During the recent 2016 All United States Kendo Federation (AUSKF) summer camp, the guest senseis Toru Kamei (Hanshi 8th Dan) and Toshiya Ishida (Kyoshi 8th Dan) shared advice and tips for shinsa i.e. promotional grading. Among them were the importance of an excellent kamae and kiai (or 発声 hassei). In that area, they noted the following. First, though it may seem obvious, these two components are in one’s control and independent of the opponent. This is in contrast to the kendo keiko component which is not entirely in one’s control as it also depends on your opponent. Second, these are fundamental for shinsa which judges tend to expect and notice.
Indeed, this importance is echoed in the comments of a panel of four judges in a shinsa video with Hanshi 8th Dan sensei’s: Masuho Shinozuka, Masatake Sumi, Masashi Chiba and Takao Fujiwara [DVD08].* For example, for candidate #28 in the first group of 5th Dan candidates, apparently his hands are extended too far out, his grip of the shinai is improper and his body is leaning forward excessively. For candidate #29, they remark on and commend her powerful kiai. For candidate #30 whose posture is somewhat hunched, they recommend he push his chest out and straighten his posture.
A couple of comments on kiai follow. First, during the summer camp, Ishida Sensei recommended delivering a strong kiai especially in the beginning at tachi-ai 立会い when one stands up from sonkyo. He also recommended delivering it from a safe position such as toma. Otherwise, from a closer distance such as issoku-ittonomai, this would provide an opportunity for an opponent to attack. Second, in the video, the senseis noted how some candidates and people would perform ouji-waza such as kaeshi-do with a subdued kiai and recommended a kiai even louder than that for shikake-waza to ensure an effective and inspiring strike. Perhaps this may help draw attention to the ouji-waza and overcome the possibility of one’s kiai with the ouji-waza being drowned out by the slightly earlier kiai of one’s opponent who striked initially.
* In the video, the Sensei’s serve as judges for multiple groups of candidates for 4th and 5th Dan who perform the keiko portion of shinsa (jitsugi 実技). The Sensei’s provide individual comments afterwards – which, I believe, are invaluable and very educational for those going for shinsa and uncertain as to what the judges may be looking for at these levels.
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