Gaku Shi Juku Kendo Kai

1.0 Fundamentals

1.1 Kiai (spirit/shouting)

The kiai is fundamental in kendo. It is the expression of your spirit and the generation of your courage. The goal is to generate spirit and energy and is must be done before all strikes and in conjunction with all strikes. When doing exercises, stretches and swings, everybody does kiai in unison. This allows us to feel cohesion as a group and develop a sense of unity to strive for the common goal. A good kiai serves as a motivational instrument for everybody.

Even when you are tired and you feel you can’t move anymore, you can still produce good kiai. The more tired you get, the more louder and longer the kiai should be. When you’re tired and see your fellow kendo-ka producing loud kiai and giving 100%, ask yourself, “if he/she is doing it, why can’t I?”.

“Yah!!”

Said when facing an opponent even before hitting him/her.

Kiai should be generated from your stomach, not your neck. Breathe in from your nose and release your spirit all at once.

“Men”

When striking an opponent’s head

Kiai should be generated from your stomach, not your neck.

“Kotay”

When striking an opponent’s wrist.

Kiai should be generated from your stomach, not your neck.

“Dohhh”

When striking an opponent’s body.

Kiai should be generated from your stomach, not your neck.

“Tsuki”

When striking an opponent’s throat.

Kiai should be generated from your stomach, not your neck.

“Ichi, nichi san, shi” Etc

Counting in Japanese for stretching.

Consult the Beginner’s Guide for counting in Japanese.

1.2 Kamae (the ready position)

There are a number of different kamaes associated with kendo and bushido. The most commonly practiced kamaes are chudan-no-kamae (centre kamae) and jodan-no-kamae (high kamae). All beginners will start with learning the chudan no kamae. Your kamae (the ready position) is the single-most important building block for kendo. For juniors and seniors alike, the kamae is the source of true, strong kendo.

Focus your energy in your stomach and in your toes with your left hand holding the base of your shinai and your right hand at the top of the handle. Point the tip of your shinai to your opponent’s neck or slight below. Keep your kamae in the centre as much as possible. Do not let it wave left or right, or up or down too much.

Left foot

Heal up 3-4 inches off the ground, toes pointing straight forward. The front of your left foot lines up to the right heal roughly, one fist’s width in between left and right feet.

Never lift toes off ground; never show your opponents the back of your foot

Right foot

Heal up half an inch off the ground, toes pointing straight forward. Right heal lines up to the front of left foot, with roughly one fist’s width in between your feet.

Never lift toes off ground; never show your opponents the back of your foot

Left hand

Gripping the shinai tightly with the small and ring finger, one inch away from your belly

Relax your arms, enough to be able to cradle an egg in arm pits

Right hand

Gripping the shinai lightly with the small and ring finger, have an “open” grip.

Relax your arms, enough to be able to cradle an egg in arm pits

Head and chin

Down, focus your eyes on the whole of your opponent.

 

Shoulders

Relaxed

 

Back

Straight, upright. Okay to lean forward just a bit. Do not lean backwards.

 

1.3 Suri-ashi (sliding foot movement)

In kendo we will learn suri-ashi. It is the movement of your feet front and back, left and right. Your right foot then left always starts your movement to the front. Movement back is left foot then right. Never show the back of feet to opponent. Toes should always be on the ground.

Suri-ashi is the primary way to move towards and away from your opponent.

Arms

Keep the shinai in steady position. Aim end of shinai towards opponent’s neck or slightly below.

Keep shinai in centre.

Feet

Right foot first, then left foot when going forwards. Left first then right when going backwards.

 

Right foot first, then left foot when going right. Left first then right when going left.

Need to make sure feet are always working in unison, as close to kamae position. Never have left feet go beyond right foot when going forwards. Never have right foot go beyond left foot when going backwards.

Body

Keep as still as possible. Avoid bending at the waste, swaying from side to side.

Keep stomach pushed out.

Head and chin

Down, focus your eyes on the whole  of the opponent.

 

Shoulders

Relaxed

 

Back

Straight, upright. Okay to lean forward just a bit. Do not lean backwards.

 

1.4 Suburi (empty swings)

Suburi is about swinging your shinai above your head cutting down to eye-level. It is referred to as ‘empty swings’ because you are not actually hitting anything or anybody. You are taking swings to train your muscles and to build the form for other swings in the future. It is similar to a boxer shadow-boxing. The boxer shadow boxes to practice form, to increase speed and to replicate a fighting situation.

From Kamae, raise your hands above your head and come straight down, stop when your end of the shinai is eye-level with you.

Arms (1)

As you raise your shinai from kamae, your arms should be relaxed and bent over your head. Left hand should almost be able feel your own head.

 

Be able to look directly left or right without seeing your arms in the way

Relax shoulders. Make sure your fingers are completely wrapped around shinai, though not gripping too tightly.

 

Upward motion can be slow.

