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Old 04-11-2008, 11:20 AM   #1
chunie
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banging bokken on my head

Hey all,

When I lift my sword to position it for shomen I sometimes bang the blunt side (can't remember the name) on my head . This also happens sometimes when I bring the sword down. I'm not doing aikido yet for long, about 1,5 years, and was curious wether this happens to me only or that it's just part of the road which we all walk.

I think the problem is that I bring the bokken up to quickly and don't keep it enough in front of my forehead and that the same happens when the sword swings down.

Other question on sword handleing, how do you prevent your pinky from letting go when you swing the bokken for, say, yokomen?

Thanks!
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Old 04-11-2008, 11:48 AM   #2
Ron Tisdale
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Re: banging bokken on my head

a) it's called the mune

b) how much are you bending your arms at the elbow when you go to shomen? The only way for me to hit myself in the head is to bend my elbows way too much. Remember, ki doesn't flow well through bent joints.

c) I promise that is my last cryptic ki comment for the year...

d) maybe you are over flexing the wrists?

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 04-11-2008, 12:17 PM   #3
chunie
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
a) it's called the mune

b) how much are you bending your arms at the elbow when you go to shomen? The only way for me to hit myself in the head is to bend my elbows way too much. Remember, ki doesn't flow well through bent joints.

c) I promise that is my last cryptic ki comment for the year...

d) maybe you are over flexing the wrists?

Best,
Ron
a) Ah yes, the mune! I remember now! Thx!

b) Hmm.. Just did a series of shomens to see/feel/notice. I try not to get my elbows very much higher than my shoulders or even level with them, that does seem sound to do and it does feel ok. Seems I bend my elbows lightly. But I noticed that I bang the mune to my head or almost bang it when I don't lift my wrists high enough and make enough room, e.g. when it's not a bit higher than and in front of my forehead. So maybe I just need to pay attention to that. I did notice than my extension is better when I keep that in mind (wrists in front an bit higher than forehead) when I do shihonage. Another link between sword and aikido, hooray

c) Kryptic comments on ki are just fine, my sensei talks a lot about that (and more)

d) Do you mean flexing as in: flex the wrist when I bring the bokken up? I hardly do that anymore, when the bokken is over my head it's either level with the floor or pointing upwards.
Was this a question regarding the mune-on-my-head or on the pinky-and-yokomen?

Thanks for the reply!!
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Old 04-11-2008, 12:25 PM   #4
Ron Tisdale
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Pinky and yokomen...I can't seem to replicate pinky slipping off (but I'm in the office and bokken is in the car [for good reason]), so I'm just trying to imagine it, mostly...

Best,
Ron (mune-on-my-head...gotta remember that line!)

Ron Tisdale
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Old 04-11-2008, 01:30 PM   #5
dragonteeth
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
c) I promise that is my last cryptic ki comment for the year...
...but we like your cryptic ki comments!

To fix the pinky and yokomen thing, try taking all of your fingers off the bokken except your pinky and ring fingers, and then practice for a little while. Once you get used to gripping with those two only, slowly add the others back in. Chances are you may be too tight in your first finger/thumb area when your grip should be looser there and tighter towards the ring/pinky area. That worked for me, hope it does for you too.

Now I have to go get this aggrivating song out of my head. Remember the old "raindrops are fallin on my head?" That tune is now stuck in my crazy noggin which has added different words - "bokkens keep droppin on my head, yokomens keep slippin off my little fingers..." *sigh*
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Old 04-11-2008, 01:32 PM   #6
Ron Tisdale
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Great Thanks! Now I'm singing too!
B,
R (cryptic ki comments from a YoshinOrc (TM)! What a hoot!)

Ron Tisdale
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St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 04-11-2008, 01:45 PM   #7
chunie
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Ron,

It's not my pinky slipping off Let me clarify.
When holding a bokken and I go for yokomen, the pinky of my right hand wants to create room so that bokken goes smoothly over my right side. The creating of room is where the problem is, I got corrected by a visitting sensei, which is fine with me, but I have trouble holding the bokken with my pinkies when doing yokomen. It gets even harder when I do a yokomen with a jo, but maybe I'll post that in an other thread to not mix up topics

I do hold my bokken strongest with my pinkies and I turn my wrists in over my weapon like wringing out a towel (sensei tells me to hold bokken and jo with pinkies as if weapons are eggs about to hatch, firmly but no squeezing and with feeling ), it's just that the front pinky wants to loosen up when going for yokomen. So I was wondering is this normal and do you overcome this through practice or am I grinding in the wrong technique? You did mention over flexing the wrists, maybe you want to clarify in which way I might over flex my wrists?

