Since coming back home, I’ve been going to both NYC kendo club and HMK, although with recent family life events… I’ve been going just to NYC kendo club for the past month. At NYC, I’ve been learning quite a bit about Jodan from Kataoka sensei. So this is my updated “how to train for Jodan” guide. I still recommend doing haya suburi with feet reversed.
[As an aside, I will say this – having a proper jodan teacher and an environment where people are encouraging me to hit harder and faster and continue upon this path is something I’ve come to be immensely grateful of. The kendoists here have been helpful and so kind with both my jodan and chudan, and I’ve progressed more in several months than I have in the past year. Until I’m MUCH more dialed in (Kataoka sensei mentioned “like machine” or “without thinking” about the basics, I’ve been doing most of my geiko with chudan. I’ll write something about chudan… sometime. But NYC has been great for my chudan as well.]
- Moving forward, suri-ashi
- Walking steps (like regular walking) “one, two, three, four” and on “five”, fumi-komi
- So you would walk normally (or maybe slightly larger steps than normal) then on the “four”, your right foot would be behind if you started with the right foot on the “one”. On “five”, your right foot would come forward if you were walking, but instead of walking, you do fumi-komi as you bring your right foot forward. So for jodan footwork, you would step forward with the left foot first.
- Should look like this : – _ – _ –
- Count “one, two, three, four” then, on five, fumi-komi, and go through.
- Count “one, two, three” then step forward with the front foot for seme on “four”, pause for a split second, then fumi-komi on “five” and go through.
- Morote men-uchi starting with both hands above and aligned, left foot forward.
- Version 1: Left foot goes forward (sort of a semi-lunge), then you swing forward with both hands while your back foot snaps forward behind the front leg.
- Version 2: Regular men-uchi with fumikomi, just with the footwork reversed.
- For both versions, you do not go back to chudan. Just lift straight back up.
- Katate-men: starting with hands aligned and shinai pointing straight back (so same as above, where your right hand is still grasping the tsuba with all fingers), fumikomi forwards while hitting. When hitting, release the right hand (don’t throw, that comes later). Basically the same as above, except you’re letting go of the right hand at the impact zone.
- Cock left arm to the side, like you see in all the jodan videos. For now, keep right hand straight over your centerline. Then proceed to hit katate men.
- After each hit, don’t let your left arm or shinai down. Go straight back up to jodan.
- Do jodan men with footstep patterns “three” and “four”, as seen above.
- Keep hitting jodan men.
- Keep going.
- Keep going.
- Throw up a little in the mouth.
- Keep hitting.
- Stretch out wrists, shoulders, and elbows as inevitably, you’ll have mishit some and overextended or missed and overextended.
- Fuck the pain, son, keep going.
- Buy your motodachi beer for all the mishits.
Notes on katate-men
- Face straight forward and think TALLLLLLL AS FUCKKKKKK (this leads you to align and sort of “pack” your neck as much as is natural)
- To do this, you should also relax your shoulders. If you have good proprioception, you should feel all parts of your traps, rhomboids, and lats “sinking” in with your scapula. It’s a very nice sensation.)
- Think of stepping on the opponent’s right foot with your left foot to prevent your body from twisting
- Left hand should follow the centerline of mengane
- Imagine choking/punching the throat of the opponent.
- Seme to the men.
- Wrist should follow the opponent’s shinai downwards
- Think of your wrist as sliding down the side of their shinai
- No muscle – relaxed hit, especially the wrist
- Left step fumi-komi, then step forward with right foot (like a walking step)
- This is to maximize speed as the kote leaves you very vulnerable
- Don’t drop left arm down so much on a vertical level, it should still be an extension of the elbow, just drop the left wrist
- Raise hands over the opponent’s shinai before hitting
- … buy a pad (seriously. I think my senpais use a lacrosse pad or something) and a beer for the motodachi’s poor bruised wrist.
Notes on katate-kote:
- There’s quite a few different ways to hit kote. This seems to be the basic one (as it’s taught in NYC anyways LOL).
- There’s another one against the kote to the right wrist of the jodan. Do a kote that kind of looks like a sayu-men from kirikaeshi. It should hit as the opponent is going for your right wrist or when they block the right side of their men, as both these leave their kotes open.
Something I’ve found interesting is practicing without kiai. I like it. It helps keep me loose and relaxed throughout the strikes. I’ve been told to start kiai only when fatigue starts settling in.
