This year lets, with the goal of polishing our kihon, endeavour to spend a lot of time doing ‘uchikomi.’

Kyoto Budo Senmon Gakko’s (Busen) head instructor, Naito Takahuru, emphasised ‘uchikomi’ (what we now call ‘kakari’) – as transmitted by Hokushin Itto-ryu in Mito (Tobukan, where Naito started kendo) – as an important part of training. All five of the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR) awarded 10-dan’s were students of Naito at Busen. That is, Ogawa Kinnosuke, Saimura Goro, Mochida Moriji, Nakano Sosuke, and Oasa Yuji.

The content of the ‘uchikomi’ itself could be repetitiously attacking the motodachi’s men (left or right) using small cuts, or could be doing large shomen cuts, or even cutting the left and right dou, etc etc. At this time, the motodachi’s job is not simply to stand and receive but, if he sees and opening, he should strike men or kote, and should endeavour to receive with the same feeling as the kakarite attacks (the person doing the uchikomi).

You must be careful never allow the connection between the kakarite and motodachi disappear after a single strike (i.e. it must be continuous). You must grasp the correct spatial distance (see prior article on HYOSHI), strike small and fast without large swinging motions.

It takes a lot of training to be able to grasp the others (both sides) hyoshi.

The above was written by Sakuma Saburo sensei (see the ‘About the author’ information below). When translating this very short piece I realised immedietly that it could possibly be a cause of confusion – which is it, uchikomi or kakari that he is describing? Basically, the title of the piece is UCHIKOMI, but he goes on to describe KAKARI(geiko). In it, he states quite clearly that what we call ‘kakarigeiko’ nowadays, was actually called ‘uchikomigeiko’ back in the Busen days (I don’t know if this is actually true, or just hearsay). This is very illuminating because, over the years of living in Japan, I’ve met sensei that (at least to me!) seem to be confusing the two. The official ZNKR definition (and the one I have in the Kendo Coaching manual) is simple. These are my descriptions:

  • Uchikomigeiko – the motodachi opens an area to attack, the then kakarite attacks it. Motodachi leads the pace and cuts are generally large.
  • Kakarigeiko – the kakarite attacks at will, making openings by various ways (kuzushi). Strikes are small, fast, and repetitious. The motodachi may allow strikes to land or may strike back or perform oji-waza.

However, it isn’t always as clear cut as this here in Japan. For example, in both these (great) videos below, you can see the high school students performing uchikomigeiko, yet both are called kakarigeiko, and in the second video there is a slight mixing of both (again, something I mention in the Kendo Coaching manual).

It probably still seems confusing, but its not actually. The safest bet for the non-Japanese-speaking kendoka is that they should stick to the above (ZNKR approved) definitions in general, but be aware that particular sensei or dojo may have their own understanding of the term. At least now – with the aid of Sakuma sensei – we might understand a little bit where the confusion sprung from!

About the author

SAKUMA SABURO sensei was born in 1912 in Fukushima prefecture. He started kendo at around 10/11 years old in Fukushima Butokuden. After graduating from what is now Fukushima University he started teaching kendo at various high schools. In 1939 he began to work in Mitsubushi’s mining operation and taught kendo throughout the country whilst visiting various mines. After the war, he became a student of Mochida Seiji hanshi and – while running his own kendo club – began working as a director in the Tokyo Kendo Renmei amongst other things.

He died at 84 in 1997. He was hanshi hachidan.

平成・剣道 地木水火風空 読本(下)。佐久間三郎。平成9年発行。

By George

George is the founder and chief editor of
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2 replies on “Uchikomi”

Hi George,

This is a great find, I too have noticed some confusion between the two terms and this certainly goes toward uncovering the truth about it. Thanks for sharing (and being attentive enough to notice these things, as usual!). Although my sensei is only in his late 60’s, he was somewhat trained “traditionally” by old-school guys – I’m looking forward to asking his take on this after reading this article.

In the old Mochida video (the one in the Nat Geo story), it seems that there was a heavy emphasis on kakarigeiko (I also gleam this by noting the way it is emphasized by older sensei), perhaps as you point out, to them it was uchikomigeiko back in those days.

Thanks again, great food for thought!

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