Healing Kendo (癒しの剣道) by Nakamura Sensei

This is an English translation of a seven-part article by Nakamura Sensei, 7th Dan with links to each part below.  The link to the original article in Japanese is: http://www.geocities.jp/gazo_asidachi/kumagro_niki/iyashino_kendo/iyashi_01.htm.  I thank Nakamura Sensei for his kind permission to post this translation.  Translated by KendoNotes.

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Healing Kendo (癒しの剣道) by Nakamura Sensei – Part 7 and Postscript

This is an English translation of Part 7 and Postscript of a seven-part article by Nakamura Sensei, 7th Dan.  The link to the original article in Japanese is: http://www.geocities.jp/gazo_asidachi/kumagro_niki/iyashino_kendo/iyashi_01.htm.  Posted with permission and translated by KendoNotes.

Well then, this time, I explain how to strike nuki-do.  This time, the explanation of this waza will serve as the end.  Although there are others, I have come to write at length on those waza which I think are good.  On to nuki-do.  This is similar to kaeshi-do, as the do is cut with (the timing of) the left leg.  As explained many times, seme in and offer the men (hikidasu).  First, starting from the right leg, with “guuuuuh-toh” (sound effect), seme in.  The hands are in the same position as when in kamae.  At this point, the opponent enters into range (ma-ai) to strike my men.  Following the right leg, the left leg advances forward towards the right and, at the same time, the do is drawn out (nukeru).  Starting with the right foot and as if flowing along with the left leg, cut the do while pulling out (nukeru) with ayumi-ashi,  With “sururi” (sound effect), one can slip out (nukeru).  As before, when cutting the do, at the instant one’s shinai takes the opponent’s do, one can briefly see (the do).  Of course, because the left hip enters, one cannot even fall or pitch forward.

This do-uchi feels good.  Please master it.

With the above, this ends the explanations.

Next, a summary up to this point.  What can be said with regards to everything is that when attacking with seme-komu, the right leg slides forward and the hands are never raised.  While entering the opponent’s ma-ai with seme-komu, if one sees cues, this is the time to strike instantaneously in one heart beat.

If you can learn how to use the left foot, the breadth of your kendo widens.  The technique of ayumi-ashi is equivalent to that for dance and traditional Japanese dance.  This is difficult.  With what I have written thus far, you may think that I have become very strong.  However, I have not really become that strong.  Conversely, I may have become weaker.  Nonetheless, I can continue to enjoy kendo.  Thus, I think this is good.

Postscript     

Well, I have written quite a lot.  Thank you for reading.  I am grateful.  If the opportunity arises, I think I may write again.

Healing Kendo (癒しの剣道) by Nakamura Sensei – Part 6

This is an English translation of Part 6 of a seven-part article by Nakamura Sensei, 7th Dan.  The link to the original article in Japanese is: http://www.geocities.jp/gazo_asidachi/kumagro_niki/iyashino_kendo/iyashi_01.htm.  Posted with permission and translated by KendoNotes.

Well then, with only men-uchi strikes, the opponent would definitely exploit this.  For the 7th Dan level, drawing out the opponent and striking a yuko-datosu is desired.

If the opponent raises the hands to strike in response to the shift of one’s center of balance starting with one’s right leg to execute men-uchi, then it is kote, nuki-do or, if delayed with respect to the opponent’s men, kaeshi-do.  With a seme that moves one’s center of balance starting with the right foot, since the right hand is not raised, one can switch to a variety of waza.

This time, I shall write about kaeshi-do.  Although there many ways of striking, if you would like to use it (the kaeshi-do), please use it.

After mastering how to strike this, my fear of men has disappeared.  No matter how fast a men, I simply counter (with a kaeshi-do).  However, if I use this too much, the opponent stops striking men and I am in trouble.  Think of using this technique in moderation.

Here, many ways of inviting the opponent in (sasoi) are available.  For example, from the position of kamae, invite the opponent without moving either foot, slowly shifting one’s weight forward and backward between the width of the back foot and forward foot.  The head moves slowly forward and returns.  Then if one advances the men slightly faster and slightly more, the opponent is invited and comes in strike men.  The feeling at the time of invitation is, as expected, like giving the men.

As the opponent comes in to strike men, counter at the instant the men would be contacted.  At the instant the opponent thinks he or she has the men, respond with a kaeshi-do.

