Photography: Nishiguchi Kunihiko
Translation: Mariko Sato, Pepijn Boomgaard
In Kendo, there are three opportunities to strike: a weakness in Kamae, a weakness in movement, and a weakness of the mind. It is said, “If there is no opportunity, create an opening and strike.” What is the technique of seizing the opportunity that is essential for Kendo improvement?
Hayashi Sensei emphasizes, “In order to strike when there is an opening, it is also important to let the opponent strike when there is an opening”. Hayashi Sensei, who is still pursuing Kendo as he grows older, introduces the methods he practices to proactively seize an opportunity.
Encounter with Yagyu Shinkage Ryu
I ended my competitive Kendo training at the age of 40, and have been striving for “good Kendo” and “good Keiko” in my practice. However, it was difficult for me to correct my long-standing bad habits, and I have been trying to do so through trial and error. I have also continued to analyze the Tachiai of the high Dan teachers at the All Japan Kendo Enbu Taikai (Kyoto Taikai) and the Kendo of those who passed the 8th Dan examination. I came to strongly feel the need for Riai (underlying principles) in Kendo, but as I continued to practice, I felt that I was at a standstill both technically and mentally. It was then that I was given the opportunity to learn Yagyu Shinkage Ryu from 21st Headmaster Yagyū Nobuharu Toshimichi Sensei.
Yagyu Sensei explained the characteristics of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu as follows:
“Yagyu Shinkage Ryu is typified by the teaching of “Ken Tai Hyou Ri (懸待表裡), Ichigu-wo-mamorazu (一隅を守らず)”. Ken (懸) means to attack first and do so before the opponent does. Tai (待) means to wait for the opponent’s attack and beat it. Hyou Ri (表裡) refers to the front and back sides of the sword and means to attack from the front and back to win. Ichigu-wo-mamorazu means that you must not be single-mindedly focused on one single thing or place.
Ken means to attack first, but you must be willing to wait. Tai means you wait for the opponent to attack, but you must always have the feeling of Ken. This is Kentai-itchi (懸待一致, Ken and Tai as one).
This is how Sensei explained the mental state.
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