December 06, 2005

Honda-sensei on Ji-geiko (Part 2)

This is VERY good information for everyone! (pay close attention to the highlighted sections of the article...)

I doubt Honda-sensei of the British Kendo Association will ever see this little blog of ours, but if he does, I hope he understands how great his thoughts are on this.

Original link:


1. Ji-geiko with Seniors
What should be mentioned, firstly, is to try to get Sho-dachi (the first cut) no matter who you are having the Ji-geiko with. Irrespective of the difference in grade and experience.
Ji-geiko should start with Ippon Shobu played in earnest in an equal fifty-fifty situation, with the philosophy: that there is no second chance in a fight with real swords.
It is important to understand this philosophy in Kendo as Budo and try to get a successful Sho-dachi by utilising all of your abilities to the full.

After attacking and defending Sho-dachi, in this Ji-geiko with someone senior, you are recommended then to focus mainly on Shikake-waza. However this does not mean merely attacking randomly against seniors. If you are of a low grade such as Ikkyu and Sho-dan, it is important to attempt to break the senior’s Chu-shin [centre] by making the best use of your footwork, Shinai and body movement. It is also important not to be afraid of being avoided and counter attacked, and not to stop attacking in the middle of your action, but to always try to complete your attack. You are supposed to develop various ways of Shikake-waza such as: by being avoided or being struck Debana-waza and Ouzi-waza, repeatedly . However it is not profitable for you to be struck as a result of waiting for the senior to attack. Try to use all the Waza you have and give 100 percent effort. Sumi (2000) points out that juniors should focus only on Shikake-waza and try to do Ji-geiko that makes them use up all of their energy in 5 minutes when they have Ji-geiko with a senior.  

2. Ji-geiko with Juniors
There is no need to stress the importance of Sho-dachi here any more. What you should consider when doing Ji-geiko with a junior, is not to lapse into a Ji-geiko where the only intention is to obtain satisfaction by merely beating them. People tend to feel that they want to impress other people who are watching their Ji-geiko. Such vanity should be severely admonished. From the viewpoint of showing responsibility as a senior, you have a responsibility to develop the juniors’ skills by making them realise their weak points, by striking them in that weak moment, but also by letting their strong points come through and striking you during the Ji-geiko. This type of Keiko is called Hikitate-geiko (All Japan Kendo Federation, 2000) and is one of the most difficult Keiko to do in Kendo. Juniors will lose their enthusiasm and concentration if seniors just keep on striking them for their own satisfaction or if the opportunity to strike is too obvious. To enable the junior to improve, a senior is expected to perform as though their skill level was 0.5 dan higher than the junior and to concentrate 100 percent when facing them. The senior should counterattack when the junior makes an attack without first making an effective Seme and when there was no appropriate opportunity, but let them strike when they come to attack after making a good Seme and when there is a good opportunity. The senior should encourage the junior to grasp and understand the correct opportunity to strike though this Hikitate-geiko.

Seniors are also expected to encourage juniors to understand the importance of maintaining concentration by attacking if the junior is careless after their attack.
There is a saying that explains how a senior should approach Ji-geiko with a junior: “Ware igai mina shi nari (everyone is one’s teacher)”. That is, there is always something to learn through Ji-geiko no matter who one does it with. One quite often hears, “I am the highest grade in my Dojo and I have no one to teach me.” This is not true. It depends on the way you think. Keep in mind that you can learn a great deal from whoever you do Ji-geiko with.

It is often taken for granted that seniors can strike juniors easily in Ji-geiko , so for your further improvement, you should not just focus on striking but tackle Ji-geiko with a clear task(s) or by giving yourself a handicap in this Ji-geiko with juniors. However, you must not stick to a form of Ji-geiko whereby you only focus on cutting Men for instance, as even if you try to focus on cutting Men, you need to have a clear idea such as: from what distance to cut Men and on how to make an opportunity. As to giving yourself a handicap, it is also important to explore how to perform under adverse conditions. For example, dare to fence in Chika-ma during Ji-geiko with someone smaller than yourself and to watch for a chance of doing Debana-waza (instead of waiting you should try to lure your opponent into attacking the target you want them to strike!).
I would like to repeat the point that seniors must not lapse into Ji-geiko where the aim is to obtain satisfaction, just by striking more times than their opponent has.

