Sequential Breakdown of the Small Men-Uchi (小さい面打ち)

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Stairway “in” heaven 🙂

This article looks into the sequential breakdown of the small men-uchi (small strike to the head) – also referred to as chiisai men-uchi (小さい面打ち) or a sharp, fast men (鋭く早い面) [Ichiki_MenUchi].  Visual examples of this strike can be found in the following videos: [Remakendo_MenUchi]  [Koda_Sae] [Ichiki_MenUchi].   For those unfamiliar with the small men-uchi but familiar with the large men-uchi, the hands and arms are raised to about the height of the shoulders rather than to above the head – as described in the videos [Koda_Sae] [Furukawa_LargeMenUchi].

Some notes:

  1. The sequential breakdown of the strike is presented below and is based largely on the teachings of high-level (mostly 8th dan) sensei’s and/or well-known kenshi.
  2. “Comments for Myself” are included as reminders and notes for myself.
  3. The chuudan kamae with the right foot forward is assumed.
  4. A comprehensive time-sequence analysis of the small men-uchi can be found in this technical study of ten 8 dan kenshi in this talk [Murase_ISBS20Video] and its associated conference paper [Murase_ISBS20Paper].

Background:  I have been studying how to develop a fast, sharp and consistent “small men-uchi” with sae (冴え – the snap) [KendoInfo_Sae] worthy of an ippon.  The article summarizes my notes from a number of articles, videos and discussions with teachers and friends on this topic.

Acknowledgement:  I would like to acknowledge the many authors, teachers and friends, including those cited in the references below, for sharing their wisdom.  I have found their teachings invaluable.

Note that this article may be updated with additional quotes and insights as they are discovered.

May your small men-uchi be powerful! 🙂


Prior to the strike

  • Be ready to strike at any time.
    • When mastering the Men technique, the most important thing is to keep your left foot in a position which would enable you to strike Men at all times. …  I put my center of gravity on my left leg while keeping my right foot afloat slightly.  With the feeling of letting the right leg hang down from the hip joint, I maintain the preparation so I can strike at any time. – Nabeyama Takahiro (Kyoshi 8 dan) from [KendoJidai_PerfectMen]
    • In actuality, “good posture” in budo (martial arts) is the “natural posture”. Rather than a (tight) posture of “At Attention!” it should be a posture from which one can move at any time [Hakudoh_Posture].
  • Interlock the left hand and right leg.
    • It is important to attack with the correct Kamae and in order to do so it is important to interlock the left hand and the right foot, not the right hand and the right foot. – Miyato Nobuyuki [Kyoshi 8 dan] [KendoJidai_Miyato]
  • Place strength in the left hand and left side of the body.
    • I think that I’d like to try a kamae that is centered on the left hand, left hip and left leg. – Higashi Yoshimi (Hanshi 8 dan) [KendoJidai_Higashi]
    • When taking kamae, hold your shinai as if gently holding a sheet of paper under your left arm. This will solidify your left body properly and will make sure that your left fist is in front of your belly button. … Tighten your left side and don’t let your kensen move away from your opponent’s body at all costs. – Onda Kouji (Kyoshi 8 dan) [KendoJidai_Onda]
    • You hold with your left (hand) and hit with your left.  左で持つ、左で打つ– Kaku Sensei [KendoInfo_LeftHand]
    • When it comes to the upper body, stability of the left hand is very important. – Miyato Nobuyuki (Kyoshi 8 dan) [KendoJidai_Miyato]
  • Comments for myself
    • Make sure that the shoulders are tension free (e.g., not raised).
    • A surprising observation:  Onda Sensei’s words “Tighten your left side,” seems to work wonders.
      • My strike of the shinai on the men becomes powerful.
    • The following action before striking, as kindly pointed out to me by W, his Hapkido teacher and Katsumi Chinen sensei, also seems to help.
      • I gently push the shoulders down, push the shoulder blades down and towards each other, repeat this and rest my left shoulder joint above the left rib.  The left shoulder joint moves slightly backwards and down.  Make sure that the arms are tension free.
    • I believe that Onda Sensei’s words and the attention to the left shoulder, left ribs, left buttocks, left leg and left toes produces a single locked rigid body at the instant of the strike to enable a clean transfer of power from the legs and hips to the arms and ultimately to the shinai.
      • Otherwise, the power transfer, for me, may be lossy (partial) and inconsistent.
    • On the other hand, freedom of movement and the lack of tension before and after that instant of the strike is likely also very important.
      • So, rather than doing this action prior to the strike, I may want to develop this so that the lock occurs momentarily only at the instant of the strike.

