kendo lessons of kurita waichiro

The Suburi of a First-class Kenshi



Translation: Pepijn Boomgaard

The father of modern Kendo, Takano Sasaburo, said that “as long as you do Suburi and running, your Kendo won’t deteriorate.” Suburi is a way of training by yourself. We will introduce the Suburi of a first-class Kendoka.

Kurita Waichiro (Hanshi 8th Dan)

Born in 1956 in Kanagawa prefecture. Went to Kamakura Gakuen High School and Hosei University. After graduation, he joined the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. His achievements include 3rd place at the All Japan Championship, winning the All Japan Police Team Tournament 5 times, winning the Tomohito Shinnou Hai 8th Dan Tournament, and getting 3rd place at the All Japan 8th Dan Invitational Tournament. In 2009, he retired as deputy chief Kendo instructor of the Metropolitan Police Department. Currently, he serves as executive director and secretary general of the All Japan Kendo Dojo Federation, instructor of the Canon Kendo club, instructor at the Showa University Kendo club, and instructor at Tokyo Shudokan.

Suburi is an indispensable training method for acquiring kendo techniques. In the “Kendo Teaching Guidelines” (published by the All Japanese Kendo Federation), the purpose of Suburi is stated to be “to learn Shinai control and correct Hasuji, to learn the Tenouchi necessary for striking, and to learn the basics of striking using Ashisabaki.”  

During my time at the Metropolitan Police Kendo Tokuren, we did about 1000 Suburi during the winter. We would do 200 or 100 of several different types, such as Shomen, forward and backward Men, Sayu Men, and so on. During Suburi, it is important that all the strikes from start to finish meet the criteria for a valid strike. This is not an easy task, but something you constantly pay attention to.

As Suburi is a repetition of simple movements done by one’s self, it is easy to be lenient on yourself. If you do it in a group, you will feel like you can’t lose to them, so you can concentrate and perform proper cuts.

We sometimes do a 1000 Suburi at the training camps of the Canon Kendo Club or Showa University Kendo Club. It takes about 40 minutes. I give the orders and we focus on what we’re doing. It is hard practice, but we are able to complete it because we do it together with our friends who have the same aspirations. It is important to continue this practice in daily Keiko, as it will make you stronger.

I feel like practicing Suburi is a difficult problem for people who do Kendo as a hobby. The only way to get better at Kendo is by continuously practicing, but the reality is that it is difficult to devote time to Suburi during practice. It is important to understand this situation and incorporate Suburi into your practice.

When I do Suburi together with hobbyists, I try to consciously increase the number of Suburi. I try to increase it from 100 to 200 and keep that up. You won’t improve just by doing Suburi, but by taking the time to do Suburi correctly, you can learn something. It only takes five minutes to do 100 Suburi and 10 minutes to do 200. 

Suburi can also be done at home. Depending on where you practice, you can also do Suburi before or after practice. By continuing to do so, you will surely improve aspects such as your Tenouchi.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to practice with other people for a while. Because I focussed on doing correct Suburi during that time, I was able to return to normal practice without feeling much of a decline in my ability.

Once you understand the effectiveness and purpose of Suburi, it is necessary to try and learn new things while repeating these simple movements. This should motivate you to work on it.

In my case, I have several types of Shinai and Bokuto, which I use for different purposes. For example, if I want to develop strength and power, I use a Suburi-to that is heavier than a Shinai. When I want to correct my Hasuji, I use a light Bokuto. If the balance between your Tenouchi and strength is not right, your Hasuji will not be correct when you swing your Shinai up or down.

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