3. Ji-geiko with Someone of the Same Level
Ji-geiko with someone of the same level gives you a good opportunity to reflect upon your progress and the fruits of your efforts. This is even better if you are both about the same age. It is very important for you to know someone of the same level and of a similar age and to do Ji-geiko with them. It’s quite normal not to want to be struck by your rival, but it is quite important to have an attitude whereby you try to show your best Kendo no matter what happens. After they are struck, people also tend to try to return the attack before making enough Seme. It is important to control this feeling and try to start again with the taking and re-taking of the Chu-shin. By doing Ji-geiko with someone of the same level, you should compare how your Seme and Waza, [which worked against juniors], works against someone of the same level and whether there is anything your rival has and you do not have and vice versa. It is expected that all people of the same level will try to train harder in order to improve in a spirit of cooperation and friendly in the way of Shugyo in Kendo.

5. Men Doing Ji-geiko with Women
In the case of men doing Ji-geiko with women, Tai-atari and the use of Waza that rely too much on physical power should also be restrained. Men should not fall into the habit of being afraid of being struck by a women or getting frustrated when you cannot strike as you wish. This causes you to strike, ignoring opportunities, differences in physique and physical strength. This is the worst type of Kendo, because it shows no respect for your opponent and creates nothing between you, even if you are able strike your opponent by doing such Kendo in the Ji-geiko .
Your opponent is not an enemy to destroy, rather that you are partners, who should help each other to improve by working hard together in Shugyo. It can quite often be the case that you are much the taller when doing Ji-geiko with women and juniors. This is a good opportunity to do Ji-geiko in Chika-ma. [if there is a difference of height between two Kendo-ka, the one who is taller normally feels cramped and uncomfortable playing in this close distance]. Men should realise that having Ji-geiko with women is a good opportunity to learn how to play (without relying too much on physical strength) by fencing in Chika-ma. Moreover, through Ji-geiko with women, men can also practise how to acquire the timing of Debana-waza that catches the moment when your opponent comes to move into Chika-ma.

6. Women Doing Ji-geiko with Men
It is often thought that most women find it difficult to do Ji-geiko as they would like to with men who are bulkier and taller. Just the thought of powerful attacks from well-built men may be scary. However, everyone has a weak point, for instance: maybe a distance which they find uncomfortable fighting in or a type of opponent which they find awkward to fight. This applies not only to women but to all Kendo-ka. To keep avoiding practising with people who are hard for you to deal with in Ji-geiko is not a solution. It will remain your problem. If they are hard to deal with in Ji-geiko, it is suggested that you should try to do Ji-geiko with them more than with anyone else and try to overcome this weak point through being struck again and again and by trying to find a solution.

If you find such people who are difficult to handle, then they are the ones who you need to do Ji-geiko more with, in order to overcome your fear and problem. Generally tall people are not good at playing in Chika-ma because it is too close for them to kick the floor hard with their left foot and they feel cramped in this position The important point is therefore how to reach Chika-ma, as that is an advantageous distance for you. If you try to reach Chika-ma by merely stepping forward, your opponent will try to do a Debana-attack. It is important therefore to devise various ways of reaching Chika-ma from different directions. In the case when your opponent comes to attack before you do, you will be knocked over if you just check their attack and Tai-atari. It is important therefore, to acquire Ashi-sabaki and Tai-sabaki that enables you to avoid direct strong physical contact [using body movement]

I would like to add one piece of advice here. One sometimes hears, unfortunately, that there are some men who behave in Ji-geiko as if they are trying to hurt women. As well as this bad attitude in the Ji-geiko, there is nothing to be learnt from such people. It is strongly recommended that you stop Ji-geiko immediately if you discover your opponent is one of these types, or that you refuse to do Ji-geiko with them if you are asked.

7. Last words
What should be expected of all Kendo-ka when doing Ji-geiko, is that you make your opponents feel that they want to have Ji-geiko with you again. It will give me great pleasure if this and the previous article, which re-examined the relationship between Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko and how Ji-geiko should be approached, give you something useful in your Kendo Shugyo now and in the future.

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.

December 05, 2005

What's the deal with rank in kendo? (updated July 2010)

If you've ever wondered about rank in kendo, the general bottom line is that (achieving) rank is not the ultimate goal of kendo. The ultimate goal is just to get better at kendo. Perhaps you've noticed that no one in kendo wears any outward sign to denote their rank. Why?

When you go to practice, things like rank, age, sex, weight have no true meaning because in kendo, technique will determine the winner in a match. By way of illustration, at the U.S. National Tournament in Las Vegas (1999), I saw a 5'2, 100 lb girl defeat a 6'+, 200 lb man in the team competition by scoring a beautiful men. Technique is the variable which makes all kendoka "equal".

