Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Advice from a Kendo Master

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at Kenshi 24/7. The full article may be read here.

About three years ago I translated part of a book and shared a bunch of pictures from various other books by Hotta Sutejiro (a mini bio can be read on the linked article). An interesting if somewhat mysterious character, he was a early and very prolific kendo author. Last weekend, in a rare couple of hours of free “George time,” I stumbled upon a reprint of his 1919 “Kendo Gokui.” At only 600 yen, I automatically bought it! 

I haven’t had time to read through the entire thing, but due to the current situation (=COVID-19) I’ve found myself somewhat free. Like his other books the illustrations are kind of interesting, so I picked one that I liked and (loosely) translated the associated section. 


Enticing the enemy

It is the nature of humans to feel doubt when something sudden or unexpected occurs. As such, through aggressively threatening to strike and by the movement and changes of our sword tip, we can (psychologically and physically) control the enemy. When this happens we can say that we have “caught” the enemy’s mind, that is, they are moving in accordance with our will not their own. 

As a test, try moving your shinai slowly up or down. If the enemy reacts to your movement then you already have control over them. Striking them in that very instant will lead to victory. 

Let me give a more detailed explanation. When the enemy steps in to attack, when they try to press down or slap your shinai, or when they threaten to strike, immediately strike them. 

This is called “striking at the very start of a movement” (okori, 起り). “Enticing” (tsurikomu, 釣り込む) or controlling the opponent is different. For example when you lower the shinai tip to threaten the enemy’s fists or raise it up to threaten their head, they will almost certainly respond by striking, thrusting, or defending. In that instant it is essential to counterattack and strike (引き出し, hikidashi)

In the case that the enemy attempts to defend, attack immediately. 

If the enemy attempts this on you be calm, utilise the distance wisely, don’t break your kamae, and be suspicious of their strategy. By acting in this manner you will be able to calmly wait and discern an opening to strike. 

When you start practising this strategy, however, it is easy to hesitate, so you should first cultivate the correct (calm) mindset, work on not breaking your kamae, and learn how to carefully read the enemy quickly. By paying careful attention to these points, and through self-experimentation, your techniques of attack and defence will improve. 

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