Now then, on to how to strike do.  It is similar to the 7th kata in kendo kata.  Step the right foot slightly towards the right and, at the same time, raise the hands to receive the opponent’s shinai.  At the instant it is received, send the left foot diagonally towards the right and strike do.  To come out, escape using ayumi-ashi, immediately turn around and adopt zanshin.  At the instant of hitting do, please have sufficient composure and calmness to check to see where your shinai strikes the opponent.

With regards to advancing the left foot, it is advanced at the same time the do is struck. Although this can be done slowly as the legs cannot move that fast, given a slow men, this (going slowly) is possible.  However, given a fast men, this does not apply.  Note that the image of advancing the left foot and striking is important.

In practice, when responding with a kaeshi-do in response to a fast men and when intending to advance with the left foot, the left hip first rotates towards the right.  At the time of the hip rotation, the do is struck.  Of course, afterwards, the left foot is pulled in by the hips and one advances forward.  At that point, the do-uchi has already been completed and the body is escaping out (of the strike).

Some additional comments.  On the first invitation (sasoi), there is no rule saying that it must be with this.[4]  In the middle of koubou (attacking and defending), once one can do kaeshi-do, composure and calmness develops.  Because this may be so easy, rather than being content with this, please do not forget about seme in your kendo.  I wish you excellence and progress in this.

(Continue to Part 7 and Postscript)


[4] Translation note:  The text was translated literally here.  I believe it refers to no hardfast rule that one must succeed or strike with kaeshi-do on the first invitation.

Healing Kendo (癒しの剣道) by Nakamura Sensei – Parts 4 and 5

This is an English translation of Parts 4 and 5 of a seven-part article by Nakamura Sensei, 7th Dan.  The link to the original article in Japanese is: http://www.geocities.jp/gazo_asidachi/kumagro_niki/iyashino_kendo/iyashi_01.htm.  Posted with permission and translated by KendoNotes.

Part 4

I shall add to the explanation of seme.

With regards to the height of the ken-saki (sword tip) when the right foot slides forward during semekomi.   I set it to the height of the chest and solar plexis, bring in my shinai below my opponent’s shinai and apply seme to the lower part of the opponent’s tsuba etc.  The effectiveness of this varies with the opponent.  Please check to make sure.

During the entire step of seme, please do not raise your hands.。

As the right foot slides forward and is about to land on the floor, please fly in towards the men with a “tong” (sound effect).  It may be difficult initially to not raise the hands as one extends the right leg.  However, you can definitely do it.  Next, my “extreme” seme.   I relax my hands, shift my ken-saki away from the oponent’s men and seme-komi in.  Of course, I offer “please hit my men.”  In response, most people come into strike men.  However, because my ken-saki is off-center, (my) men (strike) is late.  In this case, I respond with a nuki-do or kaeshi-do.

For 7th Dan, you need to have the power to draw out the opponent (hikidasu).  The recent passing rate for 7th Dan is 9%.  It was about 22% six years earlier when I tested.

Part 5 

From seme to the stage of the strike, I shall write about the method of striking with tenouchi.

With regards to the part on seme, one strikes with “tong” (sound effect) when cues that the opponent will strike are detected.  However, extend the left fist forward and strike as if nicking the nose of the opponent’s men (mengane).

Please be careful here not to pull and raise the right hand.  If the left fist is pushed forward, the shinai will rotate about the shinai’s center of balance and the ken-saki will come up pointing upwards.  Rather than only rising upwards, it will come fairly close to one’s body.

Once this point is reached, it will feel as if the opponent’s men is below your shinai.

From here, the right hand pushes the shinai and, while aiming for the opponent’s men, the ken-saki surges forward.  The right hand is also referred to as the pushing hand (oshite).  The job of the right hand is only to go hit the opponent’s men.  However, the (job of the) extended left hand changes simultaneously to that of a pulling hand.  Even though it may be called the pulling hand, the feeling is as if the left fist returns to the solar plexus area.[4]

With the action of these two hands, the sword gains cutting power and one strikes a tremendously sharp men.  After the strike, the body (using the hips) advances forward and assumes zanshin.

With regards to the position of the left fist when swinging, it is (raised to) at about the height of the mouth.   According to the fundamentals, the left fist is raised up to the forehead.  However, with a large swing, it would take about two heart beats to strike and one cannot really strike (this way).

If one watches slow-motion videos of high level senseis, it is raised only to about the mouth.  Nevertheless, the ken-saki comes above one’s head.  I think this way it looks as if the swing is large.  In the case of the kiri-otoshi waza, the left fist is raised slightly higher.

