Kendo for Beginners
3. Oxford Dojo Practices
You arrive at the dojo. What should you do?
Take off any jewellery, including watches. Take off your shoes and socks. Enter the dojo and bow facing the dojo. Put down anything you were carrying (bags, shinai bags, shoes etc) along the side or the back walls. In Oxford we use the wall nearest the climbing walls.
Prepare the dojo for use. This involves drawing the partition curtains and mopping the floor in the case of our dojo. If a senior person is doing this, always offer to take over.
Starting and ending a practice
|seiretsu||Line up along the back wall facing the partitioning curtains in the order of seniority*. If you have a bokken, carry this in your right hand with the blade facing up. If you have a shinai carry it in your left hand with the blade facing up.|
|seiza (or chakuza)||Sit (only when the person immediately senior to you sits down). Quietly put your weapon down with the blade facing yourself and the tsuba lined up with your knees. Make sure your knees are line up with the seniors’ **.|
|mokuso-||Straighten your back up, pull your chin in and meditate***.|
|yame (or clap)||Stop.|
|sensei ni rei||Bow sitting down and say “(yoroshiku)onegaishimasu”. (Beginning of practice)|
|sensei ni rei||Bow sitting down and say “arigato-gozaimashita”. (End of practice)|
|otagai ni rei||Bow to each other.|
*A senior person (senpai) is someone of a higher grade than you, or has been in the same grade as you for longer or simply older than you if you are ungraded. In Oxford we line up with the most senior person nearest the climbing walls.
**If you have armour, make sure your men and kote are lined up with that of the seniors’, and that the kotes have the fists pointing to the right.
***Make “C”s with your hands (that is one C the right way up and one C back to front), put the tips of your thumbs together (that is, the top of the C’s touch) and your left fingers under the right fingers (that is, the bottom of the C’s overlap, putting one hand under the other). Hold your hands in this shape near your navel. Breathe deeply and concentrate on Kendo.
Typical practice at Oxford (Mondays)
|9:00pm||Arrive well in time so that you are dressed appropriately and ready to practice by 9:00pm. Prepare the dojo for use.
Warming up by running, stretching and suburi.
|9:40pm||jigeiko||Watch jigeiko (Michaelmas - Hilary).
Join in as kakarigeiko (Hilary).
Join in as jigeiko (Hilary - Trinity)
|10:00 - 10:30pm||End of practice as announced by sensei.|
Starting and ending jigeiko
- Stand facing your opponent with about 10 paces between yourselves.
- Take one normal size step towards each other.
- Carry the sword at waist height, horizontal to the ground with your thumb on the tsuba. Your right hand should be at waist height by your right hip, fingers together.
- Take 3 large steps towards each other.
- Pull out your sword. Chu-dan no kamae.
- Sonkyo. Tips of the swords should be just touching.
- Stand up, kiai, and start fighting.
The above procedure applies to shiai as well.
Your attitude during jigeiko
At first, it may be frightening to ask a senior person to do jigeiko with you when all you can do is dodge. But once you learn the basic cuts and can execute them reliably, you should not be timid to ask seniors in armour to let you hit them. Remember that kendo keiko happens properly only when the attacker and receiver cooperate. Seniors are doing their own keiko even if all they do seems to be to stand there and get hit by you.
During jigeiko, you should always aim to make the most of the opponent you face. The aim is not only to score points against your opponent. You should not forget correct posture and handling of the shinai just to hit your opponent (such cuts will not score in matches anyway) and at the same time, you should not be disheartened every time you receive a blow. Keep going, using correct kendo techniques until you score. The best gratitude you can show the seniors for teaching you is to make the most of them.