|Mushinkan Kendo no Shiori
Practice 1: practice fundamentals
|Mark Uchida - Copyright December 2001|
|I. Shizen-tai (natural standing posuture)
II. Ritsu-rei (standing bow)
III. Seiza (formal sitting position)
IV. Moku-so (meditation)
V. Za-rei (seated bow)
VI. Kamae (guard movements)
VII. Ashi sabaki (footwork)
VIII. Section Glossary
|Shizen-tai is the natural standing posture that follows through all aspects of kendo. The posture is relaxed with the body and neck upright, and shoulders pulled slightly back. The heels are together with the feet pointed outward at a 30-degree angle. The hands are held naturally at the side with the fingers together.|
|Ritsu-rei is the bow executed from the standing position.|
|Note: The red marking on the above illustration indicates the position of the tsuru.|
|Standing in shizen-tai, bow by bending at the waist to angle the upper body forward. Keep the body relaxed while maintaining good posture with the back and neck aligned.
A standard bow is executed with the upper body angled at 15-degrees. Objects to the front are kept in view; however, do not bend the neck to look directly forward.
A formal bow is executed with the upper body angled at 30 degrees. The eyes remain fixed and follow down to the floor as the bow is performed. This bow is used when entering and exiting the dojo, and in other occasions where greater formality is required.
When bowing with the Shinai:
The shinai is held in the tei-to position (See Kamae). With the shinai in the tei-to position, perform ritsu-rei in the same manner as previously outlined. Keep the grasp of the shinai relaxed and do not change the position or angle of the shinai as the bow is executed.
|Seiza is the formal kneeled sitting position.
To assume seiza:
1. Stand in shizen-tai.
2. Draw back the left foot.
3. Kneel down with the left knee next to the right foot.
4. Withdraw the right leg to a position next to the left leg.
5. Tuck the toes of both feet under so the tops of the feet are touching the floor and the big toe of the right foot is overlapping the big toe of the left foot.
6. Lower the hips to a fully seated position. Keep the upper body in correct posture with the hands placed naturally on the thighs.
Standing from seiza is the reverse of sitting:
1. First raise your upper body to a kneeling position.
2. Raise your toes so the balls of the feet are touching the floor.
3. Step forward with the right foot, placing the foot next to the left knee.
4. Push the legs straight to a standing position and then bring the left foot together with the right to end in shizen-tai.
|a. Keep the upper body in correct, upright posture throughout the process of sitting or standing.
b. While seated, your eyes should be cast to a point on the floor 10 meters directly to the front; the focus of the eyes should be as if looking at an object far in the distance.
c. The large toe of the right foot should be overlapping the large toe of the left foot.
d. The knees should be separated by approximately 10cm. (the width of a fist).
|To sit in Seiza with the equipment:|
|1. Hold the Shinai naturally in the left hand with the tsuru downward.
2. The men is cradled in the right arm with the kote tucked inside.
3. Assume the Seiza position as previously described.
4. Place the Shinai to the side with the tsuba aligned with the knees and about one fist distance from the body. The tsuru side of the shinai is positioned to the outside.
5. Place the Kote and Men to the opposite side at a position forward of the knees.
|a. There are two protocols regarding the positioning of the shinai to the left or right side. In the first illustrated example shows one protocol with the shinai placed to the right side. The kote and men are placed to the left. The atama of the kote are positioned to the inside. The second illustrated method is an example of the other protocol with the shinai placed to the left, and the men and kote to the right. The atama of the kote are positioned to the outside. This method follows the standard teaching of the International Kendo Federation.|
|b. The tenugui is placed inside of the men, or draped over the top depending on the teaching protocols of the school.
c. When carrying the men and kote, the kote should be placed fist-first inside the men. The men should be carried with the tsuki-dare (throat protector) forward.
|d. Setting the shinai to the side should be done precisely. There should be no sound of the shinai being placed on the floor. The shinai should not roll or wobble once in place.
e. To stand with the equipment, cradle the men in the right arm and place the kote, fist-first, inside the men. Pick up the shinai with the left hand and stand as previously outlined.
