We quickly fell into a “go for the face” class last evening at jodo. Too much lift into the sky and then down again like a classic sword cut. Doesn’t work very well because the jo doesn’t cut. We hit the problem in hiki otoshi uchi kihon. This is one of the most troublesome movements in all of jodo. Which hand starts first, when do you turn, when do you extend forward or do you go up instead.
And how far away from your target do you start?
We got out the seidokai towel targets (hold up a towel at face height and hope your partner doesn’t crack you on the hand as they try to cut down from above). No good, can’t get there from here. Need to stop thinking of cutting down and start thinking of entering, hitting the towel with the corner of the tip of the jo.
OK back to honte uchi kihon and use a bokuto to set the initial maai. With a little effort, no problem getting to tachi’s face. It’s just hiki otoshi uchi that’s the problem. Only it isn’t. Not really, it’s just your brain thinking “I’ve got to be close to that sword to smack it away”. Maybe, we’ll see eventually, but for now we’re doing solo kihon which means we strike to tachi’s face, not down on his sword. So on to the secret second set of partner kihon. Make maai with the bokuto, then jo goes into hiki otoshi uchi at that distance while tachi lowers the sword like honte uchi. Jo strikes to tachi’s face just like honte uchi. Tachi sets the distance, lowers the sword again as jo goes into hiki otoshi uchi on the other side and repeat.
Suddenly hiki otoshi uchi looks like honte uchi…. OMG they are the same! You go through honte uchi while doing hiki otoshi uchi, it’s about reaching out and touching someone… in the face.
On to kata, Suigetsu. Tachi lifts the sword up and cuts down, jo has to move to the right and thrust to stop tachi’s cut. Only jo isn’t in range, the jo is just touching fat sensei’s stomach, not his suigetsu, why?
If you wait until the sword is coming down on you there isn’t much time to move, sideways is about as good as it gets, especially on our slippery floor, and when you step sideways you need to go backward (as the left foot follows) to reestablish your good kamae, you’re moving away from tachi.
Nope. As soon as tachi opens up (lifts the sword to start cutting) you want to “go in” to enter the suki, the weakness, as powerfully as you can, that means move forward as well as to the side, it means moving the hip from square to ya ya hanmi and launching the jo from that hip movement, directly at tachi’s solar plexus.
Move too soon and it’s a mistake, too late and also a mistake. It would help to know when to launch at tachi, when to “reach out”. That means knowing when tachi is going to cut. This is pretty simple in kata, tachi isn’t allowed to fake, so go is go. Just need to find when go happens.
Stand in front of tachi with the jo held up off the floor, drop it on the floor as soon as tachi commits to the cut. Tachi stops when you drop the jo. The goal is to stop him just as he starts to cut, just as he commits to the cut. In the first instance the best result will be when tachi shifts his weight to the left foot from his hidari hanmi position, before he starts to lift the sword.
Eventually you will drop the jo even before the weight shift, at the decision point. You have to be honest with each other on this one, after all, nothing has happened, you could be guessing. Unless you believe in esp, there’s still micromovements you’re catching if you can do this.
Take that sensitivity back to the kata, when you feel tachi start to attack, sneak that right foot out there without moving anything else. When the cut falls, shift the back foot and drive into tachi’s solar plexus just before his right foot lands. You’ve got a good kamae that’s aimed right between his legs so that a little tap shoves him off balance over his heels. Think a foot sweep, you want to tap his ankle just before he steps down.
Coolness. Timing and balance = distance. (Equations go both ways folks).
And there’s the hiki otoshi uchi at the end of the kata, now we can reach out to hit the sword which means we can get back out of range of tachi after the thrust. We don’t have to hang around in cutting range to reach his sword.
It’s all connected! Coolness.
And that’s your class notes for Tuesday’s lesson.
July 18, 2018
Check out the seminars below for the rest of 2018 These are all confirmed.
August 17-19 Calgary/Vancouver Jodo/Iaido seminar and grading
September 1-3 Tombo dojo Niten and Kage seminar, also Montreal intro to jodo seminar
September 8-9 Ueda sensei in Santiago Jodo seminar and grading
September 22-23 Kurogo sensei in Mississauga koryu Jodo seminar
September 29-30 Fredericton iaido and jodo seminar and grading
November 23-25 Sensei TBA, Mississauga, Jodo seminar and grading
December 1 Etobicoke Iaido grading