This is an English translation of a second article in Japanese by Kogoro-Sama from Web-Kendo at http://www.web-kendo.com/002001/column05.php with his kind permission to post it (Thank you Kogoro-Sama). Translated by KendoNotes.
In kendo where winning or losing is decided in the blink of an instant, the one who strikes when one should strike to take advantage of an opportunity wins the ippon (point).
One cannot win in kendo by only striking blindly.
So, in kendo, securing the ippon in terms of timing is very difficult.
With regards to discovering and ascertaining this opportunity when one should strike, Takano Sasaburo (a swordsman of the highest level during the initial period of the Showa era (1926 to 1989) who developed the present Nippon Kendo Kata) described the “Seven Opportunities” in his literary work called “Kendo Teachings” which follows.
- Avoid the essence of the opponent and strike the emptiness.
- Avoid where the opponent places his/her attention and strike where there is no attention or energy.
- Strike at a stiff head or a suspended mouth
- A chance appears when the opponent expects something to happen or when the opponent is about to move.
- Strike if you see movement of kogishin (a confused mental state resulting in hesitation).
- The term “movement of kogishin” (the state of doubt and hesitation) refers to when neither the intention of striking nor the spirit to defend functions.
- Strike when (the opponent is) at home.
- At home (when tired or confused) refers to the state where the spirit and body does not move and there is no change. This is a good opportunity.
- Strike when (the opponent) is rushed.
- An opportunity arises for sure when the opponent is rushing or impatient.
- Strike when (the opponent) is exhausted.
- Strike when the opponent has exhausted his/her energy or spirit.
- Strike when the sword tip (kensaki) drops
- When the opponent is in chudan or jodan kamae, strike at the instant the sword tip drops.
To hit a point, one must judge these (opportunities) instantly and make a decision. As the ability (of the opponent) goes higher, such opportunities become rarer and finding such moments become more difficult.
This is not something that can be mastered overnight. However, major progress is possible by keeping these opportunities in mind while one practices keiko day to day. Also, conversely for oneself, it is important to avoid succumbing to the same seven opportunities that the opponent is looking for.
In kendo, “seeing” is most important. In particular, in shiai (competitions), whether one can see the state of the opponent and oneself determines the match.
There are often times, when one thinks both people are quietly in kamae (the “on guard” position), that a match is determined by such moments (opportunities). It is imperative to react upon detecting such opportunities. Conversely, one should not give such opportunities to the opponent.
Aren’t these things as described, which cannot be achieved or obtained by only speed or physical ability, needed in kendo?
In order to take advantage of these moments (opportunities) in kendo, apply seme (pressure) on an opponent during a shiai. Moreover, if one sees things from an earlier perspective, the fight (shiai) starts from the day-to-day keiko practices (beforehand).
I believe that this concept of seizing such instantaneous moments is the way of the sword. In this regard, doesn’t this seem to be a deep aspect of kendo?