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.
At last Mondays training session we went back to basics a little more.
We have a couple of beginners coming fairly regularly again so we did some basic footwork exercises. During this I had a small eureka moment when something finally occurred to me about how fumikomi is meant to be performed. I’ve always known what and how to do a decent fumikomi and mostly these days it’s second nature but I’d always missed the part about when your front foot lifts. It’s a very small part that as usual has a great degree of significance.
If you watch most people doing their fumikomi, their foot lifts quite high into the air quite high before coming down again. We all know that this is not correct. The theory says that you should slide the front part of your foot along the floor and then only lift just as you are about to hit. The thing I never appreciated before is exactly what you are meant to do to make your foot come off the floor.
Most of us will simply lift the foot using the right leg and probably just lifting the toes slightly. Everyone does this, mostly. I now realise this is wrong. What you should be doing is using the push from the back leg not just forward but in a slightly upward direction just at the end, keeping the front leg fixed and the toes level. It’s like the final snap of the cut with the wrists. Shoulders, elbows wrist all unfurling in order. The step should be hip, knee, ankle with the ankle effectively making the final snap, pushing the body upwards at that last point. In that split second, your back leg has extended all the way and wants to come off the floor, your front foot is off the floor, the fumikomi is a natural reaction of gravity. There is no actual intention to hit the floor.
This also makes me realise why there is such a distinction between these flying shiai cuts and the kind of subtle cuts I see from the higher level sensei. The fumikomi is just as powerful, but the movement is very small.
This leads me to another question. Should a fumikomi be really hard and reverberate through the entire dojo floor or should it be just enough to efficiently rebalance the body and demonstrate the cut?
A question for sensei I think.