Pen: Lamy 2000, F
Ink: Sailor Jentle Oku-yama (Remote Mountain Burgundy)
- Smooth, discrete nib
- Good ink flow
- Comfortable shape and weight
- Posts well
- Ink “window”
- Reputation with regards to quality control
- Small nib leads to choking up on grip
The Lamy 2000 is one of those pens that almost every fountain pen enthusiast seems to own, yet never recommends. Despite owning a number of other fountain pens, I never sprung for one until now, primarily due to the annoyance of having to ship it to a professional to get the nib looked at. But due to the amount of writing I have been, and will be, doing lately, I had the urge to go FP shopping again. I wanted a pen that wasn’t too flashy, something I could use in the classroom, on the bus, and in a café, without drawing too much attention. Between the Pilot Vanishing Point and the Lamy 2000, I opted for the 2000 mainly for the ink capacity.
I’m happy to say the pen has no issues. After flushing a couple times with warm water, I inked it up with a new bottle of ink, and went to work. I foresee many years of comfortable writing with the 2000. My only wish is that I had had it when I was writing my thesis. 🙂
On the ink: This is my first red ink. It is a perfect red/burgundy for me. Not too red, easy on the eyes, yet still visible, and dries a bit darker.
God, watching Takenouchi and Ando here is just PAINFUL. You can see Furukawa-sensei in the background though!
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.
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.
Sidenote before I kick things off: So technically, “power overwhelming” is a phrase by the archon, a Protoss unit in the Starcraft games. But in the new Legacy of the Void scene, the Adept is so fucking ridiculously OP against Terran (human) units that I put its picture up instead. I’m not a player, I don’t even have the game, but I am a fairly avid follower of the professional scene, since it’s a game I’ve followed since the Broodwar days. I remember getting my first Broodwar expansion as a gift from my grandfather and not understanding a word of the English spoken (I was living in Korea at the time). Years later, my closest friend bought me Starcraft 2 so he could play with me (unfortunately, that never happened since I suck at videogames and I fucked around in 2v2’s by making a fuckload of siege tanks (and nothing else besides that)). I lost. A lot. I bought Heart of the Swarm just to play the campaign (with cheatcodes). I haven’t bought LotV yet, but I’m sure I’ll buy it someday. Ok, so here’s the actual Archon:
Anyways, on to the kendo.
Last year, I participated in the Johnson Cup, which is a small tournament held in Columbus. I was in the 1st-3rd Dan division. I ended up going to the semifinals and getting third place. I used jodan-sae the whole time. It was a hectic experience. I woke up at 3:30 AM, left Cleveland at 4 AM, and drove for 2.5 hours in the snow to Columbus. I hate having the heater on in the car because it feels suffocating, so my hands were freezing and cracking, there was no moon or starlight, and I was very much sleep deprived. I won my first match with two quick small men after tsubazeriai. The second or third (??? Can’t remember) was an ai-jodan match that lasted for 10-11 minutes. I won that one with a hiki gyaku-dou (do, doh, dou?? LOL). That match took a lot out of me and I ended up with bruises all over my forearms and fists from the kote strikes. The next match was with Yumi, who’s a member of the kendo club. We often joke around during practice and during this match, neither of us could really keep a straight face. I think that puzzled our shinpan, but I didn’t really care. It’s always fun to go against Yumi. After that was a match against a Miami Valley Kendo Club member who was really really good. I got tsukied quite a bit (and a few were quite good) but it never counted because as morote tsuki’s, they needed to force me back a step, and none of them really did that (I did get a nice little bruise on my neck, but that’s quite alright). I won that match with a morote-men from jodan (see below, credit to kendocards)
The semi-final match was over in about… 30 seconds. I got kote’d in quick succession (according to Yumi, the most anti-climactic semi everrrrrrrr haha).
Afterwards, I settled into really enjoying the kendo going on. This was the first time I had ever seen Sugawara sensei and he was an absolute beast. Fucking amazing. I recorded almost all of his matches. Definitely a man-crush. He told me to work on my katate-kote and to continue practicing jodan. But yes, man-crush. SUCH a man-crush. (That moment when you have kendo idols…. LOL)
Anyways, I later went back and analyzed what I had been doing with how Sugawara sensei performed his jodan. I realized that I was holding my shinai far too low and far too forward, an unfavorable position for power generation.
