공반일여(攻返一如)

공반일여(攻返一如).

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:

  1. According to攻返一如, counterattacking is equal to attacking.
  2. Attacking represents activity and defending represents passivity.
  3. 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.

Tsuki tip

Use the front foot as the guide.  Go straight with the foot and the shinai tip will follow.

This improved my accuracy with the tsuki on an open target from 4-7/10 to a 9/10 immediately, even with close to geiko speed.

Adventures in Jodan-sae. Post #5 – Power Overwhelming Pt.I

Wow. Long time no blog. I guess that’s what happens when you’re busy as all hell.

I’ll be splitting this over two posts – each taking place about 2 months apart. The first will be about the CWRU Case Student Cup. The second will be about the Johnson Cup and the HMK Kumdo night.

Earlier in October, Case Western Reserve University hosted the Case Student Cup, where several college-aged and younger kendoists came over to Cleveland and participated in a tournament. Unfortunately, due to a myriad of other important obligations, I had to skip the tournament. However, I did manage to get some practice in with several of the senseis that came over on Friday night (the tournament was on Sunday). That day, after some basics, I had the opportunity to practice with senseis I don’t usually get to, such as Inoshita sensei, Kato sensei, and Tanaka sensei, as well as the “homeground” senseis. I took up jodan-sae with all of them.

 

In addition to the notes I kept from the practice with the visiting senseis, I’ll be including notes from practices against Niedziela sensei who visited Cleveland Kendo.


 

Inoshita sensei. I should have done chudan with him. I think I would have learned so much more if I had done that. As it stands, I didn’t get to learn as much from him as he wasn’t going to really geiko with any real intent (not that I blame him. It was, as I stated, my fault that I did not take chudan).

 

Kato sensei. This was the first time I had faced Kiri-otoshi waza. And. It. Was. Dev-a-sta-ting. It’s funny how small things can make you feel as if you’re completely vulnerable. While I had experienced kiriotoshi waza from the two sabumnims back home, it was only when I was doing chudan. I never took jodan with Lee sabumnim and Jo sabumnim would usually take the initiative away from me by closing the distance and doing continuous attacks or, his personal favorite against me, morote tsuki followed by katate tsuki followed by a tap to my armpit if I hadn’t reacted (seriously, I needed a scarf while teaching classes during summer because of the burn marks. -_-;;;…. Kendo people show love in the strangest of ways…). But with Kato sensei… it was against my katate men.

Here’s a video of men-kiriotoshi-men:

 

What you’ll see is that it’s not quite as large as a big men-uchi, but not a small men-uchi. With Kato sensei, it was actually even larger, but incredibly fluid and sharp. The only way to describe it was like a cobra, rising up and sharply striking down. And the successive cracks of his shinai hitting mine and then my men were clearly audible, though only milliseconds apart.

Another interesting thing is that when my katate-men is knocked away, it is almost always knocked away to my right. Because of the natural angle of the strike, it is much easier to knock the shinai and the left arm towards my center and to the right, rather than get within the body and knock it to the left.

As you can see from these pictures, the way that you hold the shinai and the way that the men-uchi comes in from jodan almost guarantees that the shinai, if knocked away, will go the jodan-senshu’s right side and to the opponent’s left (think of a kaeshi-do motion – you knock it to the left – opponent’s right – because we raise the shinai almost straight up, right?). Because we hold the shinai with right hand above the left, blocking the other way with the shinai tip pointing to your left forces you to cross your arms, a much less natural motion than simply raising both arms straight up, which points the shinai tip to the right.

So it caught me by utter surprise when my shinai was actually knocked away to the left when he did kiriotoshi men, almost making me lose my grip in the process (because the wrist can only rotate so much, at some point, your fingers will naturally open up). I didn’t catch his footwork, but perhaps he stepped in a half-step to his left/my right to give him that angle. Regardless, it was absolutely beautiful to be hit by (utterly confusing at first though. You can almost imagine this kid just going like “what the bloody fuck just happened?” and then hearing Kato sensei’s kiai telling you to ready the fuck up).

