For those that wondered about the helmets... We do an exercise taken from the Maniwa Nen Ryu. They use a set of cotton padded kote and a very funny looking cotton padded helmet.
One person simply attacks with continuous shomen strikes. The defender has three different responses which he mixes at random: A simultaneous deflection and cut to the head; a slipping movement with a left to right left to right deflection, crushing the arms followed by a shomen strike at the end, and a slipping block involving drawing back out of range and then springing back in for the shomen strike.
Using the shinai with the helmets allows a committed attack / defense. Contact is made although the power of the hit isn't very great as all of the hits are done off of deflections so most of the power is absorbed in cutting through their defense or deflecting their attack (but it's harder than you'd want to take without the helmet). So it's a very controlled form of freestyle with designated roles. No tsuki attacks since there isn't protection for that. It's a great exercise for developing strong intention. Let's you find out if you can actually do some of those elegant moves you have in the kumitachi you do with the bokken (while still providing an element of safety).
We use those funky helmets as they are far cheaper than real kendo armor and perform this specific task just fine.
Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 03-24-2002 at 01:39 AM.