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Old 05-23-2009, 04:28 PM   #17
Dojo: Aunkai
Location: Fairfax, VA
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 415
Re: Taisabaki and Ueshiba

Shaun Ravens wrote: View Post
When you have a moment, might you please expound upon your perspective, here... Thank you.

Best in training to all...

Hi Shaun, I am unsure of your familiarity with kendo so let me lay out a few concepts below without going into too much detail about proper kendo. I also should mention that kendo has, for a variety of reasons mostly left its swordsmanship roots and evolved into something a bit different, yet it still has much of the language referring to internal skills, but lacking an explicit method of training them.

In kendo, like most other martial arts, control of a "center line" between opponents is a fundamental concept. When watching a kendo match, this fight for control of a center line is a bit more visible than in other martial arts in that if one person does not have control and attacks, they essentially run into the other persons shinai (negating the attack), or the person having control of the line can implement whatever waza they choose to control the opponent and cut. Likewise, you can feel your opponents intent via contact with the other persons shinai.

for example the two 8th dan kendoka in the below video fight for the center line, as shown by their shinai's moving back and forth,until one player has control and attacks.

Its already a well known mantra in kendo, that using arm/shoulder to power your cuts is bad. Likewise, trying to fight for control over the center line using arm strength is not the way to go as your opponent can readily feel your strength and use it against you. Kendo players are encouraged to "move from their center", attack their opponents center, use their legs to power their cuts without any discussion how to route that power to the sword, and body strike through their opponent. There are plenty of clues in the kata as well, but I haven't met anyone yet, though I imagine there are people out there who link those hints there to armoured practice. Most seem to refer to the concept of ki-ken-tai ichi as a timing concept, yet 80 year old guys with slow reflexes and little arm strength are able to hit harder than college age students. With some guys you would not want behind the wheel of an automobile and probably can't carry a full load of groceries to their house, something other than "superior timing" is enabling them to generate that kind of power and take center.

At one seminar (an iaido one) a senior Japanese instructor even went over how to train it, giving some rather surprising clues and made the point that one must take the time to study ones own body via internal training if you want to get to a higher level.

The problem is,outside of that single instance, no one has ever talked about how to build that level of skill, how to route power from the middle/legs to the shinai, been able to explain why the stance of high ranking guys is completely different than that of younger ones, and that just doing suburi for 30 years you will get there.

To get back to your original question with regards to why it is a hard sell kendo: in my own opinion, being able to unbalance your opponent via your shinai by connecting and manipulating their center, to generate enough power to disarm your opponent, to be able to cut the wrist strong enough to force your opponent to drop their shinai and bodystrike to unbalance your opponent are all very effective ways to maintain, obtain, and control the center line to defeat your opponent.

The problem is that the cuts, or strikes are no longer as strong as they used to be as kendo has evolved into something different which is much more along the line of current day karate point sparring. An idealized strike is given a point (proper expression of ki-ken-tai ichi as timing rather than whole body power). The level of contact that would result from using body skills at high power is not acceptable, and no longer necessary with the current ruleset. Being able to push your opponent around isn't looked very favourably either.

Pre-war kendo players used to be told generate enough power to cut from the head to the anus with a men strike (See the kendo reader by Noma Hisashi), though in current day form points will be awarded for far far less. Likewise when someone is disarmed, the other person has only a few seconds to score a point, while the other person may simply grabs them and receives a foul (a possible way to loose via fouls or points, but more often than not I have not seen judges award a point when the disarmed person is struck several times). Additionally, the targets in kendo are limited as it is a safety issue, so bodystriking someone so they loose their balance likely means they land on the ground, or are bent in such a position where those targets can not be hit and thus while one could conceivably strike a killing blow in such a situation would be unlikely to receive a point from a judge.

When focusing on instruction, most beginning kendoka have a very hard time sorting out how to swing properly and footwork, but it would seem to me that these skills have a place later on, but one is expected to figure out how to do it on their own.
Someone could be quite effective though by turning down the amperage and playing within the ruleset.
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