Adventures in Jodan-sae. Post #1

7/12/2015 – It has been quite a while since I first got the idea to adapt jodan during the Cleveland Kendo Tournament this spring. At the time, I started writing on a word doc a journal of sorts… reflections and what not… that I thought people would find interesting. Eventually, I hope to have enough posts to make this something worthwhile so that any kendoist can benefit from reading them.

With that said… I felt that it would be very important to know the history and philosophy behind the stance itself.

Week 1 – 4/12/2015

Jodan no kamae, known as 상단/sang-dan in Korean, is one of the so-called 5 “common” kamaes/stances, which are chudan (중단/joong-dan), jodan, gedan, hasso, and waki. Each is related to a certain “element”, and the two most common stances, chudan and jodan, are associated with water and fire, respectively.

A short excerpt on each from Paul Budden’s Looking at a Far Mountain: a Study of Kendo Kata.

On chudan, the middle stance:

Chudan is the kamae  of water and can be called mizu no kamame. Hold your bokken still like a pool of water, but not stagnant water, with an undercurrent watching, waiting and always covering. Protect yourself by being observant and calm, alive and waiting, but fully aware. A positive kamae.

Note on chudan no kamae and mizu no kamae (water stance). Be like water. Adapt to each different circumstance by being able to cast off fixed notions and fill the shape of each new vessel. From each set of sword patterns, always be able to respond accordingly.”

On jodan, the high stance:

“Also known as ten no kamae. Looking down on your opponent from heaven, heaven kamae. Compared with the other four kamae, jodan can be further defined as a kamae of total attack. Having a strong spirit and thinking nothing of defence, you have only to cut down with the sword. Jodan no kamae is therefore compared to the kamae of fire, which is very aggressive and burns everything. Ready to engulf your opponent by cutting him with fire, shooting outwards, burning him by the strength of your cut in a rush of flames. A positive kamae.”

So while jodan is associated with the attitude of the heavens above, it is representative of fire. Why is this important? In order to properly execute the best possible kendo, it is my opinion that one must be able to understand the spirit, philosophy, and attitude behind every movement and stance. With regards to jodan, the philosophy and spirit was exactly why I chose to take it up – my kendo is reactive, defensive, and “slicing” (as opposed to “cutting”). In order to imbue a more aggressive nature to my chudan, I took up jodan, although I am most certainly open to taking it up for all competitive purposes.

A short video on jodan:

A typical discussion of chudan, which I thought was interesting, since my stance is very much closer to a “straight” chudan, as opposed to the seigan-no-kamae style of slightly slanted chudan discussed below.


“Looking at the last 2 sensei in the picture above you can easily see that their body is slightly open to the left (hips are diagonal, left foot is sometimes slightly splayed), their left fist is moved to the left, and their shinai is pointing to the right. This is very common kamae seen in elder and/or more experienced kenshi in Japan (I sometimes see it in very good high-school and university level kenshi as well). This is almost probably the more classical or orthodox shape of what we refer to as “chudan” nowadays.

Although I referred to this open kamae as “seigan-no-kamae” above, this nomenclature has fallen out of general use in recent years (or is sometimes used to describe the shape taken when facing a jodan kenshi*). In fact, either of these kamae can correctly be called ‘chudan.’ ”

– kenshi 24/7

Anyways, so I had three practices this week, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Sunday, Monday, and Saturday (as well as later today…) I did 200+ katate suburi, form practice with the left hand and left foot forward, in order to get strength in my left wrist, elbow, and shoulder, as well as to get used to the new footwork. On Sunday and Monday I did katate suburi with only men strikes. On Saturday, I incorporated more kote strikes in order to get used to that motion as well. Today (this Sunday), I will be practicing mostly kote, with maybe 50 men incorporated.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, during warmups and basics practice, I infused jodan whenever possible in order to get a “feel” for the strike. On the Wednesday practice, I finally loosened up and got a hit that felt like a true men strike during basic practice. On Friday, this experience was further emphasized as I did much of my basics with jodan, as well as kakari-geiko (nonstop attack) and shiai practice. Kote still felt very off and I am hesitant to practice it with receivers as I am afraid of missing and hurting them. Towards the end however, I felt the kote a little better. Overall, it felt great to actually take the initiative and have the opportunity to strike freely instead of worrying about defense. Once again, the key was loose upper body, tight core, and aggressive footwork. In the coming weeks, I will have to work on calmer, but still aggressive footwork and invest more time into the moving left kote, morote/two-handed strikes from the jodan stance, gyaku-dou with the right foot forward from jodan, ai and debana men, and distance.

Looking forward to continued development.


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