Yuko-Datotsu

I took the 3-dan shinsa yesterday (9 years overdue LOL) and passed. I had to write this for my essay. Writing it was actually incredibly helpful – I have a lot more I want to say on this subject as it relates to my own kendo.

 


 

Yuko-Datotsu is defined as the making of a valid strike, one that would be considered an ippon. Indeed, an ippon is scored when the elements of Yuko-Datotsu come together with ki-ken-tai-ichi (which itself shares many aspects with the elements of yuko-datotsu). Yuko-Datotsu is achieved when five elements – Kamaeru, Semeru, Toraeru, Utsu, and Zanshin – are brought together into a cohesive whole in a strike.

 

The first of these elements is kamaeru. Kamaeru is to assume the proper posture. Proper here does not mean “correct” – there is no distinctly “correct” posture. Instead, it means to assume a chudan kamae which is prepared to both attack and defend. Physically, it is to be upright, whilst holding the shinai in a way that does not expose any targets, and to be ready to attack. Kamaeru extends beyond simply kamae. It implies that this upright and powerful posture be maintained throughout the execution of a waza. An example of kamaeru being important is during shiai, where ippon is usually not awarded if the attacker bends and attacks from a sidewards angle in order to move around a kamae, instead of breaking it through seme.

 

Semeru is the second element, which means to control the center. By controlling the center, a kendoka applies pressure to the opponent with the objective of breaking their chudan. This is the important “conversation” that good kendokas have before the actual physical completion of waza. This “conversation” is actually a fight to control the center. Through semeru one can gain control of the center, and by dominating the center, one can give the opponent the feeling that they can strike when the opportunity presents itself.

 

Third is toraeru. Toraeru is to recognize and take advantage of an opportunity. With correct kamae and seme, one can determine when the opponent’s chudan is broken and act upon that opportunity with the striking of a waza. I believe that toraeru is just as difficult as semeru. This is because toraeru shows an understanding and application of both the mental/spiritual and physical elements of kendo. Through good kamae and seme, one can break an opponent’s chudan, but without toraeru, one cannot convert this opportunity into an ippon waza.

 

Utsu, the fourth element, can also be understood as datotsu, an effective cut. This can be further divided into two sub-elements. The first is datotsu-bu – the correct part of the shinai. The waza is considered valid when the strike is made with the monouchi of the shinai, the top third of the blade between the kensen and nakayui. The second component is datotsu-bui – the correct part of the opponent’s armor. Utsu is the physical component of yuko-datotsu. It is important because without being able to physically manifest a waza, the other elements cannot be utilized to their full potential.

 

The last component of yuko-datotsu is zanshin. Zanshin literally means “residual/remaining heart”. Physically speaking, it means to return to a fighting kamae after the completion of a waza such that one is able to strike again. But along with this physicality is the mental aspect. After the completion of a waza, one cannot think “ok, breathe in, begin again”. One must be mentally alert and be prepared to attack immediately. There is no distinction between the end of one strike and the beginning of the next – they are one and the same.

 

In yuko-datotsu, one assumes the correct posture throughout the waza, uses seme to control the center and recognizes the opportunity to strike, strikes the correct part of the opponent with the correct part of the shinai, and is ready to strike again after the completion of the waza. In addition to these elements, one must also use the correct hasuji, as the shinai is representative of a katana, and one would not cut with the broad or flat side of the blade. Ki must also be strong. Indeed, although ki-ken-tai-ichi is often discussed separately, I believe that correct ki-ken-tai-ichi and the elements of yuko-datotsu are inseparable and equally important. With these elements, an ippon can be scored by a kendoka.

NY Kenshinkai 15th Anniversary seminar

 

Taught by Toshiro Komeda sensei of Kyushu-gakuin

Day 1:

Very similar to this video:

Suburi

  • Extend with both left and right arm
    • But you should never straighten left elbow
    • Shinai shouldn’t end up at 90 degrees with wrists
  • Relax
    • Slow on the up-swing
    • Fast down-swing
    • Tense at the very last second – that is tenouchi
    • Relax shoulders!
  • Footwork
    • Trailing foot/leg should SNAP to the leading foot/leg
      • Going forward, back leg snaps forward
      • Going back, front leg snaps back
      • His was so fast, we blinked and it was over.
    • I’m using “snap” because that is the closest word to describe the speed with which his leg moved
  • Don’t drop shinai tip when raising it
    • How far back?
      • Lift right arm up and back like for suburi naturally without shinai – that should be how much
    • How much to swing
      • Arms in front – not held up high at face level

