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.
Yesterday, for the first time in half-a-year I held an Eikenkai session. For the last 10 years or so we’ve been going at a pace of one session every couple of months, but with work and baby making life hectic, it has been difficult to get the time.
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.
When my alarm went off at 6am this morning (Sunday) I dragged my body out of bed, had a large cup of coffee, grabbed my stuff, then headed over to Kyoto to take part in this years Kyoto University high school invitational competition. By “take part” I of course mean “take my students over to compete.”
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 …