Initial Portion of the Strike

  • Drive the hips and body forward with the legs.
    • Focus on your feet (legs).  Drive yourself forward with your feet (legs)! – Nishimura Hidehisa (Multiple-time AJKF Champion) [Tozando_Nishimura2, 3:50 min mark].
    • When we are moving in to attack, we should move using our waist. It should feel like you are pushing forward with your entire body. – Onda Kouji (Kyoshi 8 dan) [KendoJidai_Onda].
    • This is about moving the center of gravity.  Imagine sending your spine forward. Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan) [Koda_Fumikomi, 1:11 min mark]
      • これも重心の移動ですね。 これを背骨を前持ってくる気持ち
    • With regards to the upper torso, rather than hitting with the arms, I have the image of hitting strongly moving forward from the shoulder area, shoulder blades (scapula) and back (of the body). – Matsuzaki Kenshiro Senshu at the 2:56 min mark of  [Matsuzaki_TobikomiMen]
  • Maintain the hand positions initially.
    • Hold the hands in place until the forward foot begins to go downwards during the fumikomi – Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan) [Koda_ShinsaDVD].
    • Slide the right foot forward and hold back until the last possible moment before the moving the hands. [Seiyukan_Hands]
    • This is illustrated at the 0:50 min. mark of [Remakendo_MenUchi] and
    • This is analyzed in detail in the study of ten 8th dan kenshi‘s in [Murase_ISBS20Paper] [Murase_ISBS20Video].
      • All ten of the kenshi started moving their hand positions to raise the shinai after the halfway mark between the initial movement and moment of impact of the shinai on the men.
      • This is shown in Fig. 2 of [Murase_ISBS20Paper] in the top two plots showing the mean and standard deviation of the angular movements of the hands and the shinai as a function of time across the ten kenshi.
    • Don’t strike with your arms.  Instead, strike from your back using this (pointing to his left side rib area). – Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan) at 1:32 of [Koda_Grip]. 腕で打つのじゃなくて、背中からこう使って打つわけですね。)

Middle Portion of the Strike (When right foot starts to go down and the hands begin to move)

  • For this portion, it is probably best to watch this video by Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan) [Koda_Sae]
    • It is in Japanese.  However, I have translated to English some of the main points with their time-markings below.
    • In the first two minutes, Koda Sensei
      • Initially describes the difference between large and small men-uchi (and kote-uchi) and
      • From 0:56 min, describes tenouchi and sae for the left and right hand actions which are essential ingredients for the strike.
    • At 1:51 min.
      • From ancient times, it is said that:  The right hand is the pushing hand, the left hand is the pulling hand. – Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan) [Koda_Sae]
        • 昔から右手は押し手、左手は引き手と言われていますが、それを僅かに使うだけですね。あんまり引っ張ってはだめです。
      • Editor’s Note:  Yokoyama Naoya (7 dan) described this to me as the “lever principle” where the left and right hand move in opposing directions.
    • At 2:00 min.
      • To strike small men-uchi, the arms are raised (from chuudan kamae) to here (to the height of about the shoulder).
        • (面打ちは)ここからここまで(この位置まで)肩を上げます。
    • At 2:06 min.
      • After that, do not lower the arms.
        • その後は肩はもう降ろさない。
    • At 2:12 min.
      • Instead, if one uses fumikomi and soft wrists, (the shinai) lowers naturally.
        • そして降ろす時に、手首を柔らかく踏み込みを使えば自然に降りて行く。
  • Additional Teachings
    • Extend your left hand straight from chuudan kamae.  However, at the moment of striking, you must hit with your right hand using the left hand as a fulcrum. – Ichiki Yougen (8 Dan) at the 1:42 min mark of [Ichiki_MenUchi]
      • 構えた位置の左手を打った時の位置までまっすぐ伸ばす。左手は伸ばすだけ。でも、打つ瞬間には右手で打たれなければならないので左手を支店にして.
    • When you strike, use your left hand to push your right hand up.   Do not pull (the shinai) up with your right hand. – Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan) [Koda_KamaePosture, 5:40 min mark]
      • 打つ時は、左手で右手を押し上げているわけですね。右手で引っ張るんじゃなくで。
  • Comments for myself
    • Push forward hard with the left foot at the moment the right foot goes down and the hands shoot out – as illustrated at the 0:24 min. mark of [Remakendo_MenUchi].
    • Physics-wise, imagine applying a force vector purely in the forward direction – by pushing the hands, arms and body in the forward direction – rather than introducing any force vector with a vertical (up or down) component.  Despite the force vector in only the horizontal, forward-only direction, a solid downward strike of the shinai on the men is nonetheless produced (as the right hand pushes forward and the left hand goes up at the instant of the strike).

At the Moment of Impact (When the Shinai strikes the Men)

  • Perform hikitsuke (the fast follow-up action of the left-foot back to its position just behind the right-foot after the right-foot lands on the floor [KendoNotes_Hikitsuke]) at the moment the shinai strikes the men.
    • One strikes the men which is timed with the power of the left foot follow-up (hikitsuke) – Yamada Hironori (Hanshi 8 dan), [KendoNihon_Yamada, p. 39].
    • そうして、左足をつける力を合わせて面を打つ。
  • Perform the tenouchi and chakin shibori 茶巾絞り (tea-cloth wringing) [KendoInfo_Shibori] at this instant.
  • Comments to Myself
    • I get the impression that part of the purpose of the shibori and tenouchi is to create a solid and rigid body “only” at the instant of impact (and where the arms are more relaxed immediately before and after this instant).
      • Why?  To transfer the significantly larger power of the legs and torso to the arms, hands and then to the shinai – just as in tsuki.  As if at that instant, the body is one solid rigid mass.
    • As Tamano Terao Sensei clarified for me, it is chakin shibori rather than zoukin shibori 雑巾絞り (house-cleaning cloth wringing).