|Moku-so is performed to start and end the practice sessions. The purpose of Moku-so is to cleanse the intellect and set the proper frame of mind. When perform moku-so, the hands are brought together to form an oval in front of the abdomen. The fingers of the left hand overlap the fingers of the right hand, and the tips of the thumbs are brought together with light pressure. The eyes are closed halfway and deep breathing is performed.|
|a. The mind should be cleared of thoughts, but kept fully alert.
b. The eyes should remain slightly open. When the eyes are fully open or closed, the mind tends to remain active, thus making it difficult to correctly perform moku-so. It is said that moku-so should be performed with the eyes of Buddha: half closed, but all-seeing.
c. The breathing should be slow, deep, and continuous. Exhale through the nose with the tong touching the palate as if making a low hum while exhaling.
d. Throughout the cycles of breathing, the pressures between the thumb-tips should not change; neither should the thumbs become misaligned.
|Za-rei is the bowing from seiza. Like ritsu-rei, za-rei has many levels of formality that are applied to its execution. The following outlines the basics of za-rei.|
|1. Sitting in correct seiza, bend the upper body forward at the hips. At the same time, slide the hands forward over the thighs.
2. As the bow deepens, merge the hands together, creating a triangle with the index fingers and thumbs.
|3. At the deepest point of the bow, the back is parallel with the floor. The hands are flat on the floor with the triangular opening, between the index fingers and thumbs, directly below the nose.
4. After holding the bow for a moment, raise the upper body back to the upright posture. At the same time, slide both hands back to their original position.
|a. When bowing, the back and neck should remain aligned, keeping correct upper body posture.
b. As the upper body bows down, the eyes remain fix and the gaze follows down to the floor.
c. The hips should not rise when the upper body bows downward.
d. Exhale as the bow is performed.
|Kamae is the guard, or ready posture employed for attack and defense. However, more than just a physical pose, kamae is also the on-guard posturing of the mind and spirit. These aspects of kamae, the body and mindset, must always be practiced together in concert. Equally important to keep in mind is that kamae begins and ends with proper etiquette. These points are never to be overlooked.
There are three processes of kamae. They are kamae kata (assuming kamae), osame kata (withdrawing from kamae), and toki kata (kamae at-ease).
|Note: The red marking on the above illustration indicates the position of the tsuru.|
|1. Stand in shizentai with the shinai held in tei-to.|
|Tei-to, also called sage-to, is the holding of the shinai in a relaxed attitude while standing in shizen-tai. The shinai is held naturally at the side with the hilt angled slightly inward. Viewed from the side, the shinai should be held at a 45-degree angle. The tsuru of the shinai is positioned on the downward side.|
|2. Execute ritsu-rei (See Ritsu-rei). Keep the grasp of the shinai relaxed and do not change the position or angle of the shinai as the bow is performed.|
|3. Raise the shinai to the tai-to position.|
|Tai-to is the standing posture with the shinai held in a drawing attitude. From tei-to, the shinai is raised to the hip with the hilt of the shinai directly forward of the bellybutton. The pad of the thumb is placed on the tsuba, slightly to the inside (right) from the center of the shinai.|
|4. Step forward with the right foot. The left foot follows and is drawn forward to a point aligned with the arch of the right foot. The shinai is drawn as the left foot is brought forward.|
|5. Assume the sonkyo position by bend at the knees to lower the hips.|
|Sonkyo is a posture taken to show respect before and after a match or training evolution. When in this squatting posture, correct upper body posture is maintained. The knees are opened outward with the thighs forming a 90-degree angle. The body is balanced on the balls of the feet and the shinai is held in chudan (center guard position).|
|6. Stand and take a step forward with the right foot to bring the feet into proper guard position.|
|Kamae kata (with partner)|
|1. Face each other in the tei-to posture at a separation of nine steps.
2. Execute ritsu-rei.
3. Bring the shinai to the tai-to position.
4. Take three steps forward starting with the right foot.
5. Draw the shinai on the third step and assume the sonkyo position.
6. Stand and take a step forward with the right foot to bring the feet into proper guard position.
|Osame kata is the exact opposite sequence of kamae kata:|
|1. From the chudan-no-kamae posture, retract the right foot to a point where the arch is in align with the toes of the left foot.
