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Class Notes – Kenjutsu 01

October 7, 2012

I finally did my first class in kenjutsu!

Well, some time back I did hold a single session thing, with the intention of giving people a broad overview to kenjutsu. I thought I did OK, but I never followed up on it to see how many of the attendees really did train on the material by themselves. And since no one in my current class had actually attended that session…

During this class we worked on:

1)      Holding and manipulating the blade. The right hand gives the direction, the left hand provides the power for the cuts. For the blade to really come alive in our hands, we need to be able to tighten or loosen the grip with the right hand as necessary.

We should, for example, be able to move from a seigan no kamae to a kasumi no kamae to block a downward cut (tenchi kiri) and turn the back of the blade up for the block.

2)      Suburi – cutting drill. Remember to move the hands, not swing down the arms. Step forward and time the tip of the blade (kissaki) to arrive at the same time as the front foot stepping forward.

3)      Daijoudan no kamae – tenchi kiri, Seigan no kamae – tsuki (jab, thrust), Hasso no kamae – kiri age (upward cut), tenchi no kamae – dou kiri (cutting across).

We can string all of these together into a sequence and practice them, but at the beginning it will be more useful to just drill each individual kamae and cut. Again, work on timing the end of the cut to arrive with the step, and don’t over-cut!

4)      Finally, I showed the first waza from Kukishin Kenjutsu, Tsuki Komi. As usual, it freaked out those who got to experience it. I didn’t get the people try it on each other, though. I realized that it is a lot safer for people to try this waza only after some serious practice on controlling the blade. Even though we were using bokken (wooden swords) in class, Tsuki Komi is still quite dangerous. I then showed some other henka (variations), using the same concept while wielding a ninja-to, knife or even unarmed (muto dori, which ends up looking like hibari, from Shinden Fudo Ryu).

What is the key difference between this class and the class I did last year?

https://shunketsu.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/class-musings-public-holiday-budo/

Integration

Last year I had no idea about integrating the body. It was just some hazy concept I heard from people doing internal martial arts. For about a year or so I have been working on integrating my body and now I start to have some idea of what it really means.

And after that, I started seeing glaring loopholes and weaknesses in my kenjutsu. Tsuki Komi is ridiculously easy to apply to an opponent who has not learned integration yet. If the opponent has even a basic level of integration, you’ll have to work hard to make Tsuki Komi work, or you will kill yourself trying it.

So now, with that understanding in place, I am better able to work with my students on THEIR body integration. The most important point for now is this: many people break up their body integration because they don’t have confidence in generating sufficient power for their techniques, so they feel the need to add in unnecessary movement to get more power.

This can show up in pulling the arm back before striking, letting the tip of the sword drop before the tenchi kiri (from daijoudan) or pulling the arms back and leaning forward before the tsuki from seigan no kamae. I always knew those were mistakes, but now I see even more clearly the problems they create.

Conclusion:

I’m expecting to have to go through all this material again next lesson. I’ve got no problem with that, I know it takes time for things to sink in. Besides, some people missed this lesson and it is an important lesson. If we get all this correct at the beginning, learning the rest of kenjutsu will be a lot easier and safer for everyone.

So in the meantime, if you have already attended that class, get practicing!

 

Junjie
俊傑 (Shunketsu)
Singapore

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