As the plans to go somewhere for training did not work out, we did not despair and invited Hisatsune sensei to the dojo with, undoubtedly, the best view one can get around here – the ‘roof dojo’. As planned, we did tankendo, from the basics up to short fights – there is enough space to do that, though we had to try to be cautious not to overly irritate the neighbours with loud kiai or not to fall over the railing.
I still have several problems with the ‘short stabber’ (as Claudia aptly named it), I’m sure that my heart belongs to the ‘long stabber’ (aka: mokuju), yet I can slowly begin to feel how everything should look like with the sharp end of the bayonet. I will need a lot of work to make it better, then another several decades to turn the techniques into more instinctive reactions, but… that what’s life for, too, I think. As the All Japans in tankendo are in February (and, quoting sensei, the jukendo season is over), I don’t envy Ewa and Simon, as they are now up to some intense trainings in the art of the short stick.
The largest of all dojos is always a good place to practice smooth and fast movement. Jukendo and tankendo use a lot of small and quick steps that should be dynamic and non-bouncy at the same time. The tricky thing is to keep the kamae strong, but not too loose or too stiff – as in such cases the tip of the mokuju will bounce – and even the slightest extra movements make the strike less efficient (though, from the opponent’s perspective, this is a great opportunity just presenting itself). The striking step with the stomp (fumikomi), should be the quickest and biggest one, a rapid acceleration, even a leap, powering the hands and the body forward, so the thrust does not come from the arms only. The secret behind executing a proper one is commitment and balance that allows you to charge and retreat rapidly, without the need to readjust your body position. There are many pitfalls along the way, and finding *the right* way requires challenging yourself, trying to discover the footwork that works – is fast, smooth, allows for a powerful strike, but also for a quick diversion, if needed, and good zanshin. Even the basic techniques are often done in exercises with various distance, which requires improvised alterations – not allowing us to fall into the habit of always moving the same way, the same number and length of steps, etc. Getting things right will, of course, end in multiple errors – luckily, those are just a reason for a good laugh, especially the missed strikes, when you focus on getting the maximum reach… and happily thrust the air while speeding just besides your opponent. Yay!
We’ve also recorded some kata for the Jukendo World. As the art of stabbing spreads around the world, more and more people will need some additional guidance – hence the blog posts that are as detailed as possible, considering the limitations of the written language, and focus on the critical aspects, receiving included. Personally, budo-wise, I admit to be one of the freaks that really love kata. So, probably as everyone, once in a while I have to check some disputable elements with the video of someone way better and experienced, not to wonder whether the ipponme is omote or ura (though this one wouldn’t be tricky, just run in and stab). Not having a sensei handy, the only option is to refer to the recordings, photos, and manuals – and that’s why I’m truly happy helping to contribute to the site – as its aim is to deliver the most correct way from the best of the best in jukendo.
2017-09-26 & 27 (Tuesday – Wednesday)
We took two days off to see more of the capital of Japan, also known as the crazy city that makes your ‘eyes full’. I took the opportunity to visit a local budo shop that also provides jukendo gear to buy a men that would fit my weird head.
Indeed, as it turned out, I should use a children-sized men (not even teen-duh!), yet it would be insanely hard for me to get a jukendo one that small – instead I’ve been advised to buy the smallest adult one (which still feels really nicely, as for the first time monomi – the bigger slit in the mengane, metal bars in front of your face – allows me to see properly) and then customize it a bit to achieve a perfect fit. My first piece of armour, I’m excited!
We’ve polished the kata today, mostly juken-tai-juken kata, focusing on the distance between both people, not only when the form is finished and the elusive center has to be found, but also on the difference between two and a half and three steps that the uchikata and shikata alternatively do. The lines on the floor we put before practicing were rather confusing, as I’m always trying (although often failing, too) to adjust to my partner, not to the marks on the ground, so the distances tend to fluctuate every time I practice.
Nevertheless, it was an important lesson, and I know I will need a reminder of what the correct distance looks like from time to time, to overcome bad habits. Although the forms are not as complicated as in many other budo, there are so many small elements that can spoil the general image, so easy to miss – and the faults of the uchikata (‘the teacher’) are visible momentarily, as the shikata (‘the student’) won’t perform well – the connection is crucial and very demanding. There are always many ‘but-s’ following sensei’s ‘O.K.-s’. I love the ‘but-s’, they make me develop better understanding of the things.
Today we’ve again been honoured by Konno sensei, who came to take part in the tedious process of teaching us new things (or polishing the same things, depending on the perspective). He’s also the sensei that is going to visit Poland in the future, so it is important for us to establish some sort of connection. I was responsible for the initial part of the training – the warm up and the basic patterns. I’m slowly gaining confidence and the feeling of what exercise should follow what – which might be tricky, as, for instance, in nidan and sandan waza not every strike combination is easily done, especially on the beginning, when everyone needs to warm up and catch the flow of things.
While now we are immediately corrected (mostly by Ewa or Simon looking at us with the ‘are you kidding’ face), yet in a few days we’ll be all alone to deal with those, who know even less than us. Konno sensei has a great eye for spotting the problematic areas and making us fix our mistakes on the spot, which is a feature of a good teacher. I really love how each person we train with introduces new exercises that help us understand certain things better – and all of those are based on the core techniques, nothing overly fancy or difficult to perform.
*This is part of an ongoing series of posts by Jukendo World translator and guest author, Klara, who has only recently started jukendo and is undertaking a 3 month visit to Japan to further her training with her partner, Lukasz.*