Attack and counterattack as one.
攻返一如 means that there is no difference in attacking and counterattacking and, in fact, are one and the same. This stems from the concept of “indomitable spirit”, where the kendoist, even in physical defeat, does not show defeatism of the mind or spirit. Although kendo is a physical martial arts, it is more accurate to call it the physical manifestation of a spiritual one; thus, during geiko, 심사, and shiai (competitions), it is a battle of spiritual prowess, where one attempts to spiritually and mentally conquer the opponent, which results in the physical result of one senshu obtaining ippon over the other. Therefore, 攻返一如 represents the constant fighting spirit of the kendoist.
攻返一如 entails several principles of kendo. One of the most profound implications is that there is no difference between offense and defense. Practically speaking, the sword of a kendoist who is attacking is a sword that is defending, and the sword of a kendoist who is defending is counterattacking. As such, there is no difference in the mindset of a kendoist, no matter her position.
Philosophically, one can read攻返一如 as the mindset that a kendoist is always creating or actively looking for the opening to strike. This creates a poignant dichotomy between the concepts of “counterattacking” and “defense”.
The defensive sword is one that waits for the opportunity to arise. Thus, the defensive sword is a passive sword. This runs counter to the indomitable fighting spirit of the kendoist, as it represents an already defeated spirit – the passive sword is one that embodies Shikai (四 戒), the four sicknesses of kendo. It shows fear, doubt, and hesitation and is thus likely to be surprised. Here, I have shown that the defensive sword is a passive one and that the attacking sword is an active one. Then, we can state the following:
- According to攻返一如, counterattacking is equal to attacking.
- Attacking represents activity and defending represents passivity.
- Counterattacking represents an active sword, mind, and spirit.
Thus, combining (1), (2), and (3), one could reason that counterattacking is not defense, and is therefore displays the correct spirit of the kendoist.
Taking a closer look at this reasoning, one can reason that counterattacking is not defense because it is not borne of a defensive and defeated spirit. In counterattacking, one can see the same qualities of attacking, where with seme (攻め), the kendoist attempts to make an opening via a combination of San-sappo (三殺法), killing the sword, the technique, and/or the spirit.
攻返一如 is a difficult concept for me to display in my own kendo, especially in 중단. My sword is often not a counterattacking one, but a defending one. This is because my “counter attacks” are not borne of an indomitable spirit and the desire to attack, but the desire to not lose. My sword is often a waiting one, drooping and weak, not lively and pressuring – therefore, as the sword is representative of my mind and spirit, they must also be defensive, weak and passive. Physically, this results in my body leaning backwards with my weight on my back leg, which further lends itself to passivity and defensiveness.
For me to be able to embody the concept of攻返一如, I must put my focus on attacking more than counterattacking. This is because it is easy to become passive while counterattacking, but it is harder to be passive while actively attacking. Once I can begin to understand “attack”, only then can I truly commit to “counterattacking” without falling into passivity and defensiveness.