Hiki-waza is often a very difficult thing to get your head around. You spend a lot of time learning how to cut going forward but suddenly hiki-waza turns that around, literally, and make you do the same thing backwards.
There is that point you reach in jigeko where you cut and go through or you hit taiatare. At this point you can easily be stuck into that mind set of wondering what to do now. Push your opponent back, move to the side, try to get out without being hit.
As with all situations in kendo if you run into something that you don’t know what to do, you should concentrate on that thing, ask sensei what to do and develop a game plan.
So first the foot work. You are meant to push into you opponent and at the moment they push back, lift your left foot and fumikomi with your right, backwards while striking.
Your choice of strike is the next thing to consider.
The theory goes something like this. If you push down, your opponents reaction is to push up, thus you strike dou. If you push up you opponent will push down, thus you strike men. If you push straight forward, they will push straight back thus opening kote.
This is the theory but executing it is another matter. The important thing is that you actually have a game plan to perform hiki-waza instead of striking randomly. This won’t always work of course.
Lastly, don’t hang a round waiting for the right push or pressure. Get in and get out as quick as possible. Choose quickly and don’t give you opponent a chance to think about it because then the instinct kicks in and they will not be able to consciously prevent your cut.
There is a kendo saying that says as a kendoka you should concentrate and persist at one thing.
Just like any good scientist, a good kendoka is always looking for new insights into already established theories and methods and as such this is something I hold on high regard throughout my training.
Previously I have focused on my kiai to great effect. It improved dramatically but also made me focus on breathing as a whole and now am finding myself much less out of breath.
Recently I’ve revisited my technique of fumikomi as I’ve always felt a little lacking in that area. This came about during a session when we were watching each other perform a cut going through and watching our fumikomi technique. Now mine has always been a little soft in terms of sound but I know that I do not land heel first. Someone very helpfully pointed out that I was lifting my toes at point of impact and was not bending my knee enough.
As usual with these small subtle changes, it requires a whole rethink of the technique. As such I am now trying to bend my right knee a little more and now my fumikomi is much louder and feels better, apart from making my toes sting like hell. Apparently this is a good thing. It means I’m actually doing the fumikomi properly and landing more flat footed. More work is required.
On a final note, Chris and myself are attending the Level 1 coaching course this weekend, which means I’m learning how to teach people. Initially we went in for this just so we can provide backup if sensei cannot make it one evening, but it’s made be think quite heavily about how to teach people kendo. I’m usually pretty good with the newbies, one on one, offering helpful advice but when it comes to talking to a whole room of people, I get a little tongue tied and nervous.
Sensei has been very helpful with tips and methods and I’m quite looking forward to it despite the course being iado and jodo lead. Sod’s law I’ll come back wanting to learn iaido as well.