2. Bend the knees and lower the hips to assume the sonkyo position.
3. Withdraw the shinai to the tai-to position and then straighten the legs to stand.
4. Step back starting with the left foot.
5. Lower the shinai to the tei-to position.
6. Perform ritsu-rei.
|Toki kata is the process of assuming a relaxed or at-ease posture with the shinai drawn. From chudan-no-kamae, turn the shinai downward to point the kisaki to the opponent's left knee. The kisaki should be at a level five or six centimeters below the knee. The edge of the shinai (side opposite the tsuru) should be angled downward and to the inside at approximately 45 degrees.|
|a. Proper upper body posture should always be maintained.
b. When drawing the shinai, grasp the tsuka from the underside so the tsuru will come to rest on the topside of the shinai after the shinai is drawn. Conversely, when withdrawing the shinai the shinai should be rotated to bring the tsuru to rest on the downward side.
c. When taking sonkyo with a partner, careful consideration should be given to the distance to the center starting point - upon taking three steps and drawing the shinai, the shinai tip should be within the center area of the court or training floor.
d. When in the sonkyo position with a partner, the tips of the shinai should be separated by two to ten centimeters.
|Te-no-uchi is the correct hand position and grip for holding the shinai. Te-no-uchi can be likened to that of a proper handshake; the grasp is confident, yet the wrist and arm remain flexible. Correct te-no-uchi allows the shinai to be held securely without strain; permits fast and easy mobility; and is key to crisp (not crushing) and accurate strikes and techniques.|
|1. The anatomy of the hand includes the tora-kuchi. The tora-kuchi is the angle at the base of the index finger and thumb. The tora-kuchi and the tsuru (or the seam of the tsuk-gawa [leather handle covering]) are the keys for positioning the hands in relation to the shinai’s circumference. The tsuru indicates the upright side of the shinai in its drawn attitude. In its correct configuration, the tsuru also marks the top centerline of the shinai. The hands should be positioned on the shinai in such a manner that the top centerline of the shinai runs through the apex of the tora-kuchi of both hands.|
|2. The forward position of the right hand is generally one-and-a-half fists ahead of the left hand.
A common method for establishing the forward position of the right hand is to:
|a. bend the right arm at the elbow,
b. place the hilt of the shinai in the joint of the elbow,
c. grasp the shinai with the right hand.
|Where the hand grasps the shinai is the point of placement for the right hand.|
|The shinai should be gripped firmly, as if holding an egg without crushing the shell. To grip the shinai:|
|a. Extended the left hand as if reaching out to give a handshake greeting.
b. Position the hilt of the shinai on the inside portion of the heel of the hand.
c. Grasp the shinai firmly with the third and fourth fingers.
d. Grip the shinai with the middle finger using moderate (not tight or loose) pressure.
e. The index finger and thumb remain relaxed.
f. The right hand is positioned appropriately on the shinai, as previously outlined, and grips the shinai in the same manner as the left hand.
|1. Throughout the process of strikes and techniques, the hand positioning and grip should never change.
2. The hands should not grip the shinai squarely. A square grip is usually the result of including the index fingers and thumbs in gripping the shinai. Such a grip will restrict the flexibility and movement of the hands.
3. The hilt of the shinai should be held at the very end. The overlapping of the small finger halfway over the end of the shinai is an acceptable practice. However, never is the shinai to be held with the hilt protruding from the heel of the left hand.
4. The right hand should not grasp the shinai directly below the tsuba.
|Chudan no Kamae (Center Guard Posture)|
|The legendary swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi (1584–1645) distinguished in his writings five primary guard postures collectively termed Goho-no-Kamae. In modern kendo, the goho-no-kame continue as the principal guard postures. The goho-no-kame are chudan-no-kamae, jodan-no-kamae, gedan-no-kamae, hasso-no-kamae, and waki-gamae. Of the five, chudan-no-kamae (middle guard posture) is the first and most versatile of the guard postures. In modern kendo, chudan-no-kamae is the posture that the other four kamae are instigated from.
