if you will, against the extrapolation of the historical and metaphysical aspects that sometimes happens in the west.

I believe I understand where that comes from (e.g. the famous remark of Mochida about taking 50 years to master the basics). I do believe however that, like any sport, we are talking about muscles and synaptic connections and little else. Somehow, the theory that if you are not downright excellent (i.e. ZNKR level) in chudan you should not pick any other kamae sounds a bit (and only a bit) like a swimmer that has not won a national-level competition in crawl/freestyle can’t train breaststroke, for instance.

All that said being somehow marooned down here in the south of Brazil I don’t think I can even recognize proper (or improper) Jodan, nor have I ever tried it. BUT, I support the view that once basics (not Mochida’s 50-year basics though!) are at a reasonable level, Jodan and/or nito or any other thing that might come up in the future should be OK.


– Alex

Morning Alex,

You don’t need to apologise and I totally agree with your ALL of your points! I too am not fond of the over metaphysical aspect we sometimes hear in the West… always have been. Reading decades worth of material in Japanese, however, you can see that there is a healthy metaphysical tradition over here as well, though it differs quite a lot in breadth and scope (as well as it being close to disappearing). I think those of us that are serious in our study of kendo should make an effort to research this… and this site is somewhere (the only place?) that is attempting to slowly release information on the matter.

Thinking on it, however, I realise that a lot of people have little interest in this ‘deeper’ aspect… and I guess thats ok. Most Japanese kenshi – who have easy access to the material – dont bother to study it anyway.

Gotta run!

– George

Alex, you’ve caused me to ponder over some of the discussion above. Most of the direction of this site follows a lot of my own areas of study… which is currently found in reading (generally) pre-war kendo works with heavy metaphysical leanings.

In my bag at the moment, however, is a book on the teachings of Ogawa Chutaro (the subtitle being ‘how to live a peaceful life through kendo’) and one by Takegawa Nobuhiko called ‘the principles behind using competition (kendo) to improve your partner (and yourself)’ (both post-war written books) so its only natural to see some of the ideas brought up in not only in my comments, but in what articles I select for the site. If I were to choose only items that are popular with the majority of my readers (I can get a feel of this through facebook insights and various stats) then I’d stick with posting competition videos… as they – by far and away – are the most popular.

Not sure if I am ‘replying’ to anything in particular here!! I should be working…

This seems to have veered off into a few of the good old budo/kendo ‘taboos’. Whether or not beginners should or should not learn jodan being one of them.

It’s interesting that some japanese kodansha in the West will occasionally try to articulate some of the ‘metaphysical theories’ and such (ki etc) only seem to do so when pressed by a student who is asking them directly or just by briefly running past the subject during practise when encouraging tame or similiar. Maybe they are afraid that their comments will be taken the wrong way outside Japan?

The reason I say this is because alot of the good budo translations that we in the West are given access to (through good work by people like George), the sensei deeply discuss these concepts (i.e using the opponents ki etc), yet anytime a Westerner brings them up it is usually met with disbelief and scepticism.

At any rate, I prefer to keep my opinions to myself in these matters and practise the best I can regardless of what I may or may not believe. Ichi-go-ichi-e!

Hey Andy, sorry for the late reply. Great points as usual!!

Although I read a lot about the more deeper aspects of kendo on a daily basis and attempt to present some aspects here, my sensei never talk about them. Well, maybe the occasional of-cuff remark after a beer or two, but pretty much nothing. I think this leaves the practitioner to find out things their own way and in their own time. Some never bother of course.


thanks for the article. It was interesting read (I will not get into commenting on jodan kamae).

Should mention in context of this discussion it is kinda ironic that you have 634 as your avatar. 🙂

“Even if our partner is of the same level we are taught to say ‘GO BU-REI
SHIMASU’ (‘I’m being impolite’) before taking jodan; people using the
kamae must fully understand why they say this.”

