Just tipped into summer and we managed to get to the kodachi seiho, the short sword set of practice. In an effort to make the kodachi seem easy, we did some two-sword exercises to warm up. It didn’t work. I’m not sure, but no matter how simple the kata, those learning them seem to have the same difficulty as when they are learning longer, multi-part kata. I found myself saying many times “don’t make this harder than it is”.
Here’s a hint about kodachi seiho, the footwork starts right, left, right, right, left, left, right. Seven techniques.
1. The first kata is sasen, same as for tachi seiho, it’s just a matter of walking forward three steps and stab the throat. The only difference is that you have to move forward a bit more to reach the neck. Looked like we had never done it before, so we spent some time, talked about tachi cutting a foot in front of kodachi’s face, that sort of stuff. It’s really just sasen, it shouldn’t matter what size weapon you have in your hand, could be a bo or could be nothing at all, adjust the distance.
2. The second kata is chudan, it just means leave the kodachi up in chudan, rather than our usual gedan, as you walk forward. Left foot start, that means on the second step when you come into cutting range of tachi, you are on your right foot. Tachi takes a cut at your shoto (or your right hand) and you shove yourself back to your left rear (right foot still forward), dropping the shoto but keeping it aimed at tachi. Then drive back in (still right foot forward) and hit him on the head. Now step in and grab tachi by the right elbow with your free hand. Use the notch just above the elbow and drive into his center to break his hip. Not complex, really, very common technique seen in many sword schools but still, a very large number of variations were invented last evening.
OK fine, variations, no problem. Focus on what’s important then, get hand out of way of cut, return cut, control elbow. Forget the footwork, concentrate on the kata instead.
By that I mean that you aren’t going to get graded on Niten, you don’t need to confuse and bewilder yourself with standard angles and stated timings and all the other frippery that gets attached to kata. Twelve seconds to return to the center where you can break and go back to the start line? I don’t think so, what would be the point?
I hope folks were seeing that my corrections are concerned with things like grip, target, distance and not getting hit.
Mind you, the Pamurai told me last night that “I would have had the class way further along than you”. When I asked how, she said “You spent at least 15 or 20 minutes on aikido”. I did not! Just because I do things empty handed to try and show the class how it “feels” to do the kata doesn’t mean I’m doing aikido. I’m just trying to give the class a “gut feeling” for things, to “know it in the hara”.
She called me a freak. Her fellow knitter (think about those old ladies knitting while watching the heads fly during the French Revolution) said I saw things that way through years of practice. I told them to use their motor neurons.
Yeah beer-talk after class really goes that way.
3. Number three is uke nagashi and we move forward right foot first which means that when tachi cuts we are on our right foot. As I was taught, this isn’t so much an angled sliding deflection, it’s a stop block. You cut up into the descending blade and stop it dead, hopefully damaging tachi’s arms as you do it. Then sweep the sword aside with your free hand, step in with the left foot and smack him on the forehead/face with the shoto.
Before the rest of the world says “hunh” you can start with your left foot, meet in a very traditional form of uke nagashi and smack him in the face, as you prevent him from lifting his sword again with your free hand. But what’s the fun in that? We’ve done it several times already, I like our way better because it’s just so in your face, straight down the line, “go ahead, try”.
“How do I grab the sword hand sensei?” I don’t know, fast?, before he decides to cut you again?, and you don’t have to grab it, just slap it aside. Look at the essentials of the kata, its not about taking the sword away from him, it’s about moving it off the centerline rather than moving yourself off the line. It is possible that you may have to do that sort of thing, especially if you remember that you would be using a shoto indoors and maybe you’re in a hallway and walls on both sides. Useful skill, knowing how to stop a cut and hammer your opponent’s sword into a side wall as you smack him in the face/forehead.
4. This is moji gamae, sort of like moji gamae of tachi seiho. The thing is, the shoto in your right hand would not be very strong if you use the same angle as with the tachi, so you bend it the other way to cover your body, tip up and to the right in front of your face. Tachi again has to deal with the covering sword and you take advantage. Your right foot is forward, you intercept the attacking blade by sliding forward and meeting it early, then slide further down the sword to throw it back. One of the class yelled out “hiki otoshi”. Yep.
Since the leverage on a shoto isn’t great, tachi manages to get control of his sword, and backs up out of the way of the return slash of the kodachi (that we don’t do because it’s not in the kata), and then cuts at an angle for shoto’s neck, or do, or head. We ended up choosing the do (upper chest) because it’s easier to intercept with the shoto without getting your knuckles crushed. Step to the left front with the left foot as you guide the sword gently down to your hip, trapping it there as you take the elbow. Step in deep as you intercept, as if about to slam your left shoulder into tachi, or you will guide tachi’s monouchi into your thigh and you’ll have a new scar to show the ladies. Make sure his tsuba hits your leg instead.
I think this is where I was “doing aikido” trying to get people to understand the timing of the turn and the feeling of coming inside the sword cut. Maybe I spent more time than I should have on this because it’s as far as we got.
We demonstrated hari tsuke (the last half of moji gamae, really), nagashi uchi, and ai sen then it was beer o-clock.
I think I’ve got another week in town and then I fly to Calgary for the first seminar. The knitters can teach you guys all the stuff I’ve been neglecting while I’m gone, the etiquette for one thing. The taking 12 seconds to get back to the center, that stuff.
June 23, 2017
July Niten and Kage seminars: