One of the most common pieces of advice that we are given while we are fighting other people is to be aggressive. It’s common to overthink the situation and start to play defensively, especially if we’re familiar with oji-waza. The former case causes delayed reactions while the mind shifts back and forth between the internal consciousness and the fight at hand, while the latter case only prolongs the fight, and even presents openings that an experienced person might be able to take advantage of. Instead, we’re told to give our 100% devotion to attacks and go for whatever we might see being open. As we gain more experience, then we are taught to read the opponent’s kamae—posture, balance, shinai position—and create openings to take advantage of them.
When we attack, we all know that some hits are successful, and some hits aren’t. The ones that aren’t successful can result in either receiving a hit or missing the intended target, whether it’s a complete miss that causes the shinai to fly to random places, or accidentally hitting an unprotected part of the body. No matter the kind of miss, we both know what it’s like to be on both sides of the fence, so we usually tend to blow it off and laugh about it later…while possibly waiting a few seconds for the pain to subside. We all know that accidents happen, but we still must attempt at attacking or nobody is really going to learn all that much.
However, there are those that might cross the line. The excessive pushing and overly hard hits can really do more damage than help, especially if accuracy isn’t part of their repertoire. Once that line is crossed, then the potential for injury goes up from getting knocked down, pushed the wrong way, or getting hit in all the wrong places. When faced with these kinds of people, the benefits can be low since the attacker just only knows how to hit and the receiver might not know how to respond. However, once you find out how to deal with the situation, then you can most certainly learn more about yourself and the style of Kendo that you would like to achieve.
One of the first things that we might try to do is fight fire with fire. While the sentiment is very common, and most certainly understandable, it’s only going to just make the situation worse. Trying to increase your aggression to get revenge on the other person might only ignite the other person to just do the same. Also, you end up doing the other person’s kendo and not the kind of kendo that develops you and makes you feel good. Besides, we are taught that Kendo is an exercise in controlling yourself and, through that, controlling your opponent. If you get angry and start getting into “revenge mode,” then that means that your opponent is controlling the match which, in the end, means that they are winning the battle.
There are various ways in which you can deal with fighting against that style, and maybe even turn the tables in your favor. One such example is keeping a strong kamae if you happen to be in chudan so that the other person can be kept away by use of the shinai tip. However, each situation is different and your sensei or senpai would probably be able to tell you what to do based on the situation you’re in.
Over our Kendo careers, we are faced with many different kinds of kendo; the kinds we respect and the ones we don’t. While the situations can be different depending on if this is just general practice, tournament or testing, there are various ways to be able to deal with the kinds of kendo that might not be what we “like.” However, the most important thing to remember is that your own Kendo development should come first. Spending too much time worrying about defeating or getting revenge on the other person is that much time less available where you can develop your own techniques and your own style. When you think that way, then you’ll always come out on top.