Feet (1)

Feet do not move during this time when shinai is being lifted above head

 

Arms (2)

When swinging down, bring your arms straight down and extend both arms.

Left hand should end up slightly below your neck (height wise) and the right hand should end up by your neck (height wise)

Tighten the grip on your left hand as your swing down.

 

The downward motion is quick.

Feet (2)

As your hands come down, you feet will begin to move in suri-ashi. Your feet will complete the movement at the exact time the swing is completed and your kiai is bellowed.

 

Head and chin

Down, focus your eyes on the whole  of the opponent.

 

Shoulders

Relaxed at all times.

Focus energy in stomach. This will keep your shoulders relaxed.

Back

Straight, upright. Okay to lean forward just a bit. Do not lean backwards.

 

1.5 Different types of Suburi

There are various types of suburi designed to help with creating the skills in different areas. All suburi start at kamae, and employ suri-ashi (except sonoba suburi). All suburi should be accompanied with loud kiai.

Oh-Suburi (big Suburi)

Big, big motion. Hands go all the way behind the back and the swing goes all the way down to your feet.

Designed to stretch out your arms.

Sho-men (straight) Suburi

Basic suburi. Swing goes to your own eye-level.

 

Sayu-men (left right) Suburi

The upward motion is exactly the same as sho-men suburi. When coming down to swing, you swing down on a 45-degree plane, aiming at your opponents left eye, then right eye.

Used for kiri-kaeshi. Swing to the right first, then left.

Haya-suburi (fast suburi)

Feet will move together in kamae position (right in front of left). As the swing is made, the feet go forward. As you raise your shinai above your head, your feet move backwards.

Both feet move simultaneously.

3 or 5 steps in, 3 or 5 steps back suburi

Exactly the same as sho-men suburi except feet movement is three steps forward then three steps back OR five steps in and five steps back. The kiai should be one breath for every 3 or 5 strokes depending on what you are doing.

Make sure the kiai is loud and continuous.

Kote-Men-Doh Suburi

Exactly the same as sho-men suburi except feet movement is three steps forward then three steps back but the first strike is aimed at hitting your opponents wrist, therefore is wrist-level. The second stroke is aimed at the head, therefore eye-level. The third stroke is aimed at the opponent’s right side of the body. Therefore you take a swing at a 45-degree angle down from your left side.

 

One hand Suburi

Exactly the same as sho-men suburi except only using the left hand. Right hand is to the side of your body.

 

One hand haya-suburi

Exactly the same as haya-suburi except only using the left hand. Right hand is to the side of your body.

 

Sonoba (on the spot) suburi

Exactly the same as sho-men suburi except feet remain stationary in kamae position (heals up).

Focus on quickening the swing during the strike. Use left hand grip firmly and power down.

1.6 Tai-atari (body crash)

The purpose of the body crash is to develop strength in the lower body and use your speed and momentum to knock your opponent off and gain advantage. Once your opponent has been knocked around, then you can hit a hiki-waza (backwards hit) to score a point.

Those without bogu are NOT expected to do tai-atari at full speed.

It is imperative that the receiving side be alert when tai-atari occurs.

Hitting side

When hitting any technique, if your opponent has not moved out of the way for you, then lower hands close to your body, right hand on top of left and crash in to your opponent straight and hard.

Keep hands close to body and go full force.

Receiving side

As the hitter comes toward you, take a small step forward and offer resistance to the hitter. If the momentum of the hitter knocks you backwards, then you must be able to ready yourself immediately.

Receiving side must be able to provide maximum resistance to hitter. Use your discretion to how much resistance you should give. Depending on the size, skill level and age of the person who is hitting, you can offer a softer resistance.

1.7 Zanshin (your spirit that is left behind)

Zanshin is the single most difficult concept to explain to a new person who is starting kendo for the first time. What it boils down to is that in kendo, your spirit and energy that you have after you hit is just as important as what you have before you hit.

Zanshin is the state of which you are in after you make a strike to the men, kote, doh or tsuki. A proper strike to any part of the body is not complete until you deliver the hit and then quickly recover, both mind and body, to a state in which you can hit again.

For instance, being out of position, giving up, turning your back on your opponent, your shinai not in the chu-shin (centre), not being back in kamae and kiai that trails off all constitute examples of improper Zanshin.

Having good Zanshin in kendo is equally important as the strike itself.

1.8  Ma-ai (distance between you and your opponent)

(For senior students) As you spar, you need to understand the relationship between you and your opponent, specifically the distance.

Typically the best way to gauge your distance is through the kamae. You will use your shinai to see how close (or far) you are from your opponent. If you are far, then try to work your way in closer a) without letting your opponent realize b) by attacking your opponent’s shinai c) being ready anytime for their strikes d) keeping your shinai in the chushin (centre).

Striking from too far (relative to your shinai distance) will leave you too vulnerable to your counter attacks. If you venture in too close, it leaves you vulnerable to your opponent’s attacks. Studying the ma-ai is a very difficult endeavor.

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