Commentary by Simon Larsen
I don’t know enough about the grading rules for tankendo but surely an 8th dan has to be reasonably old. Usually when you see the matches with a decent rank discrepancy the higher rank person uses less energy and relies on technique and experience. Not Kikuchi! He can bounce around like a 20 year old!
His opening charge you’ll notice he doesn’t take the centre line and instead opens an angle for his nodo strike. In my experience this is important if you don’t want the opponent to strike do and maybe score faster than you, the angle makes it harder for them to follow the target at high speed and strike with a straight arm.
If you practice taking an angle enough you can strike and maintain posture, watch Kikuchi’s footwork as compared to Sakurai in the first few steps. Kikuchi uses his back foot crossing over a little to change the angle his body is on where Sakurai uses his front foot. I find that the back foot brings your body in line from the back foot to the left hip to the right shoulder and naturally keeps my shinai in the centre. Using the front foot I usually get told off for striking in a circle. The difference can be seen clearly at 00:33. I don’t think Sakurai lost posture due to the impact of the strike; I suspect it is less experience in striking a target to the left side.
Kikuchi tries it again on the next hajime but Sakurai doesn’t fall for it. So Kikuchi ramps up the energy levels and makes the match look like the reverse of what I expected. 00:53 and 01:13 looked very close to me. The point to Sakurai at 1:36 I am not sure about. It looked to me that Kikuchi landed first judging by shinai lengths but Sakurai definitely had much better zanshin.
The last point is a replay of the first showing how a small thing like the angle change can make all the difference. And everyone loves shou-ippon!
An important thing I was told when I started trying to learn this opening tactic was to pay a lot of attention to the ma-ai. You can see (especially in the last point) that Kikuchi starts his striking step a long time before Saurai. I suspect that changing the angle confused Sakurai’s trained instinct regarding ma-ai. The person that starts the final step first obviously has an advantage. At first I would strike from too close and with a bent arm on impact (which is what I was trying to get the other person to do!).
To overcome this and teach myself the new ma-ai I started practicing striking nodo by running in with my arm already in the “completed strike” position and just practicing the footwork to get me to my correct range with good posture. I have scored using this tactic in some practice shiai so maybe it is a training technique worth copying.