Taikai

Yesterday was the SCKO Memorial Tournament (17th i believe). Both my sons were participating and did quite well.

I, on the other hand need to focus more and do better.

Next time.

Shodan essay

Describe “ki-ken-tai-ichi”. 気剣体一致, 기검체일치

Ki-ken-tai-ichi literally means “Spirit” – “Sword” – “Body” – “One”. While there is a lot of discussion of ki-ken-tai-ichi on the internet, of the many books I have purchased on kendo, I have seen at most a couple sentences devoted to its meaning.

For the most part, these references define ki-ken-tai-ichi as the unification of spirit-sword-body as one. They all mention that to the beginner this would be interpreted as “when you hit, you move your body and stomp your foot as you yell out the area that you strike- all at the same time”.

While this is a fine definition of a valid point (ippon or yuko-datotsu) in kendo matches, most of the explanations hint (but do not explain in great detail) of something more. And like the Zen masters who give their students paradoxes to meditate upon, our koan as kenshi is “ki-ken-tai-ichi.”

I would submit that ki-ken-tai be considered as a whole rather than its individual units. That is to say that the sword is an extension of the body which is an extension of the spirit. So in reality, they are not separate. If we are concentrating on making separate units become unified (i.e., we are making sure our foot lands at the same time as we use kiai and strike the opponent) rather than seeing the outcome of our spirit attacking we are in essence reinforcing the separate-ness of ki, ken and tai. This is the paradox.

The problem is that as adults, we have programmed ourselves to analyze and break things down into their subunits. So we have to unlearn this.

This learning will be life-long and like anything, it is the process to which we come to a solution which is more important than the solution itself.

The benefits of kirakaeshi

Last November I took the 1-kyu exam. The essay question was as follows along with some thoughts:

Question: Describe some benefits of “kirikaeshi”. 切り返し, 연격

Kirikaeshi, a controlled practice of frontal attack (shomenuchi), body check (taiatari) and alternating left and right strikes (sayumen) to the men at 45 degree angles provides many benefits to the kendo practitioner both as striker and receiver. Kirakaeshi teaches good posture (shisei). It begins and ends with chudan no kamae. The back must be straight in order to strike and receive properly. The importance of proper grip (tenouchi) is also emphasized as well as how and when to relax. Shoulder joints become flexible and arm movement is facilitated. From posture, the benefit proceeds to balance and footwork (ashisabaki) and realization of the proper striking distance (ma’ai) and striking with the proper part of the shinai (monouchi) and the cutting edge with the proper force. The principle of harmonized spirit-sword-body (ki-ken-tai-ichi) is maintained through each strike. Often, kirikaeshi may be the first experience of being hit on the men by a shinai. It teaches one to be comfortable with being hit and how to receive the men strike and not to be afraid. Finally, it teaches you how to breath and give good kiai. As always, alertness (zanshin) should be maintained throughout.

To summarize, the benefits of kirikaeshi are proper posture, proper grip, flexible joints and arm movements, balance, proper footwork, proper striking distance, proper striking technique with use of the cutting edge, ki-ken-tai-ichi (spirit-sword-body). It teaches you to relax and remain calm, to receive strikes properly, to not be afraid, proper breathing and endurance, proper kiai and alertness.

Kirikaeshi in essence is an exercise in the basic essentials of proper kendo.

References:

Tokeshi Jinichi (2003). Kendo: Elements, rules and philosophy (pp. 110-111). Honolulu, HI: Univ of Hawaii Press.

Sasamori Junzo and Warner Gordon (1989). This is kendo: The art of japanese fencing (pp. 107-109). Boston, MA: Tuttle Publishing.

Donohue John (1999). Complete kendo (pp. 63-66). Boston, MA: Tuttle Publishing.

Ozawa Hiroshi (1997). Kendo: the definitive guide (pp. 45-47). New York, NY: Kodansha International.

Why do kendo?

People do kendo for many reasons. Some like the discipline. Some exercise. Others like sparring. Still others think they are modern day samurai. However, what most will be faced with is the realization that it is a way of life or has many applications to daily life.

I’ve come across this essay on tofugu which gives a brief introduction to kendo as well as a number of reasons why we do kendo, including to “…have the focus of a short Japanese girl”. Read it for yourself.