 

Fumikomi

  • Very important, stresses it to his students.
  • Can convince judges in shiai due to sound
  • Front leg/foot is pulling the environment behind
  • Back leg/foot coming in like you are kneeing somebody in front of you
    • This + the snap of the trailing leg trained by suburi

 

After fumikomi

  • Not a gallop
    • No up and down movement
    • Tare should never flap up and down
  • Suri-ashi should be FAST. If not fast, train it to be fast
  • As soon as front foot touches, back foot snaps in, causes front foot to lift again

 

Footwork practice Pt. 1

  • Start with squares
  • Then progress to making circles by taking steps like a hexagon
    • Go forward three steps, back three steps
      • Time-stamped here:
  • He saw us struggling and said his students can do this no problem
    • (Is he telling us to “gid gud scrub”?)
    • (yes, yes he is)
  • Do this for a certain amount of time.
  • Whatever burns or hurts is a weak muscle, which is what limits our progress
    • For me, this was my right calf (I was doing it with reverse footwork for jodan).

 

Footwork practice Pt. 2

  • Line up
  • Suri-ashi across the gym
    • Don’t lift toes off the ground
    • Don’t bounce up and down
    • Go fast
    • Go straight
  • Hopping thing
    • Kind of like non-stop fumikomi across the gym, but kinda hopping?
    • Did this with men and then kote-men
    • (sidenote: one-leg haya-suburi seemt to be helping me)

 

Shiai

  • THINK
    • Think about what your opponent goes for
  • Men-uchi specialist
    • Degote
    • Kaeshi/nuki-dou
  • Kote or degote specialist
    • Ai-kote-men
    • Kote-suriage-men
    • Kote-kaeshi-men
    • Kote-nuki-men
  • Dou specialist
    • They are WAITING – use that to advantage
    • Seme-men, then kote.
    • Personal observation: go in close
  • Blocker
    • Seme to men – see how they block?
    • Blocks the left side to cover men
      • Kote open
      • Dou open
    • Blocks the right side to cover men and kote
      • Sayu-men open to their left side
      • Both dou open

 

Seminar Day 2:

Super short, just 30 mins.

Footwork

  • Didn’t see much of the back foot snapping forward – said we all need to work on that. (except Kang hyung, but bro was a student at Kokushikan University, doesn’t count LOL)

Kiai

  • For strikes, don’t let the kiai trail off.
    • Kiai should get louder.
    • Draws the shinpan to the point.

Shiai

  • Think about how to set up points
  • What are YOU trying to achieve
  • What is the opponent trying to achieve
  • How do you use that to your advantage?
    • For example, you push the opponent by seme. How will she react?
    • You win by men-uchi. How will the opponent react to seme-to-men now? How will you build your next ippon using that information?
  • THINKKKKKK

For Jodan:

During the Q&A, I asked him about advice for jodan.

Me – Do you have any advice for jodan?

Komeda sensei w/translator – I have many students who are jodan. What is your tokui waza – katate or morote?

Me – Katate.

K-ss – Katate what?

Me – Katate-men.

K-ss – Good.

…[awkward pause]

K-ss – When do/should you hit katate-men?

Me – Two instances. When opponent comes in for kote or when he leans back.

K-ss – I agree.

Me – … kay?  (another awkward pause where Carroll-sensei [translating], Komeda-sensei, and myself just looked at each other confused)

 

From here on, he gave an explanation of how to accomplish this. He said to go with big seme. Keep semeing to make the opponent move back. Back, back, back. Then, when opponent thinks “oh no, I can’t keep moving back, I have to go”, he will go for kote. That is when I should hit men.

After this point, the opponent will be afraid of my men. This is when I should seme to men, then hit morote kote, since because he is afraid, he will move his shinai to block.

 

Lessons from godo-geiko

After the finals, I had the chance to do some godo-geiko with Komeda sensei. He took a triangulated stance, where his hands were on the right side of his body and the shinai tip was along the centerline.

