I list a few exercises below to help improve shinai control – focusing on the left hand and digits. A firm understanding of the ideal grips described in Part 2 (in brief) and Part 3 (in detail) is assumed. When performing the exercises, I would suggest keeping in mind the following.
- Start with slow movements and gradually increase the speed.
- Make sure to “relax your arms and shoulders, let your elbows have enough flex [KendoInfo _Holding].”
- Practice striking not only an imaginary target in the air but also a physical target (e.g. a shinai raised horizontally by a partner as shown at the 1:57min mark in [SKIjournal _Tenouchi], a person wearing bogu, a ‘training dummy’ or tire).
- The hands can then be used to transfer power to the target and not limited to stopping the shinai in mid-air. The quality of the strikes are more readily gauged as well.
- Initially, try practicing the same (in the air) exercises with the wooden tachi 太刀 (also referred to as the bokuto or bokken) in place of the shinai.
- With the lighter instrument, the one-handed exercises are easier to perform. And, with the oval-shaped handle, the grip-related teachings from earlier are easier to put into practice.
List of Exercises
- Practice suburi with the left hand only – as suggested by Mr. mtk_genesis_7477 in [Chiebukuro_RightHand]. I’d also suggest the adding the following variants.
- If, too heavy, choke up on the shinai, by moving the left hand closer to the tsuba, for less stress on the left hand and wrist.
- Add the right hand to cradle the shinai with minimal to no power.
- The same but with the instantaneous addition and then release of right hand power (using the last three fingers) at the instant of impact. The thumbs and index fingers remain relaxed.
- Practice the tenouchi (inside-of-the-hand) exercises demonstrated in [SKIjournal _Tenouchi] from (e.g. 0:26 to 1:12min and 1:30 to 1:45) and the variants described below.
- Note: For more details on the mechanics and theory behind the tenouchi action, I’d suggest reading [Kenshi247_Tenouchi] and [KendoInfo_Tenouchi].
- Do the same exercise with the left hand only near the tsuba (easier) and eventually further away – towards the tsukagashira (tougher).
- Do the exercise with both hands but with the right hand relaxed throughout.
- Position the two hands close together initially as in the video at various positions along the shinai handle (tsuka).
- Repeat the exercise with the two hands further and further apart until they reach their normal positions.
- Do the same with power inserted in the right hand at the instant of “impact” and then immediately released. As recommended by Chikamoto sensei, do the exercises with the index finger and thumb of both hands remain relaxed throughout.
- The sand in beer bottle exercise.
- You may be familiar with this one. Some, like Mr. takaharukita1 in [Chiebukuro_ RightHand], suggest making a small make-shift shinai substitute by filling a water bottle or large beer bottle (the kind with a longer head typical of Asian brands) with sand or water and sealing it.
- Practice tenouchi with the left hand and wrist to strengthen it. It’s handy as this can be done while watching T.V. and in an area with less space.
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