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.