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<< 9 / 2013 11 / 2013 >>

Info on the knee injury

2013-10-19 19:37:00

Good news about my sports injury: I went to see a physio therapist and he agrees with the previous assessment that nothing's actually damaged in my knee. The theory remains as before: I twisted my knee "in a bad way" during kendo and something got pinched. That something is probably my meniscus, a cartilege-like layer that's in between the knee joint. 

In knee injuries you'll often see tearing of the meniscus, which will result in permanent pain and will need to be operated on. That's not the case with me and the doctors think it merely got pinched or hurt. Now, whenever I get pains, that's because the meniscus is being stressed in that same spot. Doc says the pain could go away completely with a few months, or that it could be permanent. It's not dangerous, just annoying. The best way to avoid the pains is to take a good, hard look at my technique in kendo. 


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Kendo waza explained

2013-10-04 22:04:00

Disclaimer: this article was written by a mudansha, for other mudansha. While I have learned a lot the past few years, I am by no means a kendo expert.

To many beginning kendoka, the many different waza we practice can become confusing. Good kihon is where it’s at of course, but if you’re asked to practice men-suriage-men, then you’d better know your suriage-men! I’ve always loved this particular explanation at Kendo Guide because of its simple summary of kendo techniques. Their picture gives an easy overview the most important techniques.

The initial division of techniques is into shikake waza and oji waza, respectively offensive and countering techniques. It’s a matter of initiative: who moves first. The Kendo Guide image can be summarized in the following table.

 

shikake (仕掛け) oji (応じ)
renzoku waza (連続) nuki waza (抜き)
harai waza (払い) suriage waza (刷り上げ)
debana waza (出鼻) kaeshi waza (返し)
hiki waza (引き) uchiotoshi waza (撃落シ)
katsugi waza (担ぐ)  
maki waza (巻き)  

 

The Kendo Guide article does a good job of explaining most of these techniques, but I thought we could add upon that. For example…

 

Nuki versus debana

What’s the difference between a nuki kote and a debana kote? On the floor, during keiko, they may feel the same to most beginners. They see sensei square up against a victim, the victim does an attack and sensei whacks him before the attack lands.

The table above should make the biggest difference clear: timing. Nuki kote, or more famously nuki dou, is performed by evading a strike that is already on its way to you. Debana kote and so on, are done before your opponent has even started attacking. Right before he attacks, you do. It’s a matter of sen (先), from “sen wo toru“, “to anticipate“.

Where debana waza are “sen no sen” (先の先), nuki waza are “go no sen” (後の先). With the prior you sense that your opponent is going to act and you counteract at the same time. With the latter you can still prevent your opponent’s action from succeeding by blocking and then attacking. Ai-men is also “sen no sen“. Many great teachers have written about the concept of sen, so I will leave it as an exercise for you to read up on the topic. Kendo World magazine has had a few articles on the concept and Salmon-sensei has also written about it.

The remaining oji waza are all “go no sen“: suriagekaeshi and uchiotoshi. Which brings us to…

 

Kaeshi versus suriage

To many beginners, including myself, kaeshi waza and suriage waza can look very much alike in demonstrations: sensei faces his opponent, opponent attacks, sensei whacks the shinai out of the way and the counter attacks. But as before, these techniques are very different despite both being of the “go no sen” persuasion.

Kaeshi waza are demonstrated in kata #4, where shidachi catches uchidachi’sbokken and slides it away along his own bokken with a twist of the wrists. The counter attack is then made from the wrists as well. Suriage technique on the other hand is shown in kata #5 where shidachi counter attacks uchidachi, hitting the bokken out of the way on the upswing. In suriage techniques your own shinai stays on the center line, it does not move sideways.

But wait…

 

Suriage versus harai

Ivan stumbled upon this matter back in 2006: if both suriage and harai waza move your opponent’s shinai out of the way in an upwards or sideways motion, what’s the difference? Well, for starters there is timing: harai waza is shikake waza where you take the initiative, while suriage waza is oji waza i.e. reactive.

In suriage waza, your opponent’s shinai is caught by your upswing straight through the centerline. It is then moved aside by the curvature and the movement of your own shinai, as a setup of your own attack. In harai waza, you hit your opponent’s shinai upwards or downwards out of the way, before starting your own attack.

 

Seme versus osae versus harai

In all three cases you will see the attacker step in, while the defending shinaidisappears off to the side. It’s just that the way in which the shinai moves aside is very different.

In seme waza it is your indomitable spirit that makes your opponent’s kamaecollapse: you move in strongly and he is overwhelmed. That, or you misdirect his attention by putting force on one target, while truly attacking a second target. In osae waza (“pinning techniques“, like in judo) you hold your opponent’s shinai down and prevent it from moving effectively by moving your shinai over it, coming from the side. It is not a strike, push or shove! You’re merely holding him down. Finally, with harai waza, you make a small and strong strike against your opponent’s shinaithus smacking it out of center. This may be done in either direction, left/right, up/down, whichever is more useful to you.

 

One more sen: sen sen no sen

There are three forms of initiative: go no sen (block and act), sen no sen (act simultaneously) and sen sen no sen (act preemptively). All shikake waza, aside from debana, are classed as sen sen no sen: you are acting before your opponent does.

In other budo which traditionally ascribe to a non-antagonistic approach, sen sen no sen is described not as an act of aggression, but as ensuring that your opponent does not get the chance to attack you. Your opponent has already made up his mind to fully attack you, but he has not started yet. And by using sen sen no sen, you are not letting him. For example: an analysis through aikido and an explanation through karate.

 

A graphical summary

Based on all of the preceding, I have come to a new graphical representation of kendo waza. Below are a Venn diagram and a table that show the most important waza and their various characteristics.

Here is a poster of these graphics, that can be printed for the dojo.

 

The leftovers, what hasn’t been discussed yet

I’m told there are more techniques. Maybe we’ll learn about them some day :)

 

Closing words

To end this essay, I would like to quote Salmon-sensei:

The one thing that I am sure was obvious to most people is that in kendo, as in the rest of life, you have to “make it happen”. Shikake waza does not work unless you break your opponents centre and oji waza is effective only if you control your opponents timing and pull him into your counter attack.

We are reminded of this in class, if not every week! What ever you do, you need to have an acting role in it. Simply waiting does not work!

I would like to thank both Heeren-sensei and Salmon-sensei for their explanations through email. They helped me a lot in figuring this stuff out.


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