That said, rank (and achieving rank) can be a positive thing in kendo. It can give us a sense of where we are (in terms of kendo ability/knowledge) and where we're headed or what we can look forward to. In our goal-driven society, rank can be a source of encouragement as well.

In the past, the Memphis dojo has not held any in-house promotionals. The primary reason for this is that we haven't had enough people in class with enough rank to sit on a panel of judgment. The International Kendo Federation has recently laid out new laws governing the guidelines for kyu-rank promotionals. In former years, all that was required for a grading panel up to 1.kyu (the level immediately below 1.dan) was three 3.dan+. The FIK changed their own rules to require a minimum of five 4.dan. The AUSKF changed their own policy to be in line with FIK regulations and this has now filtered down to the individual regions which make up the AUSKF.
As of 2008, Memphis Kendo Club now has four active 4.dan in class which gets us closer to the AUSKF requirement. The SEUSKF has also created "sub-regionals," placing Memphis in the SEUSKF Western Region along with Nashville and Knoxville. We will continue to plan joint shinsa with those two groups, which will typically mean at least one 7.dan (Yazaki-sensei of Nashville) and one 6.dan (Hyun-sensei of Knoxville) to sit on a grading panel.

Having said that, it is also perhaps noteworthy to mention that it is neither necessary nor required that adult kenshi "start" at the lowest kyu rank and progress one step at a time as they approach 1.dan. All kenshi start with NO rank and then are generally placed at a certain kyu level after their first shinsa (testing). After that, a person can easily skip kyu-levels based on the award of a testing's grading panel, with the following exception: By SEUSKF regulations, NO person may test for 1.kyu as his first rank, which is to say, everyone MUST pass some kyu-level shinsa prior to being eligible to test for 1.kyu. Obviously, this means, too, that no one may test for 1.dan before first passing 1.kyu, even if it means you've been doing kendo for 20 years. Also, if you hold, for example, the rank of 3.kyu, you may -- with your instructor's permission -- challenge for the rank of 1.kyu, however, if you fail the exam, you will remain at your current rank (i.e., there is no longer the idea of "auto-promoting" above your current level, just short of 1.kyu).

The following link provides more information about general expectations at a promotional examination:

So... should you worry about testing? The first testing can be a bit stressful because you want to do well. You know what the judges expect you to be able to do, but you may not know how well the judges expect you to do it! In the end, it's nothing to get worked up over. Some of you who may have experience in other martial arts may have heard, witnessed, or even participated in rank testings which have lasted several hours. This is simply not the case with kendo. At best, you may be on the floor in front of the panel for 5 or 10 minutes total. The jigeiko portion of your exam is supposed to last a total of 180 seconds (90 seconds per match). This obviously may add to your stress as you feel you don't have enough time to fully demonstrate what you can do. Promotional panels have a lot of experience, though, and have the ability to see your potential even when you're not "picture perfect". So, when you go in for testing, simply do what you know how to do and let the judges do their thing. No sense in worrying about it! Whether you hold a rank of 4.kyu or shodan, you'll always find yourself practicing and sparring people with more experience and higher rank. Anyone, of any rank, can score a point or win a match against anyone else on any given day.

Regardless of rank, kendo is an ongoing learning experience. You might consider using promotionals as an encouragement to better your kendo, but ultimately, rank is not the end-all/be-all of kendo.

Something to keep in mind....

November 29, 2005

General Kendo Terminology

The Memphis Kendo Club has been blessed to have so many new people take up kendo, and more importantly --- stick with it.

The purpose of this post is to help those who are still relatively new to Kendo.

Reigi (respect/manners/etiquette) is vitally important in kendo. Respect is demanded when entering/leaving the dojo and throughout practice. This means that when instruction is being given, we need to be attentive and cut out the side chatter. While practice can be fun, it needs to be conducted and received with a manner of respect and seriousness. Remember to bow to the front of the dojo any time you enter or leave the dojo. Take full part in practice -- even in warm-ups with good energy and loud voice. ALWAYS walk BEHIND other kendoka whenever possible, and if it's not possible, acknowledge the person you're walking in front of with a slight bow and extension of the hand. AVOID stepping over someone's bogu or shinai. Before starting practice with a partner (kihon or jigeiko), bow and say "onegashimasu" (oh-nay-gosh-ee-mahs). Excercising more etiquette will make practice much more serious and fulfilling.

A few terms which you have heard in class but may be unsure of...