In chudan-no-kamae (or chudan), the shinai held in the center-plane of the body with the tip projecting forward to the opponent. Below details the correct positioning of the hands and shinai in relation to the body and the opponent.
|a. The left hand is extended approximately 10cm (the width of one fist) forward of the abdomen.
b. The first joint of the thumb (at the base of the thumb) is in a direct line in front of the navel.
c. The shinai is angled forward, projecting the line of the shinai to the opponent’s left eye.
|The projected line of the shinai is called the “kensen.” However, more than just a noun for a positional reference, kensen includes functional principles. The understanding and application of kensen is key in maneuvering, attacking, and forestalling an opponent. This aspect is presented here as an introduction, only. The concept and the actual application can only be acquired through diligent training.|
|As noted in the coming section, Ashi Sabaki, footwork is the most important aspect in kendo practice. Good footwork begins with correct foot positioning.
In their correct position, the feet are separated by approximately the width of one fist with the toes pointed directly forward. The heel of the right foot should be aligned with the big toe of the left foot. The heel of the right foot should be resting lightly on the floor while the heel of the left foot should be elevated to a natural height off of the floor. The body weight is centered between the feet with the strength of mobility focused in the lower part of the legs from the knees downward. The upper body, form the knees upward, remains toned yet relaxed.
There are two common methods used to aid in foot positioning.
|a. The first method starts from shizen-tai with the heels of the feet together and the toes pointed 30 degrees outward. Pivot on the balls of the feet and rotate the heels outward to point the toes directly forward. Step forward with the right foot to a point where the heel is aligned with the big toe of the left foot.|
|b. In the second method, the right foot is positioned with the toes pointed directly forward. The heel of the left foot is placed against the heel of the right foot with the toes pointed 90 degrees outward (to the left). From this position, pivot the heel of the left foot outward to point the toes directly forward. The feet should now be in their correct positioning|
|Conditions to avoid|
|a. The toes should not turn outward. Such a stance may seem stable; however, it is unstable when moving backward and fumikiri (push of the rear leg) is slow and weak.
b. Avoid a stance where the feet are in align. This is an unstable stance and movement in any direction is difficult.
c. Do not positioned the feet closer together than prescribed. This foot position may have some benefit in forward and backward movements, but is unstable. It is also weak when receiving an opponent's taia-tari (body check)
d. When the feet are extended too far apart in their forward-back relation, movement in all directions becomes awkward. Additionally, such a stance lowers the body height and allows an opponent to dominate in stature.
|Ashi-sabaki is the collective term for all kendo footwork techniques. Ashi-sabaki is the single most important physical aspect of kendo; it is the foundation of all kendo skills. Without good footwork (without a strong foundation), it is difficult, if not impossible to build the structures of kendo technique. There are four primary footwork techniques: Okuri-ashi, Hiraki-ashi, Tsugi-ashi, and Ayumi-ashi.|
|Of the four footwork techniques, okuri-ashi is the principal technique, as it allows coordinated body movement in all directions and can be associated with all kendo techniques. The movement is a simple shuffle step with the foot corresponding to the direction of travel initiating the movement.|
|Hiraki-ashi is an advanced footwork technique applied when a diagonal movement would prove advantageous in avoiding an opponent's attack and open opportunities for a counterattack. Hiraki means "open". As the name implies, this footwork allows a person to step out of the way, opening the path of an advancing opponent, while maintaining correct guard posture of the body and feet.|
|Tsugi-ashi is another advanced footwork technique. Tsugi-ashi is used to move forward quickly across a distance greater than would be possible to cover using okuri-ashi. When practicing tsugi-ashi, it is particularly important to keep in mind the basic rule that the foot corresponding to the direction of movement is advanced first. In other words, the tsugi-ashi technique starts with the forward foot advancing first, then followed by the left foot being drawn even with the right to complete the first step of the movement. Do not move the left foot first - in all circumstances, moving the trail foot first is incorrect and should not be practiced.|
|Ayumi-ashi (not illustrated) is a third advanced footwork technique. It is the same as a walking step and is used in situations requiring rapid movement across an extended distance.|
|1. The foot corresponding to the direction of movement is advanced first. For example, when moving forward the forward foot leads the movement. Likewise when moving backward, the back foot leads. When moving left, the left foot leads, etc. This is the general rule for all footwork techniques.
