The literal meaning of Kamae says already a lot of things. The word Kama "構“ means structure. It is the foundation for all things. Needless to say that a good Kamae is what every one should achieve. But what is the importance of Kamae? What is a good Kamae? What is a bad Kamae? Moreoever, there is a mindset that prevents having a good Kamae. I'm going to summarise what was mentioned in the conversations in the following.
First I will mention the story that Ryuzo kun told me. He started kendo at a very young age, 6/7 years old, training at the police dojo in Miyazaki. Of course, as almost all kendoka in Japan know that Miyazaki has very strong kendo, the training is tough and the style is orientated towards competition and winning. Over the years, he developed very strong kendo and had always been in the school and university team to represent in the competitions. However, he said only from 3 years ago, when he changed his view about kendo, it has become more interesting, and he thinks it's what kendo should be. "Between 19 years to 28 years old," he said, "my kendo performance depends on how much I trained during that time, and my kendo level stayed roughly the same. There was not much playing with mind." His kendo at that time consisted of much blocking, and dodging. His kensen was also flying every where. However, influenced by Yoshimura Sensei, 8th Dan, from Paris, he started to understand kendo from a new perspective, one that grows with time after each practice instead of solely on physical condition.
"The first and the most important thing is Kamae." He said. "A good Kamae is the perfect defense, and is also the best preparation for an attack. One should learn first Kamae, then learn seme, and finally the use of Oji-waza."
During the conversation with Hara Sensei, Hara Sensei talked also about the importance of Kamae, and what kendo is. "A good attack must have a story," and he asked me, "why did Liu-san hit my kote?" I could not answer it. "If the Kamae is not broken before attacking, there is no story, and no communication." I will always remember this. He continued, "To become Hachidan, the story needs to be apparent to not just the two fighiting kendoka but also the audience."
|From Japan 2008|
[Hara Sensei and Ryuzo kun reflecting on the essence of kendo over some sake and food.]