December 06, 2005

Honda-sensei of British Kendo speaks on Ji-geiko (Part 1)

A FABULOUS article!!

I've supplied the link to give proper credit where it's due, but I think a couple points need to be reproduced here as well.

Ji-geiko is the core part of Keiko in Kendo. In Ji-geiko, we (Kendo-ka) can try to use Waza(techniques) in unrestricted situations. We can also learn and acquire what we need to do before we attack (Seme) or how to react to an opponent’s Seme (intention and attack). Through Ji-geiko, moreover, we can recognise what Waza we are, or are not good at and one Ji-geiko can lead us to the next Kihon-geiko and Ji-geiko and what we need to work on for our technical progression. It also gives us ways to developing our skills and spirit as proper Kendo-ka.
If we approach Ji-geiko in the wrong way such as focusing only on beating an opponent, we cannot expect real development as proper Kendo-ka in the future. It is important, therefore, to engage in Ji-geiko with the correct understanding.

Therefore the purpose of this article (part 1) is to re-examine what Ji-geiko should be and to present some useful material for Kendo-ka in future Keiko. It starts with an examination of the relationship between Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko followed by an examination of how Ji-geiko should be practised.

1.The Relationship between Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko
As well as Ji-geiko, Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko are important main elements of Keiko.
In Kihon-geiko, the same practice is repeated again and again under pre-determined situations so that we become proficient in striking and thrusting correctly, with full Ki-ai and good posture (Ki-Ken-Tai no Itchi).

Kata-geiko places more emphasis on being aware of the use of the sword than Kihon-geiko, [as kata-geiko is also usually practiced with boken]. Kata-geiko is also where we learn how to breathe (abdominal breathing) properly.

These Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko do not exist separately. They are supposed to be connected fundamentally. However there are some people who can perform beautifully in Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko, but lose posture and co-ordination between their arms and legs in Ji-geiko. There is no real problem, if these people are setting themselves task(s) in order to overcome their inabilities in the Ji-geiko. There are other people, however, who focus only on beating opponents and striking more times than their opponent has. This sort of attitude in Ji-geiko reflects an attitude that is concerned only with winning at that precise moment in time. In contrast, there are other people who focus only on their posture and form and pay less attention to the exchanging of taking Chu-shin and Seme-ai. (control of the centre) This is also ok, if these people are doing intentionally in order to overcome their problems (i.e. trying to keep their back straight when they attack). If they are not trying to overcome their various problems however, then all such attitudes degrade Ji-geiko into just a performance and therefore we cannot experience the real pleasure of Ji-geiko through this failing.

2. What Ji-geiko Should Be
There should not be an imbalance of preference between Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko. It is important to tackle Ji-geiko while we are considering how to use Waza acquired in Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko. By doing so, we can grasp the meaning and purpose of each Keiko and become more interested each time we practice any Keiko. As mentioned earlier, Ji-geiko is aimed at giving us opportunities to grasp our abilities under unrestricted situations. In addition to this, Tomiki (1991) points out that the purpose of Ji-geiko in modern Kendo is allow us to grasp the strict spiritual aspects of Kendo as Budo. In the past, Bujutsu-ka could grasp their abilities only by beating their opponents and surviving life or death situations. The place of battle for life or death in the past has been converted to a competitive place where everyone is protected with Bogu and one can attack and defend safely. In modern Kendo, the Kendo-ka is expected to try to control emotional conflict in competitive situations. Thus, developing our skills and spirit as proper Kendo-ka, it is essential then to understand how to undertake Ji-geiko and do it properly. The way of approaching Ji-geiko is not the same for everyone. At the beginners’ stage, there is a way for them to engage in Ji-geiko according to their level. Likewise there is also a way for seniors to approach Ji-geiko according to their level. Moreover, the application of Ji-geiko changes according to what a person tries to acquire and improve through Ji-geiko and also who we have Ji-geiko with (i.e. with Kohai, Sempai, someone older, women and so on).

The remainder of this article explains how to tackle Ji-geiko according to one’s stage of development.

3. How to Tackle Ji-geiko in Each development Stage.
3-1. Kyu Grade
Firstly, the most important point for Kendo-ka of this level to keep in mind is: to try to use Waza (Shikake-waza) on your own initiative. It should not be just Men and Kote, but you should use all Waza you have learnt in Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko. You should not be afraid of failing and being defeated. It is expected that you will gradually grasp the timing of using each Waza whilst you try to attack using your own initiative. Another important point is that you should not stop your movement after striking and thrusting, but try to complete your attack and quickly prepare yourself for the next action. It is quite often seen in beginners’ Ji-geiko that they loose their attention and guard as soon as they finish their first attack and that they walk back to where they were before attacking. It is important to always maintain concentration wherever you are and to prepare for the next action as soon as you have finished your first attack.
Secondly, it is usual that most beginners have not learnt, at this stage, how to defend. It is also quite often the case that beginners do not properly know what to do and they are just absent-mindedly standing without doing anything, closing their eyes and tensing their shoulders, moving back or running away in case their opponent attacks before them. It is also be reasonable to assume, that they may feel fear at someone’s attack. What is important here is to have a proper understanding of Ko-bo-itchi and Ken-tai-itchi. These terms illustrate the importance of always being mentally and physically ready to defend against the opponent’s counterattack whilst attacking, and ready to counterattack while defending (All Japan Kendo Federation, 2000, p. 47). There is no defence just for the sake of defence, in Kendo. Defence is done for the next attack or counterattack. Using a proper defence enables you to immediately attack after defending, but you should not just be standing and defending by using only your Shinai, you should keep your knees relaxed and defend by using both your Shinai and your footwork. As you gain more experience, you come to acquire a wider variety of Waza and better timing. What you are encouraged to do for your progression at this stage is to use big techniques involving all of your body and not relying on small techniques or trying to strike more times than your opponent has.

If you form bad habits on the way you attack and defend at this stage, it will take a long time to get rid of them in the future. It is important to reflect how you have been tackling Ji-geiko by listening to your Sempai and Sensei’s advice and by self-examination.

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