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 ~

Thursday, January 28, 2021


Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at Kenshi 24/7 on the history, development and practice of a basic Kendo drill, Suburi. The full post may be read here.

... Note that one Butokukai related figure – Sato Chuzo sensei – was a bit of a suburi fanatic. In his writing’s he explicity states that a sempai taught him suburi casually at Busen, i.e., he wasn’t taught it within class time. I’ll attempt to translate and introduce his views on the subject in the future.
In amongst the books I have access to, however, I did find a couple that do refer to suburi: Hotta Sutejiro’s 1934 “Kendo Kyohan” and Tanida’s 1935 “Kendo Shinzui to Shidoho Shosetsu.”
In both of these books the use of suburi is seen in two ways: one, as part of the warmup process prior to putting on men, and two, as an exercise to help acquire both tenouchi and ken-tai-ichi (moving the body and sword in unison). Suburi is not treated at much length in either book though, and doesn’t seem to be regarded as that important.
First, here are a couple of small quotes from Hotta’s book. Note that he doesn’t use the term “suburi” but instead uses “undo” (運動) or “junbiundo” (準備運動) which mean “exercise” and “warmup” respectively.
The procedure for two handed exercises
“Two handed exercises” are warming up strikes and thrusts that train the grip, elbows, and shoulders accurately as well as help speed up cutting action and and correct the swords flight path.
Training methods to bring the hands and feet in unison
Cutting shomen by moving forward and back. When moving forward do so with the right foot and left foot following, and the opposite when moving back. At the same time lift the hands up into the jodan position and strike shomen. When doing so don’t put any power in the hands or legs, move lightly. Ensure that the the right hand and shoulder are in line with each other upon the strike. Learning the knack of this is through repetition alone.
It is with Tanida’s book that we finally discover a section entitled “suburi.” Note that before this section is one with the strikes executed in the exact same manner (under command) as mentioned above.
Using a bokuto or shinai and imagining the enemy standing in front of you, suburi is a cutting practise method executed with full power.
It then goes on to give not only a detailed explanation of what suburi is for (tenouchi, ken-tai-ichi, etc.) but mentions some people who were known for doing a lot of it, for example Yamaoka Tesshu.

What is crucial to mention here is that all these books and new training methods had one thing in common: the move away from the traditional one-to-one method of training into “group teaching” exercises. This is obviously because for the first time in kendo’s history you had one instructor running a class of x number of students. This method of training was to change kendo training irrevocably and it is what we do today.

The paired suburi-like exercises described in Takano’s books (and in most other books) was done at the command of the teacher: “ICHI!” (lift up hands) – “NI!” (strike) – “MODORE” (go back)… etc. This command-based group teaching style seems to have been the norm in school/instructional situations prior to and throughout the war, and can still sometimes be seen in children classes today. This method lent itself easily, as we shall soon see, to the addition of group suburi practise....

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