Shugo! or Seretsu! -- the command for everyone to line up
Seiza! -- the command to adopt a kneeling/sitting-on-the-heels posture
Mokuso! -- meditation/"quietude"
Kiotsuke! -- attention!
Shomen ni rei! -- bow to the front
Sensei ni rei! -- bow to the sensei
Otagai ni rei! -- bow to each other

Onegashimasu! -- "Please practice with (teach) me!" or generally, "Let's please begin!"
Domo (arigato gozaimashita) -- "Thank you very much"
Sonkyo -- a crouching posture (noticeably used prior to beginning free fight with a partner)
Osameto -- to put away the sword (or to sheath the sword) following practice/excercise
Sumimasen (or) Gomen nasai -- "Sorry!"
Hajime! -- start or begin
Yame! -- stop or end

PARTS OF BOGU (Kendo Armor):
Men - the head
Kote - the wrist
Dou - the trunk/body
Tsuki - literally, "thrust," but it typically is used to refer to the throat
Tare - the hip protecting skirt

Mai - forward
Ushiro - backward
Migi - right
Hidari - left

-- the distance between opponents
Issoku-itto-no-maai -- the distance at which you can strike the opponent by taking one step forward
To-ma -- far distance, i.e., a distance greater than issoku-itto-no-maai
Chika-ma -- close distance, i.e., a distance shorter/closer than issoku-itto-no-maai
Yokote-no-maai -- the distance at which the tip of your shinai and the tip of your opponent's shinai are just crossing.

Kihon - basics
Ai-te - opponent, generally during shiai-geiko or jigeiko.
Kakarite - attacker
Motodachi - the person who acts as a receiver to kakarite's attacks, typically during kihon practice
Sho-men(-uchi) -- the center of the men; to strike the center of the men
Sayu-men -- to strike the men at (approx.) a 70-degree angle
Taiatari -- body contact/crash after an attack
Kiri kaeishi -- practice with a partner where the attacker strikes the men, performs taiatari, then proceeds to strike sayu-men four times forward then five times backwards.
Kikari-geiko -- attacking-without-pausing practice
Ai-kikari-geiko -- kikarigeiko practiced by both partners at the same time
Ji-geiko -- free practice/free sparring
Shiai-geiko -- tournament sparring
Ippon-shobu -- in jigeiko, this refers to "last point" (before stopping)

Waza is divided into two categories: Shikake waza (attacking technique) and Oji-waza (defensive/counterattacking technique). While this is not meant to be an exhaustive list...

Shikake waza can be sub-divided into:
Harai waza - technique of striking the opponent's shinai off center to create an opening for attack
Debana waza - technique of using seme to force the opponent to move to attack, then attacking first (debana kote is very common)
Hiki waza - striking while moving backwards

Oji waza can be sub-divided into:
Suriage waza - warding off the opponent's shinai as it attacks with a sweeping, upward movement
Uchiotoshi waza - striking the opponent's shinai downwards
Nuki waza - technique of luring an opponent to strike, then dodging it and following up with an attack
Kaeishi waza - technique of receiving an opponent's strike on your shinai and using that energy to launch your own attack.

FOOTWORK (Ashi-sabaki):
Suri-ashi -- "rubbing feet"; the process of moving, without crossing, the feet. This is standard "kendo footwork"
Ayumi-ashi -- alternate stepping (crossing of the feet)
Fumikomi-ashi -- attack stepping (the "foot stomp" when attacking)
Hiraki-ashi -- "crossing" footwork

Ki-ken-tai-ichi -- literally "Spirit-sword-body-as one" ... where the movement of your body, your spirit, and your strike culminate to strike the opponent's target at one point simultaneously.

Seme -- "Pressure". A difficult concept to define. There are different types of seme which are developed at different levels of kendo. In abstract terms, there can be physical seme or mental seme or a combination of both. When starting out, physical seme is most often used. Generally, it is the idea of pressuring by physically moving toward the opponent and pushing in with the kensen (the tip of the shinai), to cause the opponent to lose the center position or to break his kamae, thus creating an opening or opportunity for attack. Developing good seme is vital for success and is a never-ending process.

Zanshin -- "Resolute will". Another very difficult term to define. In simplistic terms, it is the physical and mental disposition and preparedness you exhibit after striking the opponent.

November 28, 2005

Detroit Kendo Club Sensei Passes Hachi-dan (8.dan) Exam!

Congratulations to Tagawa-sensei of the Detroit Kendo Club who successfully passed the Hachi-dan examination in Japan.

