Features of combat suburi : The secrets of being strong lies in suburi


Suburi that does not anticipate competition is mere physical exercise. Suburi with a real situation in mind is the ultimate 1 person keiko. This is where suburi for exercise and suburi for real situations differ.

The secret of being strong lies in suburi
Get crisp technique with this suburi

In order to survive the harsh world of the tokuren (special police training squad) Arima Mitsuo, a veteran police officer, had made suburi a daily routine. He introduces the suburi he has put into practice with emphasis on the importance to strike in one movement.

Arima Mitsuo, born 1943 in Okayama prefecture, 74 years old. From Saidaiji High School to Osaka prefectural police officer. Became 2nd and 3rd in All Japan Championship Tournament 3 times. Won National Police Team Championship 9 times and Individual victory 1 time. Meiji Village Kendo Championship 2 times, participated in All Japan East West Tournament. Currently, Osaka Prefecture Police Kendo Honorary Teacher and Toll Express Co. Instructor. Hanshi 8th dan.

Anyone who has done kendo has done suburi, and I think everybody recognises the importance of it. Suburi can be done in spare time and without opponent, but in reality, isn’t it quite hard to actually spend time on it?
Moreover, nowadays suburi tends to function as an exercise for warming up, but it is actually an important kind of keiko.
Through suburi we master essential content of shinai handling and it is indispensable at a rudimentary level in particular. It is important to keep doing it without neglect even as you get more experienced.
The goals of suburi include to master a unified way of shinai and body movement, learning the angles of strikes and tenouchi, as well as synchronising the hands and the feet. Furthermore, I recognise that suburi is something that adds crispness to technique and I have put it in practice as such.
First of all, it is important to swing earnestly with forward intent. It is better to not only do men suburi, but also kote and do. I also practice men, kote and do in succession for suburi.

If you swing down for men to ear level, the tenouchi will have a good finish.

swing down to ear level for men

The common suburi is to swing in the air to land men, and when swinging down I swing to ear level. This way the tenouchi finishes nicely without having to wring it out unnecessarily.
When swinging down the shinai and you stop the shinai above the opponent’s head, it will not have a nice finish. If you would actually hit the opponent’s men, the strike will be insufficient and you will pick up this bad habit leading to insufficient men strikes.
If you aim to swing down to ear level the strike will have a nice finish when it lands on the target, and it will be crisp. Focusing on this method of suburi in everyday practice, and when doing suburi which is inter connected to uchikomi keiko, jigeiko, shiai and examinations will help you improve the substance of the suburi dramatically.
It is common to do suburi in quantities of 30 to 50, and even though quantity matters, first it is important to do them correctly. You will pick up bad habits if you don’t learn how to swing correctly before putting in volume.
Concerning the footwork, you should connect the left foot to the right foot instantly when going forward and the right foot with the left foot when going backwards. By doing so we learn the movements of following up on your footwork.

Swing down just below the kote, and down to the stomach for do.

The focus of suburi is men, but I advise to also do suburi for kote and do. This is because in kendo you should be able to use all the techniques: men, kote, do and tsuki.

For kote suburi, I swing down to one fist’s length under the kote. This will give the tenouchi a good finish. For do I swing down to the center of the opponent’s stomach. Men and kote require only vertical shinai handling, but do also requires diagonal handling. It may disturb your posture, but you can swing up the same as men and kote, and when swinging down you adjust the angle of the trajectory by using your tenouchi. It is not necessary to excessively turn the shinai, and if you bend your elbows the kensaki will take a longer route. Sayu (left and right) men suburi follows the same principles.

swing down about a fist lower for kote

swing down to the center of the stomach for do

Train your tenouchi and footwork by doing kote, men, do suburi in succession

Adding to the basic suburi, for the enthusiasts I would like to introduce the successive suburi of kote, men and do. Take kamae in chudan, and perform kote, men and do in succession and return to chudan. This will of course be keiko to learn tenouchi, but also for successive footwork.
In kendo there is the teaching that once you perform a technique, you should keep performing techniques until you land one, but this requires smooth footwork. Successive suburi is effective to learn these kind of movements as well.
Suburi is done with suri ashi, but this suburi can be done with fumikomi. In order to strike from issoku itto no maai, it is necessary to swing bigger, with more momentum, and more swift footwork. It is well known that fumikomi plays an important role in this.
However, even though the importance of fumikomi is known, people can be seen here and there who can’t get the timing of hands and feet right at the moment of striking. By taking kamae with relaxed shoulders and performing kote, men, and do in succession we can master smooth footwork. If the will to strike is too strong at the moment when it matters, your posture will collapse so we should master the correct posture with this suburi.

By doing kote, men, do in 3 point suburi we train our tenouchi and footwork

In kendo there are techniques which initiate and directly attack (shikake waza), and those which render the opponents attacks uneffective by nuki and kaeshi and retaliate after.
These techniques which rely on counter attacks will lead to kendo which lasts a lifetime.
Even if your physical fitness is inferior, you can still match up better than fifty-fifty. If you are confident that you know the maai and that you can strike while using footwork to the left and right it is not intimidating no matter how fast your opponent is.
As in kendo there is the teaching “kenchutai, taichuken” (attack while observing opportunity, and observe opportunity while attacking) there is a depth in kendo which can not be solved merely by strength. I believe this is the charm of kendo. I would like you to experiment with the characteristics of the shinai and not only master techniques which go in straight lines, but also techniques which rely on curved lines while moving to the left and right, and broaden the scope of your kendo.
Because I was small, I tried to polish not only linear techniques but also curvilinear techniques. The first step to acquire that skill is suburi. Since in suburi there is not only front and back footwork but also sideways, and there is a tendency to primarily go forward and backwards. I believe it is necessary to practice those movements in keiko that you do on your own.
Finally, when doing suburi something that should always be checked is the kamae. In kendo we do not let opportunities for strikes pass as we exercise mutual seme, and we take valid strikes off each other. The key for that lies in shinai handling. You break or invite out the opponent by shinai handling, so your kamae has to allow you to be able to operate the shinai freely.
There is a tendency for staticness in kamae, but kendo is done while moving. While standing still, but also when moving around we should have a posture from which we are always prepared to strike. The kamae ensures you will remain sharp, and the ideal is being able to cope calmly without being disturbed even when the opponent initiates an attack and being able to attack at any time. Before doing suburi, if you check the foot width and tenouchi, and take the kamae that enriches your spirit, the swing should also be full of energy.

When doing suburi, make sure your kamae is correct


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