Ragarding mune-on-my-head, I was just wondering if we all did that in our early stages of aikido. I have only seen once at my dojo that someone was rubbing her forehead after swinging to and from shomen, but maybe that says more about our dojo than the bokken waza

Thx,
Chuntug
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Old 04-11-2008, 02:05 PM   #8
chunie
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Quote:
Lori Snidow wrote: View Post
To fix the pinky and yokomen thing, try taking all of your fingers off the bokken except your pinky and ring fingers, and then practice for a little while. Once you get used to gripping with those two only, slowly add the others back in. Chances are you may be too tight in your first finger/thumb area when your grip should be looser there and tighter towards the ring/pinky area. That worked for me, hope it does for you too.
Thx for the advice, I do already try use my pinky and ring finger mostly for firmness, maybe at the moment I'm just holding to tightly with those fingers. I'll work on that the coming months.

Quote:
Now I have to go get this aggrivating song out of my head. Remember the old "raindrops are fallin on my head?" That tune is now stuck in my crazy noggin which has added different words - "bokkens keep droppin on my head, yokomens keep slippin off my little fingers..." *sigh*
Yes, thx for the singing in my head aswell
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Old 04-11-2008, 02:09 PM   #9
Ron Tisdale
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Sorry, I have no idea how to help with the pinkie!

The only time I've been hit on the head with a bokken was when someone else was swinging it, and I juked instead of jived...

BANG! ... OW!...

Then me getting up off floor...next time I moved the right way.
B,
R (it was a rose wood bokken...very nice, a little too hard and heavy for my tastes...when you' ve been hit with it)

Ron Tisdale
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Old 04-11-2008, 02:27 PM   #10
phitruong
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
Sorry, I have no idea how to help with the pinkie!

The only time I've been hit on the head with a bokken was when someone else was swinging it, and I juked instead of jived...

BANG! ... OW!...

Then me getting up off floor...next time I moved the right way.
B,
R (it was a rose wood bokken...very nice, a little too hard and heavy for my tastes...when you' ve been hit with it)
for me, it was a 2005 imported white oak with light nutty scent. It was light and bubbly, not too full body, yet made a nice impression.

you know, i have not tried the mune-on-head before. I have done head-on-mune many times. I preferred taking the initiative to lead so i tend to head-butt the mune to lead it around. if you see a guy head-butting the mune with a crazed look in his eyes, that would moi.

if you hold a stick, let your arm be the rope. if you hold a rope, let your arm be the stick.
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Old 04-11-2008, 03:27 PM   #11
chunie
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Re: banging bokken on my head

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Phi Truong wrote: View Post
you know, i have not tried the mune-on-head before. I have done head-on-mune many times. I preferred taking the initiative to lead so i tend to head-butt the mune to lead it around. if you see a guy head-butting the mune with a crazed look in his eyes, that would moi.
Try it and post your experience in here at the forum
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Old 04-11-2008, 04:49 PM   #12
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Re: banging bokken on my head

I have a rubber bokken in my office (watching the test go by can be, um, stultifying ), so I took a moment to see if I could figure out what was going on here.

And I can't. I just can't picture how this is happening.

And, for the record: Raindrops is second only to that Terry Jacks abomination for worst song ever recorded, IMO. And it's now stuck in my head.

Thanks so much. I think I'm going to go hit myself with a rubber bokken a few times to see if it helps.

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Old 04-11-2008, 07:52 PM   #13
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Quote:
Chuntug Taguba wrote: View Post
I try not to get my elbows very much higher than my shoulders or even level with them, that does seem sound to do and it does feel ok.
Why?

Is raising your arms that far proscribed by your sensei?

Kentokuseisei
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Old 04-11-2008, 08:25 PM   #14
dragonteeth
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Never been hit with a bokken on the head, but I've been on the receiving end of jo, bo, and three sectional staff. Oh, and then there was the time my first teacher forgot his bo, and decided to use a 3/4" steel pipe instead...still have the dents in my red oak bo from that one. I only missed the block once!

