Category: theory

Maai is willpower 間合は気力だよ

The ability to read and utilise distance in kendo is paramount. In Japanese this is referred to “Maai” (間合) and “Ma” (間) – “physical distance” and “interval.” Some people use the terms interchangeably or overlapping – though they really are different words, they definitely overlap (a kind of “spatial relativity” as it were) . At any rate, it is important to understand the physical space between you and your partner, and the time it takes to traverse it (with your body or shinai).

Engendering positive kendo 積極的な剣風を養う

Introduction In a recent opinion piece posted on the Tokyo Kendo Associations website, Morshima Tateo sensei re-iterated his desire for kendo to return to its historically attack-centric style rather than the “win-at-all-costs” defensive style that is often seen nowadays. Although winning-at-all-costs and defending may seem contradictory it actually isn’t: winning is predicated on not-losing, and the surest way to do this is to minimise attacks (which create 隙, or “openings” which can be struck) and constantly be on the defensive. This of course works especially well if you are one ippon up.

Zanshin confusion, sutemi, and hikiage 真の残心

The common meaning of ZANSHIN nowadays is exactly as the kanji suggest – 残心 – “remaining spirit.” In other words, once you have struck you have to remain aware of your opponent in case they attempt to strike you back and, if they do so, you should be in a position to counterattack. In modern kendo this usually (for men) takes the physical form of turning around, facing your opponent, and going into kamae after a strike. I’ll explain why this can be slightly odd behaviour further down.

Conceptual kendo shield 我拳を楯につくべき事

Many many moons ago, straight after graduating university, I uprooted and moved to America. I had started kendo only a couple of years earlier and, after taking some time to settle down, I eventually joined Ken-Zen dojo in NYC. There I found myself in great environment with awesome teachers and – for the first time in my life – a proper dojo. Before iaido and kendo keiko on Saturdays there was also kenjutsu being taught, something I knew absolutely nothing about… and so, after some persuasion and with recommendations from some of the kendo and iaido sensei, I was given …

Ichinen-fusho 一念不生

Today’s article is a short translation piece from the venerable Ogawa Chutaro sensei (1901-1992). Not only was Ogawa sensei kendo hanshi kyudan (teaching posts at Kokushikan and Keishicho) and an Itto-ryu and Jikishinkage-ryu swordsman, he was also one of the few distinguished kenshi known to have a truly deep involvement in buddhism. I think only Yamaoka Tesshu and Omori Sogen top him in this regard. His ideas about the purpose of kendo as well as his rationale for practising budo, was influenced heavily by this, and can be seen in The Concept of Kendo, which he helped write. I’m not …