It’s funny how, given that, the title character in “Musashi no Ken” actually becomes less rude after he starts taking the jodan stance exclusively.

its very common to hear that people who are not at least some 4 dan should not try jodan no kamae. a just started to be a bit more serious with jodan and i am 2 dan. my sensei looked at it. how i hit and all and he believes i could be good at it if i practice hard.
he will help me as far as he can to guid me and i am thankful for it. i my opinion if you have a good basic and your sensei sees it and will help you. you could start jodan no kamae even in younger years with out having practice normal kendo for decades
adn as far as i could see simple jodan practise heps a lot with my normal kendo and i can hit better and sharper so its never a waste of time for me. 😀

but it will be a long way to go, starting with jodan suburis.

Thanks for commenting Eric.

Rather than an arbitrary level of ‘4th dan’ I think its more realistic to say ’10 years of experience.’ Of course, individuals have different rates of progression and different strengths and weaknesses. Most people who try jodan without a lot of experience behind them inevitably look terrible….

Good luck !

This is a great article, maybe more so from my perspective of being a jodan player. I can guarantee you that in my kendo career, I have many, many times been in a position where my jodan was kakashi jodan. I’ve been destroyed when using it more times than I can remember, told my jodan was a “joke” (some Japanese sarcasm), and tsuki’d into walls more often than I’d like too count.

With my hindsight being 20/20, I can say that I started jodan too early; I didn’t know enough kendo and it most likely slowed my overall progress. But at the same time, IMO, struggling with a kakashi jodan phase and taking the licks that came with it is really what for me let me truly begin to understand the mindset needed to use an effective jodan.

The interesting part (for me personally) is when you begin to understand jodan, you really begin to understand chudan. And vice versa, making a very synergistic learning cycle. As one sensei (who happens to be the one who also did most of the “destruction” above) always tells me is “practicing jodan and practicing chudan….same thing”. This, his systematic destruction of my jodan, and him punching me in my stomach as he said “you don’t have this! ” is probably some of the most cryptic, yet useful advice I’d ever been given. As I practice more chudan as of late in preparation for grading, this advice means more and more and the synergy between chudan-jodan gets stronger and stronger.

As for the kata, jodan has provided an interesting perspective on the technical aspects. The loftier aspects are of interest as well, and I’ve done as much research on them as I can for our club kata booklet.

George is correct in that the kata don’t teach you how to use jodan. You take the form of it, but you aren’t given the ins and outs of it all.

But, from a jodan player’s perspective, that statement is also incorrect; they do teach it to you. Katas 1, 5, and 6 are jodan and anti-jodan in a nutshell. And, the ins and outs are there…IF you know how to look for them. But, and I say this from personal experience, strangely enough it’s hard to get that big IF unless you pass through pure kakashi jodan into more effective jodan.

And in the same way that chudan-jodan has a synergy, I have found a similar synergy with kata-jodan, which then goes on to provide a synergy of kata-jodan-chudan. Meaning, when I do katas 1, 5, or 6, they have a more enhanced meaning because of my shinai kendo, but then the kata help me process my shinai kendo performance. That then began to almost magically translate over to kata 2, 3, 4, and 7.

This whole post all sounds very much like “martial arts cliche”… 😉

Stephen, thanks for the long comment and sorry for the delay in responding… I’ve been super busy with kendo and prep for my trip back home. Ok, it’s hard to comment on your success in jodan without seeing what your kendo looks like. I practise with a couple of extremely good jodan people so my idea of ‘kakashi’ is probably not the same as yours, and I’m guessing Nakayama’s (this article is a translation of his words) would be different than mine.

Anyway. as for kendo no kata: over the years my thoughts have changed vastly on the subject… I now believe there is little that is ‘lofty’ in them except that which has been added in hindsight (and by that I mean very recently). The kendo kata were created simply as a tool for teaching basics to school children (and probably in response/competition to other kata). Had kendo not become a mandatory school subject then they wouldn’t have been created. If you want to look into the depths of kata then you need to step out of kendo I’m afraid…

“I practise with a couple of extremely good jodan people so my idea of ‘kakashi’ is probably not the same as yours, and I’m guessing Nakayama’s (this article is a translation of his words) would be different than mine.”


I hope my original post didn’t come off as sounding like I’m an expert and “Kendo according to Steve” is the absolute. Just musings on my own practice. >.<

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