A Story on the Transformational Power of Kirikaeshi (切り返し)

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the early morning practices at the Tokyo Police keishicho (警視庁) tokuren (特練) dojo at Shinkiba (新木場) as a visitor.*  I remember the day that I first saw a new member of the dojo.  Though new, he must have been strong to have been selected to join the dojo.  He was made to do kirikaeshi for the entire practice spanning roughly 40 minutes.  It was not the typical version that we may be accustomed to – but rather kirikaeshi back and forth across the large dojo floor over and over with no rest.  The length was probably that of a basketball court (~30 m).

He started with full power and kiai.  However, as you can probably imagine, after a couple of rounds, his energy started to dwindle.  He was losing steam.  He began huffing and puffing, moving slower and pausing more often to catch his breath.  Eventually, he was barely able to move or swing his shinai with any power.  It looked like he was ready to fall down in utter exhaustion and in dire need of a breather.  Nonetheless, he continued albeit slowly until the end of the practice.  He was in major pain and agony.  Yet he never gave up.  What konnjo (根性), guts!

This form of training for the new member continued over many weeks.  As on the first day, he was made to do kirikaeshi and only kirikaeshi for the whole early morning practice.  Nothing else.  With time, it was remarkable how he changed.  He was gradually able to perform kirikaeshi with a little more energy for a little longer time and with a little less struggling.

After a couple of months, I noticed what seemed like a miracle.  He was transformed.  He could perform kirikaeshi flawlessly back and forth with seeming ease for the entire practice.  His strikes were crisp, efficient, continuous and strong.  His footwork was fast.  His energy was high throughout and his kiai, strong.

He had become truly a lean, mean “fighting” machine.

May you be strong!  🙂

Note:  Thanks to Jonathan H. for his comments after I had recently shared this story with him and some of the dojo members.  His comments inspired me to write this article.

*  This opportunity was thanks to a very gracious and kind sensei in Toronto who introduced me to one of the instructors at keishicho.


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