Sorry about the song. I've been known to get strange ones stuck for days. I once had Hava Negila stuck in my head for a week, and I'm not even Jewish!
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Old 04-11-2008, 10:50 PM   #15
xuzen
 
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Quote:
Chuntug Taguba wrote: View Post
Hey all,

When I lift my sword to position it for shomen I sometimes bang the blunt side (can't remember the name) on my head . This also happens sometimes when I bring the sword down. I'm not doing aikido yet for long, about 1,5 years, and was curious wether this happens to me only or that it's just part of the road which we all walk.

I think the problem is that I bring the bokken up to quickly and don't keep it enough in front of my forehead and that the same happens when the sword swings down.

Other question on sword handleing, how do you prevent your pinky from letting go when you swing the bokken for, say, yokomen?

Thanks!
If you bang the blunt side one your head, your shomen-uchi is too low and by GOLLY you would have occluded your vision as well. How are you going to strike down your uke when your vision is occluded.

Wrt ro pinky letting go... I remember the grip is should be strong with the last three digits. The first two, indexs and thumb is for guiding only. I.e., the grip strength comes from the last three digits. With that in mind, your pinky should not have slip off.

Boon.

SHOMEN-ATE (TM), the solution to 90% of aikido and life's problems.
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Old 04-12-2008, 03:43 AM   #16
chunie
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Kent,
My sensei didn't say explicitly that raising my elbow is bad, what he talked about was that I need to keep in mind that I shouldn't lift my shoulders and in so doing I don't lift my elbows that high. I'm not very strict at that, maybe I should, I'm still feeling what works well. I did notice though that leveling my elbows with my shoulders doesn't feel as comfortable as raising them a bit higher, but raising them as high as my eyes doesn't feel right.
I saw in you profile that you do kendo, perhaps you have some other advice on raising the bokken eg. in the use of the elbow and positioning above or just in front of forehead. And don't worry about me not asking my sensei first, I do that often when the need arises, I just like to read about the views from someone who handles the bokken/sword more often than we do. All help is appreciated

Xu, Michael
Indeed, one of the reasons I bang my head is that my shomen is to low, but I only did that in the beginning. I'll try to explain what happens. When I lift the bokken to position over my head I seem to use my right hand as a fulcrum and my left hand acts as a lever, at the same time I bring my both wrists up, my left wrist ends up over my forehead and my right above my crown, there I'm ready to strike or just stay there for a moment. I have noticed that this combination of pivoting and raising, when done too quickly and in the wrong order, results in the mune-on-my-head effect. And now I know where it's coming from I can work on it Hooray!!

All of you thanks for posting you comments, it was fun reading your attempts to mimic or recreate my situation

I find the link between aikido and sword fascinating, I have more question so I'll be posting in this forum more often!!
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Old 04-12-2008, 05:07 AM   #17
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Quote:
Michael Riehle wrote: View Post
I have a rubber bokken in my office
OK. There might be a few of us out here who are wondering just where the heck you buy a rubber bokken. And why.

Avery Jenkins
www.docaltmed.com
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Old 04-12-2008, 06:02 AM   #18
Eric Webber
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Re: banging bokken on my head

I'll weigh in late, but better late than never. During my brief time studying iaido, we were taught to bring our left hand to our forehead and the right hand over the crown of the head, keeping a steep angle of about 60 degrees (90 degrees being vertical). Left elbow was fairly closed (pointing fairly forward) to keep it from getting cut off by an opponent. Should be looking out the angle of your forearms like looking out the flaps of a tent: flaps open too much, big openning; flaps too closed, can't see your target; find a balance. Hope that makes sense, and perhaps helps.
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Old 04-13-2008, 02:40 AM   #19
xuzen
 
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Quote:
Chuntug Taguba wrote: View Post
Xu,
Indeed, one of the reasons I bang my head is that my shomen is to low, but I only did that in the beginning. I'll try to explain what happens. When I lift the bokken to position over my head I seem to use my right hand as a fulcrum and my left hand acts as a lever, at the same time I bring my both wrists up, my left wrist ends up over my forehead and my right above my crown, there I'm ready to strike or just stay there for a moment. I have noticed that this combination of pivoting and raising, when done too quickly and in the wrong order, results in the mune-on-my-head effect. And now I know where it's coming from I can work on it Hooray!!
I was not taught to use my right wrist as fulcrum and my left wrist as lever during the upward stroke. Either you are not doing it correctly or this is some new fashion of doing suburi....

The upward stroke is just lifting, no fulcrum and leverage needed, the power of the cut is at the downward stroke, and it uses the weight of the bokken/sword for the cut, not, your arm power.

Boon.

