When Kanakisatoru, passed his 8th dan test using chudan, this made him think about taking jodan again and looking a little more deeply into it.
Every practice he started taking chudan for 7 minutes then going into to jodan for the remaining three every practice. He has been doing this for 5 years now. He says 'I can see the problem but I still can't put my finger on it...'
Kanaki Satoru takes this study and explains the jodan techniques he has kept to him self so dearly.
So I started to cut the tire as he said. I practised from noon until 1:30pm every day. It was impossible to cut the 3000 cuts. I only just made 2000 (laughs). The seisei said 'Well how’s it coming along?', I said 'Yes I'm doing it all well'.
So what about foot work? That was down to kakari-geiko. And I was to practice first with Iue-sensei every day.
I just couldn't seme correctly, my distance didn't work and I couldn't see a chance to cut. I just didn't have it at all.
The thing which turned it all around was when Mr Hashimoto said ‘cut sharply (use tame [see bottom])'. When your opponent just stands firm and even performing seme wont make him move. Hold it and when he comes at you hit him without a thought (naturally).
What I had in my mind was that jodan was about, just getting one cut. I failed because when I took jodan I just cut when the opponent frightened me into cutting..
Don't rush into cutting, take another good look and prime for making a cut. This is really difficult although you can say the same thing about chudan. All the more difficult is making an opening.
Even said, I felt I realised some thing at the time. After I won the Akado championships I continued to hold the top position. I felt if I hadn't have taken jodan it wouldn't have done me so much. But for me jodan is altogether a difficult and and enjoyable part of my kendo. In one word just as Inue-sensei said 'Just lift it up'. I really admire Inue-senseis teaching.
I'll practice chudan for 3 minutes then jodan. But in competitions it's jodan. I found out the problem was to lift up much higher, take a large stance with a large spirit, just as Inue-sensei said.
Every time I see the large Mt'fuji and rivers flowing, this is what I think of when I take jodan, its got to be large.
Your stance should be as if you were wraping around your opponent with all your energy.
Although when you attack your opponent use small movements and hold your stance. Call on your energy when your opponent attacks you.
Never break your stance and have the feeling that there is a chain lifting your spirit high up.
Cut only when you see your opponents (true) intentions.
Altogether jodan is hard for people who want to take it up.
All in all, I think it should be a cut which does not show when it is going to be performed to your opponent.
Now we must think about the difficult points, when we cut men its fine, but not being able to perform kote is always some thing worrying. Even for me.
A jodan player who is good as men also must also good at cutting kote. Men is good when the left fist is pointing to the left. Its not a mistake to believe that kote is the strong point of jodan when the left fist is pointing back, or the palm is facing the opponent’s kote. When I practice on the tire I exclusively hit men, so my fist is always pointing to the left hand side.
Kote really isn't my strong point (laughs).
This is scary but even so over come the fear and step forwards even just half a step! If you have to hold your ground, remember seme is both attack and defend at the same time. And when you push out with the belly button, all the tension moves from the upper body to the stomach and your body becomes more relaxed.
Cutting becomes no problem and your cuts flow smoothly. This is what I try to work up to but it still hasn't come to me yet.
When I go into my stance I bring my left foot forwards and go straight into jodan. Take the first move (sen) that’s what I have in my mind all the time.
So my conclusion is to take the initiative.
If your opponent takes a steps back or moves to one side. This makes me think that my opponent will attack (seme) relentlessly and try to brake my technique. Maybe its just natural for him to move back or forwards, but I think its one of these things you must get a feeling for in kendo.
If you are doing the seme andw your opponent steps back trying this down cutting type of men will lead to tip reaching (dropping). Because this cut follows a fast circular line just hit mid air. You have to bring your elbow in and at the same time let your elbow drag your body forwards. This type of cut is best for this type of opponent. This cut is called the extending men cut.
Although these two techniques are the same you really have to think about when to let go with your right hand.
With the (spot), down cutting men you let go when your hand is in front of your eyes.
On the other hand, it is quite important that with the extending men you let go when the hand reaches the chest.
I still practice cutting the tire now and again and whenever I do, I always try to practice both types of men.
If the opponent lifts up his kote when he tries to use tsuriage men (catch men) or leaves his kote in the air, this is the time when you have to swiftly cut his hand. Just like in kata number two.
You can tell that I prefer to cut debana men. If the opponent stays still I just cut extended men.
Pay great attention to your opponent’s techniques and use your mind and think about distance and at the same time try to cut him. I think this is the kind of kendo I am working towards.
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Photos by Kawamura Noriyuki