Kendo lessons of Harada Satoru

Suburi done while envisioning a duel leads to improvement



Harada Satoru, Kyoshi 7th Dan
Born in Fukushima Prefecture in 1973. He went from Fukushima High School to Tsukuba University. After graduating, joined the Metropolitan Police Department. He has taken the All Japan Championship title once, 2nd place twice and 3rd place three times. In the National Police Team Tournament, he has taken the title 3 times and participated in the WKC. He is currently director of the Metropolitan Police Department.

Suburi done while envisioning a duel leads to improvement

I think the reason why you perform Suburi is not just to improve your arm strength, but to improve the quality of your duels. Then, how does Suburi lead to improvement in duels? They are the elements which allow you to strike accurately when the opportunity arises such as Tenouchi and body movement. 

Currently, I am in an instructor’s position. The amount of Suburi I do has reduced compared to my Tokuren days, but I re-experienced the importance of Suburi. For the past year, I have received teaching from Sato Katsunobu, the former Chief Director for the Metropolitan Police Department Kendo Dojo, and I became a Martial Arts Specialist Teacher who trains martial art instructors at the Metropolitan Police Department for a program called ‘Budo Senka’. Budo Senka was created with the aim of properly understanding the purpose of police martial arts and fostering excelling leaders.

The Metropolitan Police Department has approximately 43,000 police officers. The martial arts students, learning from the leaders, will thoroughly review the basics of their Kendo and Judo so that they can master the arrest techniques necessary to suppress and arrest suspects.

The Keiko consists of reviewing the basics from the beginning, in early morning (Kirikaeshi) and the rest of the morning (basic training such as Suburi and Jigeiko), and in the afternoon (training on pistols, arrest techniques, Iaido, and batons). In this daily Keiko, they spend about 40 minutes in the morning on Suburi. Six people line up in front of the mirror and perform 100 each of forward Men, forward and reverse Men, Suburi from Gedan and Matawari. 

The Budo Senka students have been studying Kendo since their school days, became skilled people and continued to do Kendo. In the summertime, they do Suburi while bathing in their sweat. This is severely hard on the body but they do it. 

In order to teach them, I compared my training experience and Shiai experience and thought about what would be the focus points. I felt a renewed importance of the basics and what my teachers taught me in the past.

During my school days, I was working on Suburi by myself but during service I was taught by the Police Department teachers how to move my body, perform footwork, do Tenouchi and many other things from scratch. As a result, my view on Suburi has changed. I had the sense I was doing Keiko to master correct basics because the instructions were very clear. I felt I could attain the correct Kendo of the Metropolitan Police Department if I would practice what my teachers preached until I had absorbed it by body memory.

I wanted to teach those thoughts and experiences to the Budo Senka students and they all understood it well. I think that instilling the correct Kendo and basics in the body will lead to the purpose of Keiko to strike accurately when the opportunity arises. In the future, I would like to continue reflecting on myself and engage in teaching.

Assume the correct Kamae, then perform and master Suburi accordingly

First of all, I think that the important thing in doing Suburi is to take the right Kamae. If the Kamae is distorted, the Suburi will also be distorted and you won’t be able to learn the right way. However, rather than just saying “the right Kamae”, we try to convey what is important to get closer to the right Kamae in order to make it easier for the receiving side to understand.

The late Hotta Seijiro Sensei (Hanshi of the Dai Nippon Butokukai, Chief Director of the Metropolitan Police Department) stated that Chudan no Kamae should be manifested “in correct posture, free to respond to attack and defense, without any openings, and physically and mentally rich.” These teachings are my ideal and I keep them in mind when I assume Kamae. I also try to use such words in my own teaching.

During Keiko, I sometimes feel wondering whether my Kamae is affecting my situation in a positive or negative manner. The position of the feet, posture, and center of gravity may also have an influence. Therefore, it is very important to observe yourself in front of a mirror. I have often been instructed to do a Kamae check before training.

To get the right striking technique, you must first get the right Kamae. It is valuable to check your Kamae in a mirror

Creating a body that is effective in duels by doing Suburi Keiko

Suburi is done on top of improving your Kamae. The Budo Senka students use Bokuto instead of Shinai. These are Bokuto for Suburi so they are slightly heavier than Shinai.  This will strengthen your muscles, build your body and create a good Tenouchi.

Here we will explain the four types of Suburi introduced earlier: forward Men, forward and reverse Men, Suburi from Gedan and Matawari.

Forward Men-strike Suburi

From Chudan no Kamae, slide forward to the command of “Ichi”, and at the same time swing to the Men level with according Kiai. After swinging down, take one step back and return to Chudan no Kamae.

Instead of swinging with wrist power, I am focusing on the muscles around the shoulder blades and making a large upswing. If you swing up while loosening the left little finger, the tip of the sword will drop below the head level so I try to avoid this. I also pay attention to the width of my feet when I return. That is to create a situation from which I can strike immediately and to be in the same position as before striking.

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