2. The speed and strength of both feet should be synchronous, the trail foot being drawn back to its correct guard position quickly. This tempo was termed "Inyo-ashi" (shadow and light foot-movement) by Miyamoto Musashi. Musashi wrote:
|"When you cut, when you retreat, and even when you deflect an attack you step right-left-right-left with Inyo-ashi."|
|3. The upper body should remain toned, yet relaxed so the shoulders, arms, and shinai do not sway or bob when moving.|
|Conditions to avoid|
|In the Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi invalidates three types of footwork methods: Tobi-ashi, Uki-ashi, and Fumisuyuru.
Tobi-ashi (Jumping foot)
This foot movement is exhibited when the lead foot is raised upward upon the execution of a step or strike.
Uki-ashi (Floating foot)
This foot movement is when one foot is not grounded. This situation occurs when the body weight is not centered between the feet, allowing one foot to move lightly over the floor while the opposite foot bears the body weight.
Fumisuyuru (Stuck foot)
When the feet are inactive - fixed in their position.
|Ashi-sabaki - Collective term for all kendo footwork techniques.
Atama - The literal translation is "head". As it is used in this section of instruction, it refers to the fist portion of the kote.
Ayumi-ashi - One of the four principal footwork techniques. It is the same as a walking step.
Chudan - Chudan or Chudan-no-kamae is the middle guard position with the shinai held in the center-plane of the body and the tip projecting to the opponent.
Fumisuyuru - "Stuck foot" - term used to refer to feet that remain in one position.
Hiraki-ashi - One of the four principal footwork techniques. It is a side-stepping foot movement.
Inyo-ashi - The synchronized movement of the feet.
Kamae - Kamae is the guard, or ready posture employed for attack and defense.
Kamae-kata - Process of assuming the guard posture.
Kata - "Kata" can have many meanings. As it is applied in this section of instruction, it means process or procedure.
Kote - Protective gloves.
Men - Protective headgear.
Moku-so - Meditation used to cleanse the intellect and set the proper frame of mind.
Okuri-ashi - One of the four principal footwork techniques. Okuri-ashi is the primary footwork technique.
Osame-kata - Process of withdrawing form the guard posture.
Ritsu-rei - Bow executed from the standing position.
Sage-to - Also called Tei-to, it is the holding of the shinai in a relaxed attitude while standing in shizen-tai.
Seiza - The formal kneeled sitting position.
Shinai - Bamboo fencing stave which represents a sword for the practice of kendo movements and techniques.
Shizen-tai - The natural standing posture.
Sonkyo - Sonkyo is a posture taken to show respect before and after a match or training evolution. Sonkyo originated in ancient times when a sonkyo posture with one knee touching the ground was taken to yield to nobility and their processions.
Taito - Tai-to is the standing posture with the shinai held in a drawing attitude. The pose represents the position of a sword as it would be held in the sash.
Tei-to - (See Sage-to)
Te-no-uchi - The correct hand position and grip for holding the shinai.
Tenugui - A cotton cloth used as an undergarment to the headgear.
Tobi-ashi - "Flying foot" - A foot movement exhibited when the lead foot raises upward upon the execution of a step or strike
Toki-kata - Process of taking an at-ease posture with the shinai drawn.
Tora-no-kuchi - The tora-no-kuchi is the angle at the base of the index finger and thumb. The term is from the practice of kyudo (Japanese archery).
Tsuba - Sword guard.
Tsugi-ashi - One of the four principal footwork techniques. I is a shuffle step used to attack from an extended distance.
Tsuka - Handle.
Tsuki-dare - The pad attached at the chin of the protective headgear that protects the throat area.
Tsuru - The literal translation is "string". In this section of instruction, tsuru refers to the string that connects the parts of the shinai, and represents the back of the shinai.
Uki-ashi - "Floating foot" - term used when the body weight is not centered between the feet, allowing one foot to move lightly over the floor while the opposite foot bears the body weight.
Za-rei - Bow from the seated position.