Over the last few weeks I’ve been super busy, both with keiko (as usual) and also researching/planning/writing the next kenshi 24/7 publication(s). Feeling guilty about neglecting this website (!!), I’ve decided to post an entire chapter from our last publication: KENDO TOKUHON (the kendo reader).
The importance of basic training has already been mentioned in an earlier chapter dealing with the process of kendo, but of the many methods used in basic training, perhaps kirikaeshi is the most essential.
Kirikaeshi is an exercise that all kendo shugyosha must not neglect. Some may think that it is an exercise necessary only for beginners but they are quite mistaken. Of course, it is an important drill for the novice, but it is also a drill that is invaluable for the more experienced as well.
During the first stages of training a student may move to keiko, shiai and the like only after first constructing a foundation for his kendo through basic training. If, however, from the start he engages solely in keiko and shiai, excessive concern for winning will result in the development of small technique and bad habits. Attacking with abandon, leaping from a distance and positive striking will all suffer. For the stemming of bad habits, the correction of already established bad habits, and for the fostering of large, correct and relaxed kendo, there is nothing as effective as the practice of kirikaeshi. Even so, however effective the practice of kirikaeshi may be, if it is not done properly it will not have the desired result.
The way to practice kirikaeshi is as follows: from to-ma (long distance) raise a loud attacking kiai and leap in to strike men with a large and straight blow, follow it with 5, 7, or 9 more oblique strikes to the left and right men, beginning and ending with a strike to the receivers left side. Break off and step out to the required distance and repeat the process again. When making the oblique strikes they must be accompanied by loud attacking kiai.
The do’s and don’ts of kirikaeshi
* Relax the shoulders;
* Straighten the elbows when striking;
* Do not sway the head, waist etc, to the rhythm of the strikes;
* Keep control of the gap between the feet, and of posture during the advancing and retreating;
* Take care to avoid striking with the back or side of the shinai;
* Always strike to the obliquely to the men with the feeling of actually cutting it;
* Always raise the shinai and strike fully.
It is essential to practice kirikaeshi fully and correctly. If one seeks only speed, striking will become imprecise, insufficient and small. Always aim for precision and then with improvements gradually increase the speed.
The benefits of kirikaeshi
1. Improves posture;
2. Develops fiercer technique;
3. Increases stamina;
4. Develops stronger and surer striking;
5. Makes the shoulders more supple;
6. Develops clear and sharp te-no-uchi;
7. Develops free and fluid arm action;
8. The body becomes light and agile;
9. Develops free use of the long sword;
10. Develops the ability to maintain posture;
11. Develops sharper eyesight (i.e. powers of observation);
12. Develops swifter technique;
13. Improves footwork;
14. Develops a calm mind;
15. Develops awareness of striking distance;
16. Corrects tachi-suji (hasuji), understanding the cutting plane of the blade;
17. Develops the ability to strike from to-ma;
18. Strengthens the arms;
19. Strengthens the spirit;
20. Strengthens the whole body.
There are many other benefits that could be added to the list. At times, for instance, when technique does not flow as it should, when one’s confidence for shiai is low, or when the spirit in general is at a low ebb, the practice of kirikaeshi is the best remedy.
The person who is receiving kirikaeshi must allow enough distance for striking. He must alter the intensity of the practice according to the ability and strength of the student while at all times drawing him out spiritually.
The benefits of receiving kirikaeshi
1. Posture improves;
2. The body becomes light and agile;
3. Develops clearer eyesight;
4. Develops awareness of the opponents skill;
5. Develops awareness of distance;
6. Develops surer and sharper te-no-uchi;
7. Develops parrying skills;
8. Calms and quietens the mind.
Again, if we were to take into consideration other more subtle benefits we would discover many more advantages to be had from receiving kirikaeshi. If sound and correct kirikaeshi is practiced continually and without falter, one will never cease to make good progress and an excellent style of kendo will result.
EDIT: This is a promo vid for the highly popular Kendo Coaching Tips and Drills manual released by kenshi 24/7 back in September 2012. Kirikaeshi from 0:38-0:55. Enjoy!
Kendo Tokuhon (the kendo reader) by Noma Hisashi. Edited by George McCall. Published 2013.