Of the 1357 candidates for 8.Dan, only 12 passed. The success rate for the November 2005 exam was 0.9%. The examination is held twice a year in Japan.

This is an incredibly MAJOR accomplishment and a very good thing for kendo in the United States.

November 10, 2005

Memphis Kendoka success at 2005 SEUSKF Tournament/Promotion

Results of the 2005 Southeast Kendo Federation Tournament will be forthcoming..

In the meantime, congratulations are in order for Mr. Don Crittendon who successfully passed his Nidan examination. Additionally, Robin Oh(?) -- who went into the testing with no rank -- was awarded ni-kyu (two steps below Shodan).

With Don's promotion, the Memphis dojo now has seven dan-holders in regular attendance at class (one 4.dan, two 3.dan, two 2.dan, two 1.dan)

In addition, Don placed 3rd in the tournament's shodan-nidan division. In recent years, the Memphis group has done very well in this division, capturing 1st place once, 2nd place once, and third place twice.

Congrats again to Don and Robin on their achievements!

July 15, 2005

SEUSKF group at the US Nationals

SEUS Kendo Team Sr. Youth 3rd place win

SEUSKF, Women's Team 3rd place win! (first time in history of SEUSKF)

May 05, 2005

>Bill Holt: Father of Kendo in the South

Arata Takiwara, Ken Strawn, Bill Holt, Harry Watanabe

The first Kendo dojo south of the Mason-Dixon line (with the possible exception of the Houston dojo started by Darell Craig) began in Atlanta in 1977 with Bill Holt, shodan, as the first instructor, and Harry Watanabe as his assistant. William Charles Holt was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1938. The family moved to Decatur, Georgia where Bill was a standout on the Decatur High School Football team. He would later play semi-pro football when he was stationed in Southern California. Bill joined the marines after graduating from high school and would spend ten of the next twenty years in the far east. While stationed in Japan, he began Judo, eventually becoming All-Marine Corps Champion five times. In July of 1959, Bill married Sayoko Takaki. While in the Marine Corps, Bill took undergraduate degrees in psychology and related areas from the University of Hawaii and the University of Maryland. In 1974, Bill broke his arm doing Judo and his Judo sensei recommended that he take up Kendo to strengthen his arm. He began Kendo in the Shobukan Dojo in Hiroshima, Japan under Nomura Sensei (7-Dan). Upon retirement from the Marines in 1977, Bill entered West Georgia College (now the State University of West Georgia) in Carrollton, Georgia to work on his Masters Degree in Psychology. While there, he established the college Judo club. Searching for Judo supplies, he entered a martial arts supply shop owned and operated by Haruhide Harry Watanabe in Smyrna, Georgia. In the course of their conversation, Bill mentioned he was a shodan in Kendo and the following conversation ensued: Harry: Would you like to join our Kendo club? Bill: Oh, there is a Kendo club in Atlanta? Harry: There is now and you're the teacher. Thus began the first Kendo practice in the Southeast, initially called the Shobukan Kendo Dojo and later renamed the Georgia Kendo Alliance to include the practices at Peachtree City and a children's practice at the Atlanta's Georgia Japanese Language School.

Bill finished his Master's Degree and went on to receive a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Woodrow Wilson College of Law. Georgia Kendo Alliance joined the Eastern United States Kendo Federation, centered in New York City. Bill and Harry participated in the first United States National Championships in Los Angeles in 1978 as members of EUSKF. At the Second US National Championships in Chicago in 1981, Bill’s nephew David, who had moved in with Bill and Sayoko three years earlier, placed third in the Youth group. GKA also hosted the very first Eastern US Kendo Championship Tournament in 1979. The problems of administering a dojo 850 miles from the rest of the Federation led Bill to envision a Southern Kendo Federation. Eventually there were enough Kendo clubs in the South to justify a separate federation. At the meeting of the National Board of Directors preceding the Fourth United States National Championship Tournament in New York City, Bill, with the full support of the EUSKF, applied for the Southeastern United States Kendo Federation to become the ninth regional federation of the Kendo Federation of the United States of America (KFUSA) and was accepted, effective January 1, 1988. Shortly afterward, Bill and Sayoko returned to Japan where Bill accepted a position to teach at Kumamoto Kodai Gakku, a private high school. Someday Bill will return to Georgia and be greatly surprised by the growth of the small federation he founded. ###

Article published in the SEUSKF NEWS, December 2001, volume 4, Number 3.
More Info:

May 02, 2005

Commercial Appeal covers MKC back in 1996 (Part 1)

Almost 10 years ago in Aug. 1996 The Commercial Appeal did the story on Memphis Kendo Club and Harry Dach.

