About this blog..

This is a blog that I started in April 2006, just after I first put on my bogu (kendo armour). It collects the advices given by more experienced kendo practitioners as well as those from my own experiences. Both technical and the mental aspects of kendo are written in the blog. I hope someone will find them useful or interesting at least!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Natural stance kamae 自然身構

After reading a document written by Toshio Matsumoto (松本 敏夫), 9th Dan Hanshi, talking about various detailed fundamental aspect of kendo, including body postures and weight distributions in kamae and during strikes. It got me excited after reading it, because I have noticed a few things which worried me at the back of my mind:

  • 1. I lose the ai-men strikes very often, and my shinai tends to miss and drift towards my opponent's left-side.
  • 2. Most sensei's kamae appears that their left hand is not exactly aligned with the tip of the sword, but shifted very slightly to their left. And I have also seen black and white pictures of some renounced 9th and 10th Dan Senseis, holding kamae in this way.
  • 3. Kuroda-san once mentioned when I visited him in Tokyo that shifting the left hand slightly to the left and pointing the shinai towards the left eye of opponent. But I haven't actually gone out and try it.

After reading the document by Matsumoto Sensei, I think I found that could be the answers to these questions. The following are some main points:

  • The bottom of the waist would face directly towards the opponent, however from there above until the shoulders, the body is twisted naturally towards the left, with the direction shown by the dashed straight line in the picture at the top.
  • The root of thumb of the left hand is placed in front of the navel, and because of so, with the upper body facing slightly to the left, the left hand is slightly off-center, which is drawn as the solid line connecting between you and the opponent.
  • The tip of the shinai should, however, be on the solid line pointing towards the opponent's left eye or between the eyes. So that a triangle is formed by: 1) the line connecting the two shoulders, 2) the tip of shinai to the right shoulder, and 3) the tip of shinai to the left shoulder. (As shown below.)

  • This triangle should be maintained during movement, and is the basis to all attacks and defenses.
  • The left hand should be at the "body-centerline" (the dashed line in the top diagram) always.

This is what Matsumoto Sensei called the "natural stance (自然身構)". Because this is the most natural, without the unnecessary tension, for example, on the left wrist if it were to be exactly on the center-line (to the opponent).

He also said that there are following three advantages to stand this way:
  • The opponent's tsuki-attack slides off easily.
  • When you strike men, the opponents shinai slides off easily.
  • Difficult for the opponent to strike the kote.
However, one should be careful that if the shinai tip is too much to the right side, the men would be left open.

I experimented with this last week, and had good results. My ai-men was stronger, and suriage-men felt more natural. It seems that because I wanted my shoulders to face directly forwards before, my left hand tended to shift to the right during the strike, which is very self-destructing. Maintaining a natural angle with the shoulders seems logical since the right hand is much farther than the left hand. I remember once I asked Ozawa Sensei if it's ok to have one shoulder extending farther than the other, he said promptly: "Ok, ok!"


Dezza said...

Chiba Sensei is a proponent of this kamae. He explained that's a natural style while 'westerners' tend to learn straight hips/back (reduces cutting with the right hand i suppose!).

Alessio said...

Keep the kensen on the kleft eye comes from the very old kenjutsu school that they were praticse with bokuto. Shinia is something like a wedge and the issoku mae both shinai could be directed on the tuski.

This is little bit difficult iwth the bokuto. At the max you can do the same keep the distance on the yokote, not more!

Ivan said...

Hi Dezza, thanks for your info. Indeed I have this feeling when I was in Europe. My guess is that because the majority is beginner so sensei (whether visiting japanese sensei or resident) tend to stick to the most basic when they teach.

Hideyuki Kuroda, a high school teacher in Tokyo, who was 5th Dan at the time when he told me that he taught students this kamae not before they reach 1st dan. In fact, when I was in Tokyo I found most senseis use this kamae. Astonishingly, this is little known, let along used, in the west.

Ivan said...

Hi Alessio, according to literature there are 5 variations to chudan-no-kamae. They are mentioned briefly in my older post: http://shinai.blogspot.com/2008/05/hakamada-sensei-8th-dan.html
There are names to these kamae. I don't know how to pronounce in hiragana. Some are used against opponents in jodan.

Ken Shin Kan said...

Hello there!!!

Nice article. Thank you for sharing the info. I would like to translate your article into Spanish.

Can I do it?

Thank you again,

Kind regards,


Ivan said...

Sure Jose, you can translate the article into spanish.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ivan,
I am the president of the NTU alumus kendo club. I wonder what happened to you and made you absent from the thank-you feast for Ozawa sense. It's a pity in the absence of you.

Ivan said...

Hi, thank you for your appreciation :) I had trouble with my motorbike and couldn't start the engine. So I had to take it to a bike shop to get it fixed. It was indeed a pity not being able to join you! By the way, have I met you?

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Jose Sierra said...

Interesting article, and interesting kamae. I will try this kamae out tonight and see what results I get. Great blog, btw - very informative. Keep it up! :)