Kendo lessons of Yagisawa Makoto

The complete Shinai manipulation guide



Yagisawa Makoto, 8th Dan Kyoshi

Born in Akita Prefecture in 1961, 55 years old. Graduated from Akita Commercial High School and went on to study at Nippon Sport Science University. After graduation, he continued his research activities at the university as an assistant. Currently, he is a professor at the Nippon Sport Science University and head of the Kendo club.

Kendo is about catching openings

Kendo is fundamentally a combative form of exercise, a one-on-one competition of skills. The techniques are based on the interaction with the opponent. It cannot be done based solely on the practitioners movements without an opponent.

Furthermore, since the main focus is on offense and defense at close range, the opponent’s adjustments determine one’s own adjustments, and these changes are extremely complex and diverse in both form and movement, making interaction with the opponent seemingly endless. This is where the difficulty of Kendo lies, as it cannot be solved by simply treating Kendo techniques on an individual level.

The All Japan Kendo Federation (hereafter referred to as “AJKF”) theoretically organizes the structure of the technical movements, and explains the “technical elements of basic striking” as follows: “From a physical point of view, the striking action in Kendo is valued as an effective strike when the series of actions from Kamae to Seme to striking and Zanshin are completed.

In reality, in order to ensure a successful strike with this series of actions, it is necessary to seize even the slightest opening (or predict it) and strike at a moment’s notice as the offense and defense unfold. Therefore, it is necessary to accurately grasp the opponent’s physical and mental state before executing a strike, rather than just thinking (or feeling) that you have made a strike.

In other words, in addition to the four physical elements mentioned by the AJKF, the psychological elements such as catching an opportunity when moving from Seme to striking must be understood to allow an important role for it in the construction of striking techniques. Furthermore, it is well known that during that process, one must be able to handle the Shinai freely.

Seme and Shinai manipulation

It is very difficult to describe Seme in a few words, but for the sake of convenience, I will define it as “an action to create an opportunity to set up the conditions for an effective strike, or an action to create an opening by disrupting the opponent’s mental or physical balance through spirit, Shinai manipulation, or body movement for an opportunity to strike”.

Although there is no fixed form of Seme and it varies from one person to the next, there are lessons from the past such as “Sansappo” (three killing methods), which are being used to a great extent in modern Kendo.

There are many different ways to kill a sword. In other words, to break the opponent’s Kamae.

  1.  Kill the sword: To nullify the opponent’s sword, in other words do disrupt their
  2.  Kill the technique: To nullify the opponent’s trademark techniques.
  3.  Kill the spirit: To nullify the opponent’s spirit by pressuring him with plenty of spirit.

Sansappo is explained as shown above. The three principles should not be performed separately but in unison.
In general, the Kensaki can be said to be essential to Shikake (initiation). as in “his Kensaki is effective”, “his Kensaki is strong,” and “Seme through the Kensaki”. Sasamori Junzo Sensei states that there are several ways to use the Kensaki and the Shinai.

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