Quite often, I get told that speed is the solution, to scoring a point, or to doing a good kata, it’s being aggressive. Look on the net and you’ll see lots of examples of swordsmen doing long kata at high speeds.
The thing is, speed is not timing, but speed is very easy to time. Now, acceleration (jo ha kyu), that’s hard to time. If you want to walk up and kill someone, don’t run at them from across the room, but walk lightly, casually until you get close enough to put on a burst of speed and catch them “on their heels”. Timing a run isn’t hard, but sudden bursts of speed tend to make the head snap back and with that, a rock onto the heels. That is of course followed by falling over.
You don’t need to be the fastest thing out there, you just need to be fast enough, to be faster than the other guy for a single movement. Canadians get this, you can’t run faster than a bear, but you can run faster than your buddy.
This is why I try not to tell folks doing partner practice to move quickly. I ask them to move crisply, snappily, something like that. Quickly, fast, isn’t all that useful. Although you may not think this is very important, a kata done at a uniformly fast speed is boring. It’s two people racing to get to the end of the kata, it’s a teacher that doesn’t understand timing, or at least that’s what it suggests.
Fast is one of the dangers of having long kata. Not long ago we seniors in Jodo were told that kiai on every single strike of Ran Ai (the longish kata of Seitei Gata Jo) is boring. Cut it down, make fewer noises. But where do we kiai sensei? Put it in where you figure it goes.
How do you do that when you’re uniformly fast during the kata? Hard to figure out. Now, if you have some slowness here and there, and suddenly accelerate to strike an opening, if you have some Meri Hari and some Jo Ha Kyu, and are playing with the timing and playing with your partner, it’s not that hard to find some places to kiai and some places to be quiet/calm, to lull your partner into a different rhythm so that you can break that rhythm to “get him”.
Beginnners just do the two halves of the kata solo. They get slightly out of sync so someone rushes to catch up… it’s never someone slowing down is it? A small catching up, another, another and soon you are running flat out through the kata. That’s not paying attention, that’s just speeding up to catch up, forever.
Now, if you are willing to pay attention, to watch each other closely and try to find openings in the kata itself, you will be a bit more cautious, a bit slower, a bit more “catch him” as Ohmi sensei says about iaido, and not so much “get it over with”. Things get a bit less straight line, and a bit more lumpy, a bit more wavy (time vs speed graph or some such).
Now, if you are willing to just stop and let the other guy move along, caught in his own head, just going through the motions, all sorts of openings outside of the kata show up. Don’t get too fond of this, it’s crude and ugly and dangerous because, let’s face it, you’re not moving, but it’s a great shock to the system. Better to stick to the openings the kata presents than to “break the kata” and go outside. Better because the instant you leave the kata you are in freestyle (or freefall if you’re not so experienced) and we don’t have protection for that sort of thing. That’s Kendo. That’s busted fingers at least.
Flat out speed? Musashi says so, but he also says that you need to keep a tiny bit back just in case your opponent isn’t really back on his heels. Flat out speed only works if it’s coming from zero, not from the next block over, and speed from zero is crisp, it’s snappy, it’s timing, it’s acceleration.
Aggression? Absolutely, we want our opponent to be very aggressive, to attack full out, to be very fast, as fast as he can be. We will pick the time, strike in a relaxed manner, folding inside, outside, aside, wherever we wish, because we’ve got his number, his timing, which isn’t changing.
Speed is not timing.
August 3, 2019
August 10,11. Quebec City, Jodo seminar and Quebec Jodo grading with Eric Tribe, Ed Chart and Tsubaki sensei.
August 16-18, Calgary Jodo, Iaido, seminar and Prairies Jodo grading to nidan. http://kamusokai.com/calgary/
August 19, Jodo/Iaido class, Mentor College, Port Credit, 6-9pm
August 31-September 2, Sei Do Kai cabin seminar. (Bring your work clothes, the boys have a plan). Niten and Kage? Iaido and Jodo?
October 4-6, Fredericton Jodo/Iaido seminar (and perhaps Atlantic grading.. TBA).
October 26-27, MJER Kenshokan Koryu iai seminar, Peterborough. Ohmi sensei. Not to be missed.
November 8-10 Annual CKF Fall International Jodo seminar and grading to 3dan. (Fujisaki sensei and Rikitake sensei… to be confirmed), Mississauga (Port Credit).
May 15-18. Annual CKF Spring International Iaido and Jodo seminar and Jodo grading to 7dan.