During winter break, I was back in Hong Moo Kwan in NJ. Jo Sabumnim was pretty disappointed at how shitty my jodan had gotten. We worked a LOT on the basic jodan posture, holding the shinai a little more upright and having my right hand a little closer to the center line of my body. While my arms are on the slightly longer side, my humerus (upper arm) is laughably shorter than my radius and ulna (the forearm). This was why my previous jodan posture, with the shinai way forward, took away a lot of my power. Moving the shinai a little bit higher (above the left eye) and closer (about a fist distance away) suited my body proportions much better, as this meant that my humerus was still below parallel to the floor (so sloping down from the shoulder joint), but the forearm was cocked closer to perpendicular to the floor (so more straight up), allowing for more of the whipping motion that Jo-sabumnim prefers. Over time, we changed the right hand position, from directly center to slightly more right and finally settled on towards the outer edge of my eyes, so that my fist would still be directly over my head and not outside and to the right, but still comfortable enough to snap the shinai forward. During geiko, we practiced a lot of tsuki-ai-men and kote-ai-men, where Jo sabumnim would go for either tsuki (usually katate, he is REALLY good with this) or gyaku kote and as soon as I anticipated it, I would snap a katate men. First day back, this meant I missed about 2/3rd of all my men, but by the end, I started to get pretty good at it. I also worked a lot on my katate-kote-men, but it didn’t really work out then. (When I came back to Cleveland, Beaty sensei would show me a better way to do the katate kote men, where the kote is a regular katate kote, but the men is a circular motion utilizing the snap of the kote strike. So after the kote, the shinai would come up to be horizontal as if to block the men, then circle around the head to hit katate men in almost a sayu-men fashion. It sounds a lot more clunky than it performs, mainly because the circular motion eliminates any need to go against momentum, instead utilizing it to whip the shinai around and forward. I’m not yet good at it, but I can get it ~1/2 the time. It works so much better with a thinner shinai).
The weekend before Christmas, HMK hosted a bi-annual (I think?) HMK Kumdo night where several dojangs/dojos from around the area (and beyond) came over for a long kata and geiko practice. Sungmoo-kwan, Daekum-kwan, and Yongkum-kwan came, the last of which came all the way from Philadelphia. There was Lee sensei, who’s a kyosa (kyoshi) 7th dan, and several Yeonsa (renshi) 6th dans, including Jo-sabumnim. It was so good to geiko in such a environment. I didn’t know many of them too well, but it was a real treat. There’s a real up close aggression that Korean dojangs have and it felt like such a relief to be able to go “all out” without hurting feelings. Sometimes, I notice that the American dojos have this real…. Uh… uptight? Attitude, like it’s always got to be so proper and whatnot and you must do shinsa style kendo and stuff… but that’s just not fun for me. And that’s never really the big issue for me, the bigger issue is the real sensitive atmosphere, like people just get super sensitive about this shit. Like bro, you’re going to get hit. That’s part of the fun. And yes, I know kendo isn’t supposed to be “just” fun, but as soon as it stops becoming fun, I’m going to stop doing it. If it’s not fun, I’ll simply not learn or benefit from kendo properly. And I don’t want that. So it’s nice to really let off steam once in a while. So anyways… that was about 2 or 3 hours of straight up geiko. Which was great! I got a lot of input about my jodan with regards to timing. To summarize:
- Too quick to pull the trigger on the kote.
- Too much kote instead of men.
- Too quick to pull the trigger on the morote kote, oftentimes hitting fist as the opponent was about the raise his shinai to block the seme to men.
- But too slow on the seme to men, which meant some people simply did not react to it.
- Too slow in the morote men from jodan.
- Back foot lagging on the katate kote (so it stayed in the lunge instead of the back foot coming up sharply behind).
- Moving back instead of body slamming (they thought I didn’t have enough scratches on the front of my do, a sign of slamming into the opponent after a hit if they didn’t move).
- Too slow of a recovery after men.
- Need to switch up seme from time to time
- Need to mix in seme from the tsuka instead of just the body.
Anyways, I went to Korea after that.
Once I was back in Cleveland, I thought about things and decided that I wanted to try for 3rd dan. So I’ve been preparing for that. Pretty challenging to switch back to chudan for the while. I miss going balls out with Jodan.