 

Anyways, I mixed in some morote strikes until he took up jodan as well. It was one of those really old, kata-esque straight up jodans. But man, it was impossible to land that katate-kote to his left kote, even though that’s one of my better strikes.

 

Overall, I came away feeling pretty overwhelmed. I don’t really approach geiko with very high ranking senseis with any desire to win per-say, but with Kato-sensei, I started getting a bit of that overwhelming my desire to show good kendo. I think he kinda enjoyed that though.

 

Tanaka sensei. This was the second and last practice I got to have with him, since he left Cleveland. Anyways, one of the fastest kendoists I have ever practiced with.

 

XYZ sensei. I feel really bad, but I don’t remember his name. This sensei took up this SUPER straight chudan against me. Nothing close to the usual seigan-no-kamae, where the shinai points against the jodan’s left elbow/arm (something I noticed recently is how drastic seigan has gotten, with the shinai almost completely to the right, and the left hand out of the center. Super easy to hit katate men and then set up a seme-men-morote kote or seme men-gyaku doh on. I still haven’t had a person hit me from that position, and I honestly don’t see any jodans getting ganked with that stance). Nope. He was super straight chudan, not even raising the tip of the shinai a bit higher. This was… interesting. Contrary to popular belief, I LOVE it when people take a mild or regular seigan. It really lets me push off hard on my right foot and get a sharp looping katate kote, which is actually quicker than my katate-men and much more natural for me to pull off. But when it’s super straight like in chudan… there’s no shinai to loop my shinai around to. Not only is the angle not open for me, but when I go for a regular kote and the shinai tip isn’t raised up like in seigan, I just did a suicide mission – as in, I just buried my fucking neck into his shinai (as I found out… not the best feeling in the world, I can tell you that). In addition, his response time to katate men was superb, thanks to the shorter distance and ability to simply push forward and tsuki me to the chest (which means, no ippon). I was able to break it a bit towards the end (or perhaps he broke it down for me, methinks this latter is more likely, but who knows, I just might have a large enough ego to believe the former) and get some good morote kote and morote men strikes, but MAN these were ugly. Thankfully though, the sensei went for my men more than my kote. I would’ve been beat the fuck up if he had gone for a crapton of kote.

 

Niedziela sensei. He’s from University of Buffalo I think, and does sei-nito, where the longer shinai is held on the right hand. He was very cool to geiko with. He had an absolutely unique style of nito, with a dynamic kamae, changing the height and distance of both shinais quite often. I got to practice with him on two consecutive days. I took some pointers from this video where “Menma guy” faces a jodan:

 

This video proved to be a crucial experience. Especially at 1:23, where the jodan goes for the quick tuski-morote-men combo. This has become a go to technique against nito for me, to decent effect.

Anyways, this is it for part I. I plan on writing a much longer piece for part II, mainly because those events are fresher in my mind and also because the past few weeks have seen a huge change in my jodan.

Thoughts on Nito Kendo

This… does not seem like kendo at all, particularly at 0:18 in the second video. Hands down, the WORST kendo  I have ever seen in my life.

Great, I get that he’s a technically proficient kendoist in his own right, but man, that just feels like the equivalent of seeing an MMA fighter in a boxing match (and I LOVE how pissed Teramoto looked). Anyways… I came across these videos because somebody asked me about nito… I’ve faced three in shiai, and all were pretty bad and physically tough in the “I’m going to win by giving you as many bruises as I can” way. I think when I saw Matthew Raymond of Canada was the only time I ever felt awed by nito, but even then, learning that he was mainly used as a “momentum stopper” in team matches kind of dampened that for me. A REALLY promising route of nito was shown by L. Zhang of China in the latest WKC… elegant, efficient, sleek… a true nito of kendo, instead of the Itokazu style of stick hacking. (Still has a ways to go though… the daito is a bit slow. But by all means, it’s a very promising style of nito, in my humble opinion).

Obviously, Toda sensei has the most refined nito of them all:

What do y’all think about nito?