If one commits to memory this operation of extending the left fist forward, one can use a heavy shinai.  No matter how heavy it may be, as long as the left fist is pushed forward, the ken-saki comes up above the shinai’s center of balance.  Afterwards, as mentioned a little earlier, it is just the operation of the right and left hands.

If this operation succeeds, it will lead to (comments such as) “the tenouchi is good” or “crisp strikes”.

(Continue to Part 6)


[4] Translation note:  I think 辺りinstead of  当たりin「 水月当たりまで」was intended in the original article due to the context and the same kun-yomi.

Healing Kendo (癒しの剣道) by Nakamura Sensei – Part 3

So, finally, we delve into seme.

One slides the right foot and goes forward in seme and the center of gravity moves forward.  However, during this phase, please never raise the hands.  For if the hands are raised, one’s movements can be read by the opponent and one can be taken in (deceived) instead.  One’s hands are raised at the moment when the opponent is about to initiate a strike.  This is the instant for one to strike.  Next, I shall explain in a bit more detail the part on seme-komu and the sliding of the right foot.  If one were to release the tension from the right knee while in the kamae position, one would fall forward with a thud.  With the left leg, push one’s weight lightly as if to prevent oneself from falling.  In doing this, one does not fall and one’s center of gravity moves forward parallel with the floor.

With regards to one’s speed going forward, please imagine the shinkansen (Japan’s high-speed bullet train) starting to move.  One starts moving quietly (with stealth) to the extent that one cannot sense or feel oneself starting to move.

With this kind of movement, one semes in while sliding the right foot (forward).  The distance one semes in with the right foot varies depending on the opponent and waza (used).  With this seme, along with a quiet (stealthy) initial movement and hands which are not raised, the opponent will be unaware initially (of the movement).  At a certain point as one comes closer, the opponent will realize this with “Ah” and initiate a strike in a panic.  At this moment, the opponent comes in closer by half a head-length in an attempt to strike.  One advances the right foot again and then, at the same time, kicks the left foot and strikes.

Since one’s motion is launched a half to a single heart beat faster than that of the opponent, one can secure a strike while the opponent is still, at degarashi (as the opponent moves in to strike) or at aimen.  At the instant of striking, it is better not to raise the right foot high to extend the (fumikomi) distance.  It may seem that raising the right foot high would allow one to jump further out.  However, when the raised foot returns to the ground, it returns to a position only a little further out.  I confirmed this by testing it out.  Ideally, extend the right knee forward where the lower the height (it is raised), the greater the (fumikomi) distance.  Rather than advancing with the foot, advancing with the knee is as if entering with the hips.

Rather than kicking off strongly from the left leg, the sensation is one of pushing off a little where the advanced right leg pulls the body’s center of gravity forward.  The point is, rather than jumping to strike at the instant to strike, the feeling is as if the right leg pulls the body forward.  With this approach, the Achilles tendon is unburdened.  I believe it is the ideal way to strike.  Like a “ssssss-Tong” (sound effect).

The next important point is the heart (mind).   If one intends to attack and seme-komu, one can be taken in.  The mindset of “Please strike my men” and to “give” one’s men is important.  The following may be the most difficult point.  Before striking, please “die”.  If one “dies”, there is no fear.  It is only a bamboo stick that simply strikes the surface of thick bogu.  Next, please believe in yourself.  Your unconscious instincts should protect you.

From about the time I committed to memory this way of striking, the sole of my left foot no longer has cracks.  Nowadays, my sole has been completely clear with no beans (bumps).  Though I do not know whether this is good or bad, I believe this has happened because the movement of my body has become smooth.

(Continue to Parts 4 and 5)

Healing Kendo (癒しの剣道) by Nakamura Sensei – Part 2

This is an English translation of Part 2 of a seven-part article by Nakamura Sensei, 7th Dan.  The link to the original article in Japanese is: http://www.geocities.jp/gazo_asidachi/kumagro_niki/iyashino_kendo/iyashi_01.htm.  Posted with permission and translated by KendoNotes.

First, on kamae.

In the standing position with your left foot and right foot, please place your weight, with a ratio of 7 to 3, on the left (back foot) vs. the right.  As if the right foot could be moved at any time.  Please remember this since the right foot will play an important role henceforth when attacking (seme) and responding (ouji).  In the upper body and, in particular, in the shoulders and arms, please release any tension there completely.  Note that when in kamae, if the wrists (and hands) are squeezed too tightly, tension will surely return (to the upper body).   I think that (sufficient power) to the point of holding the shinai in kamae is good.  If tension creeps in, one cannot act with instant movements.  Furthermore, one’s movements can be discerned by the opponent.  Please adopt a natural kamae like the willow tree that does not oppose the external power of the wind.  Even if one’s shinai is flicked away, the attitude to have here is an one of naturally returning to the original position without opposing that force.  When this happens, the opponent thinks “this dude is good.”

