Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kendo Kata research - Introduction

I can admit, Kendo kata can be boring. But, no matter how I feel about the kata, they must be done anyways in order for us to advance through the rankings. I was one of those people that treated kata as a necessary thing to do before the promotional exams to make sure I don’t make any glaring mistakes come test time. Whenever I do them, it turns out to be no more than doing X, Y and Z in order to get from point A to point B.

I’ve started to think a bit more about how I can approach Kendo kata a little differently. Part of it is my newfound uptake and interest in Iaido, where we tend to go much deeper into the techniques and reasons behind each of the katas’ moves and the other part is just a drive to understand whatever I am doing a little better, which just happens to be part of my inquisitive personality. Essentially, I may know how to do all the moves, but I would also like to know why I am doing those moves. In order to achieve that, there are a few things I’d like to look at.

  1. I would like to know some things about when the kata were developed, how they were developed and why they were developed. Understanding where things come from can help with better appreciating what it is one is doing.
  2. I have learned that the roles we do mean something and the kamae we take means something. Thus, I’d like to take the positions and roles we take and put some meaning behind the moves we do by examining each of the kata with the information learned from the background info.
Keep in mind that, beyond the history and some technical info, a lot of what I type here is my opinion based on my experience and thought process. People with more experience will think differently, people with less experience will think differently. Heck, people of similar experience will think differently which all depends on where they practice, how they practice, who’s teaching and what their personality is. My own experience level really isn’t all that much to the point of not knowing the kodachi kata yet. I’ve just taken some interest in this part of Kendo, so I thought I would take up my own research, but then share what I find and what I know with the Kendo world at large.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Trying Jodan

For the last few practices, I thought I would try out Jodan no kamae for a little bit. For those not in the know, Jodan no kamae is one of the three main kamae used in Kendo with the other two being Chudan (the most basic and widely used) and nito (using a shoto and daito simultaneously).

I wanted to try it for three main reasons:
  • Learning alternate kamae - Well, the stance is there, so why not try to use it? I love Kendo enough to explore whatever avenue is open to me for improvement and this is just another path that is open for me to take. There is an experimental bug in my consciousness that sometimes might get the best of me.
  • Defeating the kamae - Whenever I face against someone who is doing jodan, I oftentimes freeze into confusion as I start to really think about what needs to be done to be victorious. In the end, all it did was slow me down and made my defenses and offenses very innefective for fighting. The easiest way to learn about fighting against jodan is to just keep fighting against people that use it. Eventually, you learn about the kamae you should take, the targets that are open and the capabilities of that opponent. But I believe that the missing element is actually learning of the capabilities of that kamae yourself by really experiences the positives and negatives through personal experience to take with you when you eventually face someone using it.
  • Helping with assertiveness - I tend to hesitate a lot in Kendo with doing chuudan. At first, I thought that I would need to really work on my aggressiveness through chuudan before I moved on, but then I recently had the idea to use it as a vehicle to really learn about aggressiveness out of necessity through jodan. Jodan no kamae is known as the kamae of fire. The mindset for this one is to have that feeling of taking over the other person as a flame can easily take over anything that's flammable. Also, you have to be aggressive with it because the left kote, dou and tsuki are wide open for the taking. Worrying about defense isn't much of an option with this stance.
Trying out jodan is something that I have been wanting to do for a long time. I have tried it out a few times before, but the lack of knowledge of available sources at the time and, perhaps my own experience at the time as well, made any small attempts fruitless. A couple of days ago, I found a translation of a Jodan manual on the Halifax Kendo Club website, which provides a lot of information on the basic techniques and required though processes in fighting with and against Jodan. After taking a glimpse of that, I was inspired to give it another shot, on top of the reasons stated above.

In the short time I've used it, I've learned quite a bit. On the top level, I had a lot of fun using it once I got into a decent mindset. Going deeper, I learned some stuff about myself and how I am able to improve my overall Kendo. I was able to try it out against a good amount of people so there were more experiences to add onto what I have already learned. That can be read as I got my ass kicked a lot, but that really doesn't matter to me since I only just started experimenting with it.

At this point, it's way too early to see where I could be going with this. As of now, the main reason for using Jodan is to be able to find out a lot about the kamae and myself. The required mindset in order to be successful with it is totally different from Chudan, but also the same. What I mean is that, while I need to be more aggressive due to the open targets, the planning that is required to do well when fighting against someone is the same. Anything beyond that concerning me and my Jodan future is out of scope for the time being.
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