Almost Okay…but – Chokutotsu

The group of people in this video were at the Belgium 2018 seminar and for many this was their first day with a mokuju. So this is not a criticism of them but rather these suggestions will hopefully aid the viewer in watching their own videos and deciding what needs to be fixed and maybe how to go about it. Terada sensei has a habit of telling us “Almost OK… but” then correcting us. That is the spirit we are trying to emulate here.


Obviously these are just my opinions of what I would suggest trying to fix first. I have found in my own training that sometimes what appears to be an arm problem is actually a foot problem and so on.


#1 Back elbow not against body


“Shime” the locked position that is so important and consists of the front wrist being turned over the top of the mokuju (both fleshy balls at the base of the hand should be on top of the mokuju), the front arm being straight, the back arm making a “mokuju sandwich” with the chest is essential to transfer body weight into the strike. As you can see because his back elbow is away from his chest his strike is using just his arms and Kelsey sensei would easily knock the mokuju out of his hands if he stepped forwards a bit. I think this might be because he is not trusting his footwork to cover the distance and is reaching with his arms. Practicing striking against a wall or dummy without moving his feet might help him identify the distance correctly and solve the problem.


#2 Front foot before arms


In jukendo ki-ken-tai-ichi (spirit, blade,body all together) is important for a correct strike. If you are going to make a mistake in this then probably having the arms in the striking position before the front foot lands is better than vice versa. As you can see having the foot stop first means the the upper body is having to adjust for distance rather than using the footwork to adjust the distance. As a result the strikes are all “nose up”. These types of strikes will often result in a “arms pushing” impact; as motodachi I find pushing with the arms is particularly annoying. Always be nice to your motodachi! See notes for #7 on how I try to fix this for myself.


#3 Dragging back foot


You can’t get the back foot to land at the same time as the front foot without jumping (which is bad) but you want to try and be as close as possible. When the back foot is slow there are two significant problems. Firstly your strike will also be slow which is kind of bad. More importantly you will take a lot longer to be ready to do zanshin if you got lucky with your strike or to defend against a counter attack from your opponent. Remember lots of small fast steps are almost always better than fewer long distance steps. This video might be of interest for fixing slow feet. 


#4 Back hand low


Again for shime you need your back hand up nice and high and locked against the body. If your back hand is low you will either have a nose up strike or your front hand will also be low. As you front hand effectively is most of your guard having it low will allow a lot of successful counter attacks. While this is an easy one to fix for chokutotsu particular care should be made when reviewing your videos of striking katotsu. For some reason I always find katotsu is where my back hand wants to stay low. Doing relaxed fast strikes, as many in a minute as possible, helped my body get the muscle memory of where my back hand should go.


#5 Hips loose


Here you can see that as the strike is made his body rises. I suspect this is because his hips and core are not tensed for the moment of impact. If he kept his knees bent and tensed his lower stomach muscles the impact would not break his kamae. Sometimes I practice this by training in a ridiculously low stance (especially when training with little children).


#6 Back elbow not against body


Again the back elbow is not against the body and there is no shime. In this case however I think it is because the back elbow starts tucked in behind his body. When in basic kamae you want your back elbow to be out from your body. That way when you strike you just bend your elbow, you don’t have to move it out and then in. In this video you can see that Terada sensei’s back elbow is visible to the opponent when he takes kamae. Practice taking kamae in front of a mirror to get this habit ingrained.


#7 Front foot before arms


Here the front foot lands well before the strike but in this case he has judged the distance better and doesn’t have a nose up strike except the first time. Unfortunately however on the successive strikes despite having judged the distance well enough to make a correct looking strike he is within striking range of his opponent for a long time with no defense. Functionally this is the same as dropping your hands before striking (another bad thing to do). Kelsey sensei has ample time to strike over the top of the incoming strike. To correct this issue I have an exercise where I make the strike completely before I even move my feet but as soon as my strike completes I do a fumikomi step forwards. When doing it I try to have no delay between the completion of the strike and the commencement of the step, I start slow and get faster and faster.

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