Wed, 17 Nov 2021, Keiko Log

Thanks for visiting us Stewart sensei.

With Stewart sensei from Northern VA Budokai

17 participants (8 youths + 9 adults)
A: Henry, Lauren, Kayleigh, Donovan, Schmitt, Begay, Cindy, Georges, Michael
Y: Austin, Victor, Benjamin, Sean, Ian, Jude, Juha, Jueun


  • ashi sabaki, kihon uchi drills, nidan waza
  • kiri-kaeshi, jigeiko

We had a visitor from Northern VA Budokai, so I wasn’t able to get G or K to lead the youths while I instructed the new beginners, A & his brother V. B sensei was insistent to keep both of them for the visitor and for instructing other women in the group. So, I gave H the charge over youths while I instructed A & V on ashi kamae, and chudan no kamae. I noticed the time goes by very quickly when you have to repeat the commands to a couple of constantly distracted kids. A kept on putting his shoulder down as if repeating the same drills is too much for him. He’s impatient. He also kept on grabbing the jinbu with kensen pointing upwards over his shoulder even though I’ve repeated told him to hold his chudan. His brother is able to hold better. It’s easy to tell from early on who’s going to be able to endure the repetitive drills in the future. I can’t say this is indicative of their future success in life, but the old East Asian proverb quickly floats up in my mind. However, I do get that it’s hard not to be distracted with four groups simultaneously practicing at each corner of the floor. We had female group, the more advanced group with the visitor, and then the youths, and us. And I know A has been doting on bogu itself, and he was so eager to wear it himself on the first day he visited. I’m quietly building up his internal drive by periodically reminding him that he has to master the basics first, and that can take weeks, and depends on how much he’s able to focus and concentrate. If he keeps on being distracted then it will take twice as long, I remind him. I know it’s not going to be an easy fight for him, but I see no other way then an attempt at a immediate behavior modification. At the top of the first hour, I let them go after a sonkyo and a rei. My energy was pretty much sapped at this point, because I could tell I myself was growing impatient with giving of repeated commands to constantly distracted kids.

I pay my attention the rest of youths, and have them take a short break, and then instruct them to put their kote and dou on. They have been doing men uchi and kote uchi. Now, it was time for men uchi, and one-step dou uchi in mawari geiko. Twenty minutes in, I’m also eager to join the adults with a yudansha visitor, so I finish with reiho for youths and tell them they have three options: 1) leave, 2) stay and watch, or 3) join the adults. They all leave. It’s Wednesday, after all. They’re used to leaving on the first hour on Wednesdays, and then join for longer keiko on Fridays. Adults just started jigeiko, and I join in. 30 minutes of jigeiko passes extremely quickly. I was able to face the visitor twice, G twice, B sensei once, and D once; and stand as motodachi for others.

With a constant lack of practice with adults, I realize my options for waza during jigeiko become extremely limited. With a full cognizance, it’s a fight with myself to raise my kigurai, and not feel overwhelmed. After all, this is more than merely executing some clever waza. He doesn’t know me, I don’t know him. The pretense of having no doubts is thick in the air. He nods his head to the side as if raising a question mark over his head. Thank you — I needed that. I go in for a plain datotsu. Little short, and I immediately realize that he isn’t a young person, but his eyes reflect a high level of concentration. The nimbleness and the precision with his shinai are indicative of someone in yondan or higher. A kakegoe. I’m not lowering my tail. my kensen goes slighly underneath his kensen, and with no second thought I go in for another datotsu w/ shinai going up back to the center from his right side, and an ippon. He wasn’t expecting that at all, but I know it was more out of luck on my part. He admits maita in European style with his left hand opening wide to the side with a slight bow as he backs away. Interesting. With several more bouts with me, he would have figured me out already. I’m an open book with no difficulties to decipher. I’m badly in need of godogeiko. Next best thing is to continue in my daily private routines with suburis.

Each person has an internal rhythm. Having done jigeiko with him for over a decade, I can easily tell when D is about to strike, especially when he’s little out of practice. That internal rhythm is the primary drive of the timing when one decides to strike. It could follow a series of certain visual cues one has mentally prepared as triggers. Such timing would probably be more related to go-no-sen, or sen-no-sen. sen-sen-no-sen may be little more advanced form of timing, but it still follows that internal rhythm. Visual cues, or gan, once highly developed, could be an immense advantage, but I wonder about the possibility to develop and be able to adjust one’s own internal rhythm. This seems applicable only in sen-sen-no-sen.

In swimming, the combination of kicks, body rotation for breathing, arm motion, and controlling the axis of the body all come together to create a certain flow that can help to improve the speed. Anything that hinders, such as moving the hand down into the water instead of parallel to the floor, or not kicking with the bigger muscles of the legs, or axis of the head, and so on could pointed out and improved upon. Can this be analogous to improving a swimming performance? In water, the forward motion is generated using the whole body, and the rhythm is a mere kinetic byproduct; in kendo, the direction is determined primarily by the lower body, and the motion of the ken by upper body, and the rhythm is a dialectical byproduct that is premeditative in nature. It is said that godansha’s heart becomes like a mirror of your aite, but that’s not very applicable here in regards to developing one’s own internal rhythm. Just as how rhythm in swimming is a combination of all of the little things, it’s probably true in kendo as well. So, say, fast forwarding to the kinetic parts, the timing of one’s footwork, which also determines the timing of the arm movements, may hold the key to deciding the rhythm of the kinetic stage. This should’ve been rather obvious, considering the amount of emphasis we put on ashi sabaki, but not necessarily on timing. We hold to a traditional group drills, where everyone synchronizes their timing to each other, and over time, the rhythm matches to one another, probably for obvious reasons. Going backwards to premeditative stage, the setup of triggers may work well against naivete, and may even carry one very far with a highly developed gan. Some may describe it as a state of mushin, but it’s a type of consummation of all of the years of past practice. It’s more likely to be a product of highly developed gan, and kudos to that.

Published by

Michael Han

Keiko, keiko, and more keiko.