Commercial Appeal covers MKC back in 1996 (part 2)

April 30, 2005

National Kendo Tournament 2005 (info)

To all SEUSKF Members,

Please distribute the following information to all kenshi, especially those on the SEUSKF Team.

1. The following list is the final team that was sent to AUSKF. No further additions or changes can be made. Please check spellings of the last name and notify me immediately if there are any mistakes. I will need to order Name covers/NaFuda very soon. Congradulations to the SEUSKF team members.

Men's Individual & Team
Hara, Kentaro
Nieves, Frank
Hyun, Jin-Kee
Komaki, Yoshiyuki
Yoshida, Kotaro
Quinn, Michael
Vulfson, Valera

Women's Individual & Team
DeSouza, Reiko
DeSouza, Yoshimi
Hoang, Yatsuki
Lane, Satomi
Nieves, Katalin
Takeyama, Yuka
Vas, Karina

Senior Youth Individual & Team
DeSouza, Yuki
Park, Ginpei
Hara, Akira
Nishi, Katsuhisa
Sekita, Nobuhiro

Junior Youth Individual & Team
Park, Gindai
Komaki, Ami
Felton-Curtis, Eamon

Senior Division - Individual
Arai, Kunitoshi
Parker, James
Meade, Mike
Murphy, Lew

Oh, Chang
Kim, Daniel
Uehara, Sai

2. All individual & team members must have their own MEJIRUSHI (Tasuki) red and white. I will bring all that I have which will cover about 20 people.

3. If you want Bento on Saturday and/or Sunday the cost is $10.00 for each day. I must have the order for o-bento placed no later than June 1st. The AUSKF will not accept individual orders. Please compile a list of those wanting bento and send checks made out to the "SEUSKF" to me ASAP.

4. Farewell Party is Sunday, July 3rd at Kensington Court Hotel at 6:00pm. I must have a list of those desiring to attend this party to AUSKF by June 1st. Cost $50 per person, $30 per person 4-10 years old, Free 0-3 years old. Again, the AUSKF will not accept individual orders only from the SEUSKF. Send your list and a check covering the cost made out to SEUSKF and send to me ASAP.

5. Hotels recommended by the AUSKF - discount rate will apply if requested number of rooms are booked prior to Jun 1st.

Kensington Court Hotel Ann Arbor (Tournament Headquarters)
610 Hilton Blvd, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108
fax 1-734-995-1085
Rates $69.00 (per room, per night) + 8% tax

Holiday Inn Express (next to Kensington Court Hotel)
610 Hilton Blvd, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108
1-800-344-7829 (same number as above)
rate: $59.00 (per room, per night) + 8% tax

Transportation: 30 minutes from Detroit International Airport to the above hotels - on your own.

Hotel to University of Michigan Central Campus Recreation Building - Shuttle Bus-schedules posted at the hotel.

6. Schedules
July 1st 10:00am-4:00pm Open Practice Tappan Middle School
4:00pm-6:00pm Shinpan Seminar, Tappan Middle School
4:00pm-6:00pm Manager's/Coach's Meeting, Kensington Court
July 2nd 7:00am-8:00am Shinai-keiryo (length & weight inspection)
These lines get long fast-so be early. This is
each individual's responsibility.
8:00am Open Ceremony, Demonstration
10:00am-5:00pm Individual Championships. There will be about
6 courts running at one time with all divisions
going at one time. The team manager and
coach will try to help get people to the right
courts, but ultimately Each person is
responsible to get to their own court.

July 3rd 8:00 Pre-Ceremony Assembly
8:30 Entrance of Teams
9:00 Team Championship, Goodwill Tournament
4:00pm Closing Ceremony
7. Shinai weights and measurements: Must comply with AUSKF specificagtions

Junior Youth
Length: <114>440 gm, Female >400 gm
Kensaki width: Male >25mm, Female >24mm
Senior Youth
Length: <117>480gm, Kensaki width: >26mm
All others:
Length: <120>510gm, Female >440gm
Kensaki Width: Male > 26mm, Female >25mm

Sakigawa Length must be longer than 50mm.
Tsuba Diameter must be less than 9 cm diameter.

