A beginner asked for suggestions on exercises he could do between practices some time ago. Given the current COVID-19 situation and the shelter-at-home order in many places worldwide, I thought an article on this could be useful.
Many years ago, I asked fellow members at a university dojo in Japan a similar question. More specifically, on those exercises that could help develop my tenouchi [KendoInfo Tenouchi]. They recommended that I practice small swinging exercises with a compact home-made “bokuto” for use at home while watching T.V. or relaxing.
I’ll describe this bokuto, list a few videos which demonstrate the exercise and end with some notes. Incidentally, there are compact bokuto’s like the one shown later in the first video that you can purchase.
There’s probably many ways of making a home-made bokuto. The members recommended that I get a large empty beer bottle (750 ml), fill it with sand and cap it. Much like the one in the above photo. Other options are: a wine bottle or similarly shaped vessels with bottlenecks resembling a shinai handle (tsuka) that can be grasped and rice or other fillers in place of the sand. I prefer rice as it is, for me, more readily available. If a twist-off screw cap is unavailable, a corkscrew can plug the spout. I tape the top to make sure the cap is secure.
There’s several advantages of this bokuto. First, the weight can be adjusted by adding as much filler as desired. Second, there’s a nice sound generated by the filler hitting the bottom of the bottle at the end of the snap (assuming the bottle is not completely filled). Third, there’s less chance of hitting the ceiling or wall given its compactness compared with a shinai. Finally, it’s cost-friendly. On the downside, one has to be a bit more careful since it is made out of glass – unless a plastic bottle is used.
Here’s some videos which demonstrate the one-handed exercise to improve the snap or tenouchi in one’s strike:
- “Tenouchi” by Motoko Kendo (1:13 min) which has a nice professional-looking boktuo and
- “The Kendo Show – Practicing at Home” by Andy Fisher sensei (from 4:37 to 4:55 and 23:48 mins in total).
- The bokuto can be used in place of the shinai. For those new to kendo and suburi, I’d recommend watching the video from the beginning.
- As can be surmised, the hand grips the neck portion of the bottle.
- Either hand can be used to do the exercises. I tend to focus on the left hand.
- I include a slight forearm motion, some forward and downward wrist action and the final squeeze with the fingers at the end of the swing.
- Additional tips on the grip, tenouchi and swing can be found at [KendoInfo Tenouchi] [KendNotes Grip].
Enjoy and stay safe!
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