In your standing position, please make sure not to lean forward.  Typically, we are told to extend (straighten) the back of the left knee (popliteal fossa).  However, since over-extending it causes the movements to be awkward, please hold the knee flexibly with a light amount of extension.

Please place the left fist, as much as possible, in the area below the belly button.  I think it is good to have the ken-saki (shinai tip) at the usual height.

The point is to remove any tension in the upper half of the body.  This is quite difficult.  The left heel should feel as if it is floating lightly.  Please be careful because if the heel is raised too high, the body weight shifts to the front foot.

(Continue to Part 3)

Healing Kendo (癒しの剣道) by Nakamura Sensei – Forward and Part 1

This is an English translation of the Forward and Part 1 of a seven-part article by Nakamura Sensei, 7th Dan.  The link to the original article in Japanese is: http://www.geocities.jp/gazo_asidachi/kumagro_niki/iyashino_kendo/iyashi_01.htm.  I thank Nakamura Sensei for his kind permission to post this translation.  Translated by KendoNotes.

Forward

In my kendo, I keep in mind the fun of doing it.  When I strike, I aim for the feeling of a good men, the feeling of a good kote, the feeling of a good do, the feeling of a good tsuki.  Accordingly, this differs slightly from regular keiko as well as basic keiko.

Stated simply, it is “Healing Kendo.”

Since passing the age of 50 perhaps, I have lost confidence in my physical strength.  My shoulders hurt and my arms hurt when I extend them.  When doing kirikaeshi, my back muscles hurt.  When doing hayasuburi, my calf muscles get pulled.  A variety of problems arise.  From such conditions, I believe this is how my present day kendo was born.   I practice the fundamentals for 30 to 40 mins in front of a mirror and practice basic strikes with my men on for another 30 minutes –  not even this if there is no partner.  I practice these on days other those days for regular keiko.  Though I say I am doing this, it is only once a week.  There are no hundreds of hayasuburi, not even uchikomi, kakarigeiko nor kirikaeshi.  Only a relaxed and efficient (non-excessive) kendo that I refer to as Healing Kendo.

In this page, I introduce a part of my approach to seme in kendo.

Part 1

First of all, though I shall write about how to do seme, please think about your present men-uchi.

From issoku-ittouno-mai, are you not striking by performing seme starting with your right foot and then pulling in your left foot for tsugi-ashi?  At the moment of striking, are your right foot and hands not starting to move at the same time?  Usually, this is how most people strike.  With this, one succumbs to a perfectly timed kaeshi-waza [1] from an opponent.

Now please think back to the fundamentals.  I think one is taught that issoku-ittouno-ma-ai is the ma-ai from where one can strike with a single fumikomi using the right foot. From this ma-ai, one can strike a men even without a tsugi-ashi [2].

Please think on this a bit more.  Older folks like myself cannot reach the men by striking with only (a single step with) the right foot from issoku-ittouno-ma-ai which is too far.  Well, then how do you think can we strike?

The 8th Dan Senseis at their age can very easily strike men.  They draw out the opponent by applying seme with their right foot (hikidasu).  They strike at the moment the opponent comes forward by half a head-length.  The opponent is coming in to get hit.  When I tested for 7th Dan, I was able to pass with kote and men strikes as my opponent came in – drawn out by a seme with my right foot (of course, a seme starting from my hips).  Now I can perform seme much better compared to that time.

I would like to take good care of what I have acquired and mastered thus far.

And I shall share and explain seme.  I write this thinking that it will help instruct myself, too.  Although you may already be at a level to pass (shinsa), please read this while thinking “Heh” (as in ‘Oh’).  In my present day kendo, I strike men from a ma-ai where the sword tips meet.  At times, from closer distances, too.  Of course, it is with one step.

Though this became a little bit long, I shall write on how to seme and enter.  If it is ok with you, let’s continue this journey.

(Continue to Part 2)


[1] Translation note:  I believe 技 (waza) instead of  業 (waza) in 「返し業」 was intended in the original article due to the context and the same kun-yomi.

[2] Translation note: I believe this is in reference to an initial small step (tsugi-ashi) which can precede the fumikomi and men-uchi needed especially from touma.