8. Basic Rules

a. Junior Youth can not us Jo-dan or use Tsuki.
b. Individuals matches
1) Preliminary league round: 4 minutes - no encho - no hantei
2) Medal round: 4 minutes - unlimited encho - no hantei
3) Semifinal and Final: 5 minutes - unlimited encho - no hantei
c. Team Matches: 4 minutes - no encho (except play offs)
Semifinal and Final: 5 minutes - no encho (except play offs)
d. Goodwill Matches: 4 minutes - 2 minute encho - Hantei
semifinal and final: 4 minutes - unlimited encho

e. Preliminary contests to determine ranking for medal rounds
Junior Youth, Senior Youth, Women, and Men's Divisions - also for teams.
No preliminary contests for Goodwill or Senior Divisions.

9. Shinpan: bring own set of Shinpan-ki
Uniform: Plain, dark blue jacket; plain, gray trousers; plain, white shirt;
plain deep red necktie; plain dark blue socks.

10. Special note: Yoshimi DeSouza successfully made it through the second round of team selection (in the top 20) for the AUSKF team for the world championships. Congradulations!!!

James Parker
President, SEUSKF

April 18, 2005

>Uchida Sensei comments during the practice

1. Voice - Your voice (kiai) should be twice as loud as the voice of your opponent. Practice strong voice, it very important.
2. Foot work- do not cross your feet right before a strike. Other words do not use Ayumi-ashi steps, very bad habit. Always use Suri-ashi (sliding step with leading right foot). Learn how to strike from comfortable distance for your body to avoid crossing your feet.
3. Kirikaeshi - Do not do body check (Taiatari) every time during kirikaeshi, sometimes just do Men and skip Taitari. This is specially good for beginners, so the body posture remains nice and proper.
Posted by Hello

April 17, 2005

>Kendo Hanshi OKUZONO KUNIYOSHI (8th Dan) Says…

Don’t strike with your hands, strike with your feet.
Don’t strike with your feet, strike with your hips.
Don’t strike with your hips, strike with your heart.

When I struck a wall trying to pass 7th dan, one sensei told me to “try and swing a light bokuto as heavily as possible.” I complied with this advice, but found it very difficult to do. I didn’t really understand the point. Instead, I thought that it would be far more beneficial to swing a heavy bokuto as if it were light, and this is precisely what I did. However, after about 6 months of training with a heavy bokuto, I sustained an injuty to my shoulder.I decided to try the light bokuto again, but still couldn’t grasp the point of swinging a light bokuto as if it were heavy. I started thinking about this while I practiced my suburi every day. I started to realize that if I swung the bokuto with my hande it felt very light. However, it felt a lot heavier when I concentrated on striking with my hips. At last I was striking to understand what he meant. However, if there was even the slightest element of confusion in my heart, no matter how much I tried to concentrate on striking from my hips, the kensen would wobble, and it would feel light again. I realized that to swing a light bokuto as if it were heavy required a balance of body an mind, and this was connected to the concept of heijoshin (placid or calm state of mind.) If you are able to maintain heijoshin, you will be able to react accordingly to anything that comes your way. This taught me the importance of the most fundamental concept in Kendo, kokoro (heart or soirit). Of course, this is easily put into words, but it has to be more then just understood on an intellectual level. In other words, it is extremely important that you make every effort to try and understand these concerts through mastery of technique.


Kendo World Magazine- Vol 3. NO 1. 2004 (pg19)

March 17, 2005

>The Heart of Kendo

The aim of Kendo, and all Japanese martial arts ( Budo ), is not the perfection of a physical technique but the development of a flowing, flexible mind – a mind that is able to react to anything it confronts, instinctively, fearlessly, and without hesitation, regardless of the situation.

Harutane Chiba Sensei ( Hokushin Itto Ryu ) had a parable about water as it relates to training. “When you practice kata (forms) or shiai (free fight), the mind should always be the same: calm as a pond of water. Still water is like a mirror: it gives a picture of everything that is around it. But when the pound is disturbed, it reflects only the turmoil within its depts. One should always approach shiai with a composure like the reflection on water in a pond, so the mind is relaxed, ready to see the slightest movment of your opponent.”

To understand Budo properly you must coordinate your mental spirit with your physical body. The smallest movement in Kendo requires this coordination of body and mind. The body has no feeling without the five senses of the mind, yet the mind cannot exist without the presence of the physical body. If you do not coordinate these two elements, it would be like one hand trying to clap. Only when you both palms together will you produce the sound you seek. Only when you learn, through constant practice, to coordinate the body and the mind will you be able to realize their true function.

“The Heart of Kendo”
-Darrell Max Craig with /qv. of Chiba Sensei

March 11, 2005

Breath Control in Kendo

Originally printed Kendo World Magazine, Vol. 1 Issue 1, 2001.
by Steven Harwood.