Komeda ss

Now, this is an incredibly defensive position, but for jodan, it’s really difficult to break. Especially if the jodan (me) is much weaker than the person in this kamae (a 7th dan sensei, who fucking coaches national champions year after year and has calves that shouldn’t be called calves but bulls….;;;;;). Anyways, here are some things I noticed about this kamae:

  • Defensive
  • Pros:
    • Hard for the Jodan to score both men and morote kote
    • Jodan has to loop WAY around to score katate kote
    • Easy to close gap without jodan noticing
    • Easy to react to morote waza from Jodan
  • Cons:
    • In order to score, one must move HEAVILY into Jodan
      • Distance is key – if Jodan keeps distance, one cannot score
        • Why? Because in order to score from this kamae, one cannot KEEP this kamae.
        • Unlike for seigan no kamae – where the kote to the jodan’s left kote is simply an extension FROM kamae.
        • Takes away from the explosiveness of the hit.
    • Open to nuki waza
    • Hard to pressure with, since, as explained, is a defensive kamae.

He also went Jodan against me, but kept his right hand above the tsuka. Technically not allowed, but who cares. It was fun!

Afterwards, he told me to try a LOT of different things, that Jodan had a lot of variety to it as well, and that by trying different things, I’d be able to set up the katate men.He also told me to keep big seme.

 

Also, dude is built like a bloody meatball. A FAST meatball. But he’s a good teacher, the kind that makes you want to impress him. I can see why his students do so well.

Adventures in Jodan-sae. Post #8 – Detroit Kendo tournament, suburi, fumikomi, and Katate Jodan

Detroit kendo tournament

Last weekend, I went to the 2017 Detroit Kendo tournament. Although I wanted to take the shinsa on Saturday, I couldn’t because I changed federations from KKA to AUSKF and haven’t gotten an AUSKF number yet. I’m not too pleased with the direction KKA is going, which is why I changed. AUSKF also has a bigger and more advanced field of practitioners, and the judging is more… legit. I’ll take it in the AEUSKF April one, since the logistics of that are easier to work out.

Anyways, that aside, the biggest disappointment with Saturday was not being able to attend the godo-geiko, mainly because I wanted to geiko with Sugawara sensei and learn from him, him being a big factor in my continued passion for jodan.

Sunday was fun. I got to the finals of the nidan division, which had a LOT of young kids. It’s good to see that the future of midwest kendo is so bright. NYC did well. NYC A got to the finals. In my team, NYC B, I went against Oinishi? Onishi? Something with an O, from Columbus JLS with Katayama sensei as Taisho. Strong player, I think I could have gotten him. As it was, we tied, and NYC B lost to them. AND NYC A lost to them in the finals. I strongly believe Kang sensei could have gotten Katayama sensei, but he was wayyyy off that day.

What’s very interesting is that as I progress in kendo, my ability to observe and notice the small details are becoming exponentially better. I think that’s because I’m starting to have more of a concrete idea of what I want my kendo to look like. Meaning, I actually have an ideal to work towards. So far, it’s only with regards to my own kendo and not anybody else’s.

Things I noticed:

  • Need to stop ham-fisting left hand when I’m nervous or tired
  • More relaxed hit
  • Better footwork needed
  • I “pop” my shinai too much & grip it with my arm & not my wrist
  • Hit through more
  • Right arm to stiff – not flicking the shinai, but muscle throwing
  • Raising shinai UP above head after raising shinai to set and “sink” the shoulders works really well for me
  • More fling with body – hit with the body, not with arms
  • Morote kote SUUCKKSSSSSS
    • But not in geiko. Weird, because in geiko, I get it 8-9/10. I think it’s an issue with my tightness in shiai.

Advice I got and things I noticed from other jodan:

  • Better suri-ashi
    • Keep kamae while moving back instead of breaking it
  • More wrist flexibility
  • Reset to kamae QUICKLY
  • Wisconsin jodan guy:
    • Interesting alternating feet technique & bulldoze through technique
  • Throw my shinai for kote, not hit DOWN.

