Monday, March 15, 2010

Shikake waza and centre

Why a broom? Well, harai means 'sweep'...

Shikake waza are the techniques in kendo where you attack your opponent before they move. Usually this means moving their shinai off the centre-line (chushin) first. We recently practiced the main shikake waza:

Harai - usually a "J"-shaped sweeping movement from below.
Ose - pushing down on your opponent's shinai from on top with the feeling of "riding" it.
Makiotoshi - a spiralling movement of your shinai that finishes by flinging your opponent's shinai into the ground.
Uchiotoshi - striking down strongly on your opponent's sword from above.

All these waza can be done on both sides, omote (forehand) and ura (backhand).

This is what they look like, but how do we make them actually work?
To be effective the following points need to be kept in mind:
  1. In the case of harai and uchiotoshi, you should use the monouchi (top 1/3 of the shinai) to strike with, and you should strike your opponent's sword around the halfway point or even closer to their tsuba.
  2. In the case of ose and makiotoshi, your sword should not make contact with just one part of the opponent's sword but should slide along it, getting closer to their tsuba as you do the technique.
  3. In all these shikake waza, your body should be moving towards your opponent as you are doing the technique.
  4. Most importantly, and as Fujiwara sensei noted, your own sword should stay close to (or immediately come back to) chushin once the waza is finished and just prior to the cut.
Why come back to centre before the cut? Shouldn't I just do the waza and then cut?
Many people, especially beginners make the mistake of making a large movement that takes their shinai off the centre-line so that it ends up pointing at the ceiling or the wall. They then have to bring their sword back in line before they can cut correctly, or worse, cut from an off-line position so that their technique becomes wild and undisciplined.

If you concentrate on bringing the tip of your shinai back in line with your opponent's throat as soon as you finished any shikake waza, you give yourself the best chance of then being able to make use of the opening you have created.

The feeling is a bit like how you have learned to snap your left foot into place as quickly as possible. So you should have the feeling of snapping the kensen (tip of your sword) back to the centre line as soon as possible.

When do I use these different waza?
If you go to this post on Shugo-Nanseikan from a while back, you will find some of the different situations when particular shikake waza are most useful.

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