After the Strike

  • Follow-through and hold the kiai until one has returned to kamae and faces the opponent.
    • This is probably best shown with a beautiful example of the 8 dan Shinsa candidate (101C) on the right who passes in this video [StudyingKendo_8DanShinsa].
    • After turning around to face the opponent, don’t forget to take a small step forward. – Ichiki Yougen (8 Dan) at the 1:42 min mark of [Ichiki_MenUchi]
      • 振り返えたら,一歩出るのを忘れないように。一木庸玄 八段
  • Comments to Myself
    • Make the above holding of the kiai and Ichiki Sensei’s teaching a habit in basic practice and keiko.
    • Make sure the shoulders and arms are tension-free after the strike.  For example, if the shoulders are tense and/or raised, pushing the shoulders down helps.

References

[Furukawa_MenUchi] KENDO 【KIHON PRACTICE】Furukawa Kazuo 8th dan Hanshi⎪ 剣道【基本稽古】古川和男範士足で攻めて腰で打つ – YouTube (6:00 mins).

[Hakudoh_Posture] Posture in Kendo (剣道の姿勢, はくどー庵) hakudoh.com.

[Ichiki_MenUchi] 木鶏の基本【その三】面打ち – YouTube (6:50 mins)

[KendoInfo_Sae] Geoff Salmon, “Sae,” KendoInfo.net, Oct 29, 2012.

[KendoInfo_Shibori] Geoff Salmon, “Whatever happened to Shibori?” KendoInfo.net, Oct 24, 2011.

[Kendojidai_Higashi] Higashi Yoshimi Sensei’s Kendo Lesson|東良美の剣道授業, KendoJidai [1/2] (8:01 mins and at the 2:54 min mark)

[KendoJidai_Miyato] Miyato Nobuyuki, “The role of legs in Yūkōdatotsu,” KendoJidai, May 18, 2020.

[KendoJidai_Onda] Kouji Onda, “The essence of kamae that leads to seme and tame,” KendoJidai, Feb. 1, 2019.

[KendoJidai_PerfectMen] Nabeyama Takahiro (Kyoshi 8 dan) “How to Hit the Perfect Men,” KendoJidai, July 1, 2018.

[KendoNihon_Yamada] 「山田範士の跳び込み面」、剣道日本, p。39、3、2020.

[KendoNotes_Hikitsuke] “Hikitsuke (the Quick Follow-up of the Rear Foot) in Fumikomi – Some Pointers and Videos,” KendoNotes.com, Oct 12, 2018.

[KendoNotes_KendoQuotes] “Kendo-Related Quotes,” KendoNotes.com, Nov 8, 2017.

[Koda_Fumikomi] Kendo Basics【FUMIKOMI】Kouda Kunihide 8th Dan // 基本動作【踏み込み足】香田郡秀八段 ・剣道授業 – YouTube (2:41 mins)

[Koda_Grip] Kouda Kunide 8th Dan – Kendo Lessons, Basic Movements:  How to Grip the Shinai, Kendo Jidai International, Dec 8, 2019 (Second of Six Lessons).

[Koda_KamaePosture] Kendo Basics 【KAMAE・POSTURE】 Kouda Kunihide 8th Dan // 基本動作【構え・姿勢】 香田郡秀八段 – 剣道授業 – YouTube (6:01 mins).

[Koda_Sae] 香田郡秀範士のひとり稽古 指導③ 手の内 冴えのある打ち – YouTube (3:21 mins)

[Matsuzaki_TobikomiMen] 【第68回 全日本剣道選手権出場記念】松﨑賢士郎選手の飛び込み面講座(茨城県代表)#10  (8:47 mins)

[Murase_ISBS20Paper] Naoki Murase et al., “Kinematics of Men Striking Motion in Eighth Dan Kendo Players,” 38th International Society of Biomechanics in Sport Conference (ISBS) July 20-24, 2020, Paper (PDF 4 pages)

[Murase_ISBS20Video] Naoki Murase et al., “Kinematics of Men Striking Motion in Eighth Dan Kendo Players,” 38th International Society of Biomechanics in Sport Conference (ISBS) July 20-24, 2020, Video on YouTube  – (9:55 mins)

[Remakendo_MenUchi]【剣道 kendo】メン打ちのポイント3点解説(Basic strike ‘Men’ [ three important points ])YouTube (2:01 mins).

[Seiyukan_Hands]  “Kendo – My Recent Keiko 6 – Slip the Right Leg Forward and Wait Until the Last Possible Moment to Move the Hands.” Seiyukan.com, Feb. 14, 2017.  剣道 最近の自分の稽古6 右足を滑らせ入り、ぎりぎりまで手の動きを我慢すること.

[StudyingKendo_8DanShinsa] 剣道八段審査二次審査合格者の立合い – Kendo 8th dan examination secondary exam. passer – YouTube (9:14 mins)

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Keywords:  chronological, sequence, components, How to strike men uchi, How to hit men-uchi

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