Homework for me:

  • At home:
    • Suri-ashi
    • Fumikomi
    • Suburi with heavy oar bokken thing
      • Both regular and katate
    • At practice:
      • Attack with no hesitation
      • Seme
      • Be aggressive
      • Kote practice

Kang sensei’s guide to Suburi

  • Don’t dip up & down on forward and backward steps
  • Don’t straighten arms – keep them bent, but they shouldn’t move from this bent position
    • Bend right elbow OUT and not IN to the side – this allows for more flexibility for debana waza and do-uchi.
  • Lift shinai up with your upper back muscles
    • And lift the shinai UP and not back – keep arms in their position (keep elbow position the same)
    • Think of lifting the shinai up with your left wrist
  • Hold breath
    • Flex abs, use your back, keep it tight.
  • Should feel tension in the back and hands.
  • Keep shinai lower (personal issue for me)
    • My shinai was high because I was bending my elbows too much
    • Hold more tightly with 3 end fingers.

When he first explained this, I didn’t get it, but after a while, I started to feel that tension he was talking about. I think a better way to describe it might be “tautness”. I could usually do about 200 suburi no problem. With this method, even 10-15 is difficult. I think it’s because when I’m doing suburi this way, I feel like a bow that’s being drawn and slightly relaxed, then drawn fully again, and then relaxed a little bit again. It’s super tiring. But I can definitely feel an improvement.


Fumikomi

Kang sensei also told me about fumikomi. Typically, people stomp DOWN, in an effort to make more of a sound. That was the case for me for my jodan (and chudan LOL). But he says that during fumikomi, the body should have a “눌르는” feeling. 눌른다 is like pressing down, but the way he used it is like suppression. Almost like compressing what’s in front of you forward and down. Effectively, it’s less of a vertical stomp and more of a horizontal motion. Done correctly, he says it should feel like the skin of your toes are splitting. When I got it done correctly, according to him, I felt the slapping sensation on the front third of my feet, as if the force was pushing the skin of my toes off from the toenails. I have yet to get this feeling with my left foot fumikomi for jodan.


Katate Jodan

I’ve seen katate jodan before on youtube, particularly with Shodai’s geikos against other jodans. Recently, I tried it in practice, against jodan, and it’s really good. With the recent heavy bokken practice, the shinai’s been feeling super light, so it was no problem.

There were several noticeable advantages:

  • It can be very sharp, and sort of forces you to use your body since you can’t throw your shinai with the right arm.
  • Takes away one big target (the right kote)
  • It was very effective for all three strikes: men and both kotes
  • Lower hand position = harder for opponent jodan to hit

The single biggest con that I can see is that it can be tiring, but for somebody like me, it was a good thing to go for. It is, essentially, limited by how physically fit you are. Another con is tsubazeriai, but just being smart about it should be all that’s needed. But yeah… I think I’m going to play around with this for a while.

Form wise, you can rest it on the head or do it like shodai

  • Edo(?) sensei:

 

Shodai:

 

I tried both. I think the resting it on the head gives it almost a nito daito-esque form because of how off to the side it is. Because of this, the left kote is way back in comparison to the regular jodan. If you’ve ever gone jodan vs nito, you know how hard and annoying that low, far back kote on the nito is to hit from jodan. But holding it more in front allows for really sharp strikes, almost like jabs. I think I could work with either.

  • Good video about it:
    • I could NOT hit the do-uchi like the sensei in the video.

Adventures in Jodan-sae. Post #7 – Training for Jodan, Updated Pt.II

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.]

 

Footwork

  1. Moving forward, suri-ashi
  2. Walking steps (like regular walking) “one, two, three, four” and on “five”, fumi-komi
    1. 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.
    2. Should look like this : – _ – _ –
  3. Count “one, two, three, four” then, on five, fumi-komi, and go through.
  4. 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.

 

Men

  1. Morote men-uchi starting with both hands above and aligned, left foot forward.
    1. 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.
    2. Version 2: Regular men-uchi with fumikomi, just with the footwork reversed.
    3. For both versions, you do not go back to chudan. Just lift straight back up.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
    1. After each hit, don’t let your left arm or shinai down. Go straight back up to jodan.
  4. Do jodan men with footstep patterns “three” and “four”, as seen above.
  5. Keep hitting jodan men.
  6. Keep going.
  7. Keep going.
  8. Throw up a little in the mouth.
  9. Keep hitting.
  10. Stretch out wrists, shoulders, and elbows as inevitably, you’ll have mishit some and overextended or missed and overextended.
  11. Fuck the pain, son, keep going.
  12. 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.

 

Kote

  • 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.

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.

Adventures in Jodan-sae. Post #6 – Power Overwhelming Pt.II

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:

772562-archonconcept.jpg

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)

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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.

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