So what is different about breathing in kendo? In kendo you are sometimes taught to breathe through your `belly' or to use abdominal breathing a term used widely to denote a method of breathing that utilises the abdominal muscles (largely the diaphragm) in contrast to typical chest-based breathing in which the main respiratory muscles are the intercostal muscles. However, the abdominal breathing taught in kendo is rather different to conventional abdominal breathing. For instance, in conventional abdominal breathing your abdomen swells out when you breathe in and `deflates' when you breathe out. However, in Kendo you are taught always to keep some tension in your lower abdomen with the result that the abdomen never `deflates' during exhalation and some kendo teachers advocate `reverse abdominal breathing' in which the lower abdomen actually swells during exhalation. Kendo's abdominal breathing has aims that go beyond simple respiratory gas exchange and is intrinsically connected with kendo's transfer of emphasis, not only physically but also psychologically, from the upper body to the lower body a holistic transfer of centre downwards.

The traditional oriental link between psychological state and breathing is now well documented and supported by scientific research. When you are in a calm psychological state your breathing is, of course, controlled and regular. It also tends to be deep abdominal breathing. When you are stressed and panicked your breathing will tend to `rise' becoming shallow and rapid, the extreme being hyperventilation. This idea of stability being `low' ("calm down") and excitement being `high' ("temper rises") is present in the West also, but the relationship between psyche and breathing is two-way. Breathing is affected by psychological state but can also effect a change in psychological state. Although breathing usually functions unconsciously it is one of the few such bodily functions that can be adjusted consciously resulting in the concept of breath control. This has long been utilised in the East where meditation technique usually attempts to replicate the breathing pattern of calmness, i.e. abdominal breathing, to attain a calm psychological state.

Indeed, that most Japanese of ascetic training, Zen, posits training of body (posture), breathing and mind as its essential elements. This extended essay will not attempt to explain kendo in terms of Zen Buddhism. I intend to keep the focus for the large part on breath control in actual technique. However, the principles of Kendo as laid down by the All-Japan Kendo Federation stipulate that its aim should be, through training in the techniques of kendo, to change you as a person. Kendo is said to be comprised of three types of training: physical; mental and ethical; it is a path, a michi, which should transform you not only physically but also lead to a different way of being psychologically, this is its stated purpose.

Therefore, as breath control seemed to be an important element in other Japanese ascetic training methods, it seemed to me that it might be equally important in kendo. If it were, then a study of it would reveal much not only about technique, the so-called physical aspect of the art, but also about the psychological content needed to attain the very highest levels. At the same time, if, through the medium of breath control, technique functioned simultaneously on both physical and psychological levels, it would shed light, in very concrete terms, on the oriental concept of mind-body unity, and lend credence to the martial arts' claims to be something more than physical exercise.

Over the next few issues I will examine how abdominal breathing is manifested in kendo starting from basic posture and clothing; footwork, basic striking actions and training patterns such as kiri-kaeshi and kakari-geiko. I will look at the relationship between abdominal breathing and ki-ai (vocalisation). I will consider its role in seme-ai (mutual probing for weaknesses prior to the strike); and look at how it can be taught in kata (form practice). Finally I will look at how some very senior kendo practitioners use it to enhance their training and consider its function at the very top level of the art.

March 09, 2005

The Sword Is the Person

Always remember that your style and behavior in Kendo will accurately reflect your personality. A quick-tempered player will produce quick-tempered Kendo. Likewise, a casual attitude will produce a casual style of Kendo. It goes without saying that you must have a large-scale personality to practice large-scale Kendo. One who performs particularly splendid Kendo will be the product of everything that he has lived and experienced. Your experiences and your life will inevitably affect your Kendo. You must cultivate both your mind and your body if you are to grasp the true essence of Kendo.

Enthusiasm and single-mindedness are the two most important qualities required for successful Kendo. In his Academic Learning as Work, Max Weber writes: “People who do not have the enthusiasm which enables them to feel no regret over the thought of spending a whole lifetime investigating one missing letter from an old moth-eater manuscript are unsuited to academic learning.” In Kendo, too, there are people who say “I perform keiko in order to strike just one perfect men.” The idea behind this is fundamental to Kendo, and shows that if the purpose is not to achieve fame, neither is to boast. A single-minded enthusiasm, with no expectation of material reward, is vital.

“The definitive guide of Kendo”
-Hiroshi Ozawa

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