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Old 04-13-2008, 03:30 AM   #20
chunie
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Xu,
Definitely not doing it correctly. I was at an iaido seminar yesterday, given by Michel correctly Sensei, didn't see him do that fulcrumming thing. Need to get rid of that habit then. Aahhh, the life long journey ....
And indeed, arm power is a no-no in cutting, that much I figured out already

Eric,
Funny you posted about sword handling, as I mentioned above I was at an iaido seminar and saw exactly what you described! Seminar was fun, it was my first real experience with iaido. Got to see a lot of new things!

Thanks both for the advice!
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Old 04-13-2008, 06:36 PM   #21
Eric Webber
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Re: banging bokken on my head

As a point of note, I will say that due to the low ceilings in my home dojo (anyone who has come to AWR to train can attest!) I have had to modify the iaido form I described above. I do use my hands/wrists in some bit of a leverage action, but timing and position are crucial for accuracy and survival (not hitting oneself in the melon as which started this thread). I focus on my left hand coming to my forehead while bringing my right hand directly over the crown of my head; the majority of focus is bringing my hands directly over my head in the most direct and quickest manner possible. My angle is closer to 15 degrees above horizontal rather than so vertical. I find I can can still make a strong and quick cut from this position (I have trained with some of my chums using shinai and hand protection to see if this "really works".... and it does).
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Old 04-13-2008, 07:33 PM   #22
Kent Enfield
 
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Quote:
Chuntug Taguba wrote: View Post
Kent,
My sensei didn't say explicitly that raising my elbow is bad, what he talked about was that I need to keep in mind that I shouldn't lift my shoulders and in so doing I don't lift my elbows that high. I'm not very strict at that, maybe I should, I'm still feeling what works well.
If the problem is that you tense or raise your shoulders, by shortening your up-swing, you've not fixed the problem. You've simply avoided it, and probably created a host of others.
Quote:
I did notice though that leveling my elbows with my shoulders doesn't feel as comfortable as raising them a bit higher, but raising them as high as my eyes doesn't feel right.
When I ran practice at my college kendo club, at least one new person every term would voice the above sentiment. I'll give you my stock answer: what feels right or natural isn't necessarily so. If it were, everyone who picked up a sword would be an expert, and that's clearly not the case. We do all sorts of stuff that doesn't "feel right". Sometimes it's just not a motion you're used to. Sometimes it's a movement that your body needs to physically adapt to. Sometimes it's something that defies common sense.

Quote:
I saw in you profile that you do kendo, perhaps you have some other advice on raising the bokken eg. in the use of the elbow and positioning above or just in front of forehead. And don't worry about me not asking my sensei first, I do that often when the need arises, I just like to read about the views from someone who handles the bokken/sword more often than we do. All help is appreciated
I normally avoid technical discussions of all but the most general kind online, even with other kendo people with whom I have a common jargon and technical base, but since you specifically asked, I'll give a few pointers on a basic, big cut. (This all assumes a vertical cut starting from chudan/seigan.)

1) Bigger is always better. The two Japanese words that get used almost continuously are ōkiku and nobashite, meaning "bigly" (big as an adverb) and "stretch".

2) The left hand drives everything. Well, it's the left hand that connects the sword to your body, with the legs and lower abdomen driving everything, but that's a whole separate discussion. In the beginning, the right hand is just along for the ride.

3) For the upswing, push through the tip of the sword with your left hand. You'll quickly run out of forward movement and it will naturally turn into raising the sword. Do not "pull" or "lift" the sword up. "Push" it.

4) For the downswing, don't think "down". Think "out". From the top of your swing, send the tip of your sword as far forward towards and somewhat above the target. Remember "stretch". For the follow through (the actual cutting part of the cut), maintain that stretched feeling.

5) Maintain a feeling of pulling downward in your mid and lower back, like your back is pulling on ropes that go over your shoulders to your arms and sword. It's your back that lifts the sword, not your arms or shoulders.

6) Keep everything from the chest, shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands soft and relaxed. Not slack, but soft and relaxed.

7) Coordinate the movement of your upper body with that of your lower body.

8) For where the top of your upswing is, the general rule is left fist one fist above and in front of top of your forehead. This is just a starting spot, but if you find yourself getting too far away from it, you need to ask yourself what's going on. If you can't see what you want to cut clearly under your arms, you need to swing up more.

The video quality is pretty poor, but for general shape of the cuts look at http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=j58lSEocJZ8. The whole series is pretty good, but nihonme is the only one of the 10 kata that contains basic cuts from chudan. The rest are either from different kamae, or add something else (like suriage) the the technique. (And they're not actually pre-war, but early post-war.)

