Brion Toss wrote:
One of the students in my weapons class is a longtime student of several ancient ryu's. He notes that in Saito's kumitachi, one always leaves the right foot forward when raising the bokken to a shomen position, whereas in other styles one draws the right foot back behind the left foot as the bokken goes up. He maintains that the latter version leaves more options for movement, and just doesn't get why Saito (and therefore O Sensei) chooses to leave that right foot forward.
I have tried both ways, but not enough to come to any conclusions. Does anyone have any perspective on the two approaches?
What the heck is "shomen position?" Do you mean jodan no kamae (sword held above the head)?
I'm also a little dubious of someone being "a longtime student of several ancient ryu's (sic)." First, access to koryu is pretty limited outside of Japan, though the Puget Sound area is pretty lucky in that regard. Second, having time and ability to be a serious student of more than one of them, let alone "several," is uncommon as well. That doesn't mean it can't happen, though.
In my sword experience (kendo and iaido), jodan can be either migi (right foot forward) or hidari (left foot forward). I havn't found one to be more restrictive than the other, though the footwork is often reversed. What would be okuri-ashi (shuffle step) from one version would be ayumi-ashi (stepping through) from the other variation. Whether you want hidari jodan or migi jodan depends on what else is going on.
As to not moving, moving forward, or moving backward when assuming jodan no kamae, that too depends on what else is going on. It is primarily an issue of whether you want to maintain, close, or stretch the distance.
Also, what's done in one sword school doesn't mean it's done that way in other schools. For example, some schools don't ever use kesa-giri, whereas others rely on it and never strike shomen.
So basically it's a case by case thing.
Now, are Saito sensei's weapons kata actually meant to teach effective weapons usage, or are they meant to enhance empty-hand training? If it's the latter, one shouldn't be surprised if what's taught conflicts with "real" sword training. Not that real sword training is consistent between ryuha anyway.