Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hiki waza 引き技

In kendo, hiki waza are techniques performed going backwards. Usually they are performed from the position called tsubazeriai.

Hiki waza need to be practiced to be really understood, but there are a few simple ideas that can help you to perform hiki waza more easily.

What hiki waza are there?

There are basically three kinds of hiki waza:
  1. hiki-men,
  2. hiki-kote
  3. hiki-do

When to perform hiki waza

Hiki waza must be performed when you are at a distance that is too close to be able to cut with the monouchi (top one third) of the shinai's blade. Usually this means when you are close enough for your kote and your opponent's kote to touch.

Hiki waza cannot be performed if you have moved forward towards your opponent in order to close distance and attack. In other words you can't run in, attack and run back out again. If you run in, you follow through forward. If you are already in, you may cut and retreat.

Basic pointers on how to perform hiki waza

Hiki waza should be performed with a single step backwards. This step can either be a fumikomiashi (stamping step) or suriashi (sliding step). Beginners in particular should start by using suriashi. Experienced kendoka who are having trouble with correct striking distance should return to using suriashi as well, so as to fix their retreating movement.

Ideally, hiki waza should be performed with as straight a posture as possible. This helps with accuracy of the cut, especially for hiki-kote, and with overall body timing and movement (that is, getting everything to happen at once) and zanshin (following through).

Zanshin is performed moving backwards, away from the opponent. As with kihon waza, you should keep the finishing position of the cut after hiki waza as you retreat. Then at a safe difference return to chudan no kamae. The one exception to this is where, after a small, fast hiki men, it is acceptable to lift the sword into a furikaburi position. This is where the sword is held straight up above the head at a 45 degree angle.

Seme for hiki waza

Like all techniques in kendo, opportunities don't just happen, you need to create them, using seme.

Seme for hiki waza is created using both your hands and the movement of your body while still in tsubazeriai. This is a situation in kendo where circular movements become as important as straight ones.

To create an opening from tsubazeriai you need to combine both the pressure of your hands on your opponent's hands as well as the rotation of your body from the hips to create a new chushin (centre-line). Prior to attempting hiki-waza, try to brush aside your opponent's sword by controlling their hands. You can also push down to induce a counter-movement, e.g. push down on their hands, when you release their hands will naturally spring up a little showing an opening for hiki-do.

In fact there is almost as much variety in these shikake (attacking) openings for hiki waza as there are for kihon waza going forwards.

As Musashi might say, you should practice this well!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ki-ken-tai-itchi and unweighting or "How to get your right foot and cut to land at the same time".

At Nanseikan we often use the term kikentaiitchi (気剣体一致) to refer to the timing of the right foot with the moment of striking the opponent with the sword. It is one of the most difficult aspects of kendo technique. Many people spend a long time trying to achieve it. I spend a lot of time trying to explain it, but I never feel like I can do so in words. It is something that just needs to be practiced with the body to be able to understand.

However there are a couple of important points worth thinking about when it comes to KKTI.

Suburi timing vs sho-men uchi timing

One of the difficulties comes from the the fact that we teach beginners one kind of timing when they first learn suburi, then expect them to learn a completely different and contradictory timing when they start to hit their opponent.

Suburi timing involves lifting the hands for the upswing as soon as the front foot slides forward, with the downswing coming as the back foot slides into place.

Sho-men uchi on the other hand requires no movement of the feet or body with the upswing, but then a co-ordinated lunge and step forward with the whole body when you strike. The stamping step is called fumi-komi ashi. The action of kicking off with the back foot to drive your body forwards is called fumi-kiri dosa.

Being able to do both these two conflicting timings whenever you choose is quite difficult but will come with practice.


No, I don't mean "waiting"! I mean how you weight each foot when you do kendo. Many people say you should have your weight a bit towards your back foot, say 40% front, 60% back because you cannot move your front foot when you weight is resting on it. That's wrong for two reasons. Firstly you can't move your front foot when there is any weight resting on it. Secondly it means you are starting by leaning backwards with your body, which doesn't fit with the kendo mindset of always attacking forwards.

There is a very clever way of getting around this problem of "un-weighting" the front foot without having to lean backwards first. It is clever because it also helps us with achieving kikentaiitchi, and even many other shikake waza such as harai waza, ose waza and makiotoshi waza.

You fall forwards.

With your weight evenly on both feet, apply a small amount of extra pressure with your left heel (which as we know is always slightly raised in kamae).

This will cause your centre-of-gravity to move forwards. In other words you will start to lose your balance because you body is moving forwards but your feet are staying still. At the same time as you apply this pressure with your left heel, push your left hand forwards. This starts your backswing.

Just as you reach the point where you are really about to fall over, your swing should be at its apex (highest point, which is 45 degrees above your head for kihon waza). At this point your feet should not have moved, which means your shoulders will be closer to your opponent than your front foot, not a position you can stay in!

So before you fall flat on your face, kick off with your left foot.

At the same time, bring your sword down to cut the target area. Allow the sole of your right foot to land flat on the floor, which is the fumi-komi ashi.

Then bring your left foot up and continue to follow through using okuri ashi.
When the cut and the right foot are in unison, this is the basic achievement of kikentaiitchi.