Knowing your opponent; knowing yourself - Training notes by Nicole

Photo taken from 2015 Novice Champ

Today’s important message from Sensei in Keigo (20/02/2016):

Today’s training focus on how to control our timing when we tried to achieve Ippon. Having sense of timing is definitely one of the most important qualities a Kendoka need to have to become a champion in Shiai. What does this mean? 

By definition, timing can cover quite a few things in Kendo terms. Firstly, the most important thing we need to understand what is the best strike distance between you and your opponent before we initiate a cut or be ready to act as soon as your opponent moved. Being able to consciously make judgment of your strike distance will improve the accuracy of your cut in Shiai.

Secondly, after we adjusted to our best strike distance we should be in Kamai and be ready to strike and always try to read what your opponent is trying to do either by “pushing “ Shinai to fight for centerline or observing body language etc. To make us understand this, Sensei have us practicing doing gradual Ai-men with different partners; hopefully we can grasp our sense of distance and timing against different people.

It was easier said than being done. While some people have natural good instinct but most beginner struggled and it is normal because of lack of practice and lack of Shiai experience. Strike distance will be different when you train with people who have different physical appearance. The ability to read other people’s body language before an attack comes with experience. 

For beginners, the main issue would be too eager to attack without the correct timing and so you let your opponent use that against you especially your opponent is a more experienced Senpai. Beginners also have problem maintain a good Kamai after Seme thus cause a slight delay in attack and that let your opponent to take the opportunity to strike you first because they can see what your intention. When the timing is right, even if you have misread your opponent’s intention, you can still change your Waza to deflect the strike.

To improve sense of timing can only be done by heaps of practice like footwork or suburi to enhance our muscle memory, learn to observe your partner’s body language during Jikeigo and learn to find peace in your mind so that when you are facing your opponent you can consciously judge the best strike distance, read your opponent and give it all to your best Ippon!