I suggest also looking at the Bokuto ni Yoru Kendo Kihon Waza Keiko Ho ("Kendo Basic Technique Practice Method Using A Bokuto"), which are more fundamental exercises than kata, but there are only a few videos of them on youtube (search for "kendo bokuto kihon"), and all have issues that I would want people to avoid. Don't necessarily copy them, but they can give you a basic idea of the shape you might want to aim for.

Kentokuseisei
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Old 04-13-2008, 07:40 PM   #23
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Quote:
Eric Webber wrote: View Post
I focus on my left hand coming to my forehead while bringing my right hand directly over the crown of my head; the majority of focus is bringing my hands directly over my head in the most direct and quickest manner possible. My angle is closer to 15 degrees above horizontal rather than so vertical. I find I can can still make a strong and quick cut from this position (I have trained with some of my chums using shinai and hand protection to see if this "really works".... and it does).
There was a sports-science study of kendo specifically concerning how far back people swing and how fast their total swing was. Of course, the "full swing" where the shinai nearly touches the buttocks was the slowest, but counter intuitively, swinging back to horizontal was faster on average than stopping at vertical or 45 degrees back.

My personal experience is that stopping near flat is easier and so I spend less time slowing-down and reversing the shinai then when I aim to stop higher.

Of course, this doesn't include "ko-waza" done with a a very abbreviated up-swing.

Kentokuseisei
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Old 04-14-2008, 05:51 AM   #24
chunie
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Re: banging bokken on my head

Quote:
Kent Enfield wrote: View Post
If the problem is that you tense or raise your shoulders, by shortening your up-swing, you've not fixed the problem. You've simply avoided it, and probably created a host of others.
Hmm... I don't think it's in the tensing of my shoulders, I know for sure they are less tense than when I started aikido, but maybe they are still too tense
Quote:
When I ran practice at my college kendo club, at least one new person every term would voice the above sentiment. I'll give you my stock answer: what feels right or natural isn't necessarily so. If it were, everyone who picked up a sword would be an expert, and that's clearly not the case. We do all sorts of stuff that doesn't "feel right". Sometimes it's just not a motion you're used to. Sometimes it's a movement that your body needs to physically adapt to. Sometimes it's something that defies common sense.
Indeed you are correct on this one. What I'm saying is, and I'm sure it was me not beeing clear enough, that we all do feel something when practicing, but we try, at least I do, to emulate or synthesize the feeling sensei talks about. After all, what happens inside is very hard to convey to an outsider. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to dismiss your comment, I'm with you on the fact that purely feeling to get the hang of it is not sufficient to learn a movement. Probably more common than not is that people, including me, have to unlearn bad habits and then learn the right ones. Hope that there is not too much ingrained in body though

Quote:
I normally avoid technical discussions of all but the most general kind online, even with other kendo people with whom I have a common jargon and technical base, but since you specifically asked, I'll give a few pointers on a basic, big cut. (This all assumes a vertical cut starting from chudan/seigan.)

1) ...

8) ...
Wow, thx very much for the detailed advice. I'll have enough to work with for the coming months and connecting the whole lot together with my feeling

Quote:
The video quality is pretty poor, but for general shape of the cuts look at http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=j58lSEocJZ8. The whole series is pretty good, but nihonme is the only one of the 10 kata that contains basic cuts from chudan. The rest are either from different kamae, or add something else (like suriage) the the technique. (And they're not actually pre-war, but early post-war.)

I suggest also looking at the Bokuto ni Yoru Kendo Kihon Waza Keiko Ho ("Kendo Basic Technique Practice Method Using A Bokuto"), which are more fundamental exercises than kata, but there are only a few videos of them on youtube (search for "kendo bokuto kihon"), and all have issues that I would want people to avoid. Don't necessarily copy them, but they can give you a basic idea of the shape you might want to aim for.
I found some videos on Bokuto ni Yoru Kendo Kihon Waza Keiko Ho, interesting stuff!! Again thx, appreciate you took the time to reply extensively.
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Old 04-14-2008, 06:37 AM   #25
Kent Enfield
 
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Re: banging bokken on my head

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Chuntug Taguba wrote: View Post
Wow, thx very much for the detailed advice.
Eh. It's not terribly detailed, and, with the exception of #5, it is all stuff you'd get told about in your first few weeks of kendo.

Kentokuseisei
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