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Experiencing Jōdan-no-Kamae & Gyaku-Dō

Wednesday 31st May 2023 Keiko Reflection - Janet

Tonight’s Keiko was planned by Marleen sensei & led by Senpais Leo & Joyce. 

We had a rare opportunity to watch & learn some wazas/ techniques first hand from both senpais particularly on their specialties: Jōdan-no-Kamae & Gyaku-Dō.

The upper-level posture or stance (Jōdan-no-Kamae) which Leo Senpai uses, is the Hidari (left) Jōdan, where the left foot is in front of the right foot, so essentially the foot positions are reversed from normal Chudan position. 

Using the posterior right foot to push off when going forwards & the anterior left foot to push off when going backwards. 

Otherwise all other elements of footwork remains the same, like heels off the ground using Suriashi sliding steps, maintain inner parallel & the distance between both feet, right foot not overtaking left foot, using the left foot for fumikomi & right foot quickly follow up after strike to run through with Zanshin…etc. 

When stepping into Hidari Jōdan-no-Kamae by moving the left foot in front of the right, remember to keep upper body straight & square facing forwards, then with same “V” shape hand grip on the Tsuka, concentrating on the left hand particularly keeping the “Pinky” finger tension, lift up the Shinai from Chudan position by rotating shoulder raising the Shinai overhead with left hand slightly to the left of midline about one fist in front of the forehead & the Shinai pointing to the back & right about 45 degrees with the blade facing up.

This standard Jōdan position is often used for deep breathing exercise such as after intense Haya-Suburi to help open up the chest. 

However, during actual Shiai, each Jōdan users stance will be slightly different from the standard form, with their own variations to adjust to different situations such as pulling back their left hand slightly to protect their left Kote by increasing the distance the opponent needed to reach.

Unlike Chudan-no-Kamae, where the Kensen is directly in front of us helping us with better defence as well as easier to engage the Kensen with opponents kensen to test them out & to apply Seme, for Jōdan-no-Kamae, the actual tip of Shinai is now overhead pointing away from centre, therefore, the new “Kensen” now becomes the end of Tsuka controlled by the left hand, pointing towards the centre & opponent. 

Jōdan user will slightly move the left hand & Tsuka forwards with a slight forward step to indicate their intention to strike performing Seme, before letting go of their right hand, & continue to rotate & pull down their left shoulder & arm to swing the Shinai forwards towards the centre while slightly rotating their upper body to the right (similar to pulling on a bow), perform Fumikomi with left foot & perform Tenouchi single-handedly with the left grip alone on contact with the target.

One of the advantages of the Jōdan position is the reach of the strike as the striking range is longer as well as the readiness to strike as the Shinai is already raised, therefore it is considered as the most aggressive of all stances or Kamaes.

We practised how to perform Jōdan-no-Kamae, how to do Okuri-ashi footwork going forwards & backwards in Jōdan, then hitting Men from Jōdan position which was a very interesting experience, almost like learning to use the non-dominant hand to write or eat. 

This demonstrated the difficulty & the incredible amount of training & experience required for a kendoka to be able to switch to using Jōdan proficiently. We are very fortunate to have Leo Senpai at WKC who is able to do so, therefore, make most of the opportunities to Keiko with Leo Senpai when we have a chance to help us learn how to fight against a Jōdan user.

Joyce Senpai on the other hand shared with us some tips on her specialty: the Gyaku (reverse) Dō strike

The strategy is to make the opponent think we are going to aim for the Men by rotating the arm & Kensen upwards similar to the starting sequence of Small-Men attack, thus luring them to lift up their Shinai to block, so disrupting their Kamae, exposing their Dō before we pull down our arms to perform Dō strike on the right side. 

The theory behind the technique may sound simple enough however, to be able to perform it naturally & as effortlessly as how Joyce Senpais demonstrated will take heaps of practice this is the true intention of Marleen Senseis Keiko plan, to expose to us as many different techniques as possible at any stage to help us learn to utilise different parts of our bodies & muscles which we don’t usually use, therefore, it will feel awkward to start with but is essential to help train our bodies to become more balanced & coordinated in order to better move our bodies with ease & perform wider range of more advanced techniques in the future while minimising potential flaws or weaknesses in our body movements.

* * *

We then finished the Keiko by doing Kakari-geiko (continuous attack practice) & Ai-Kakarite-geiko (Simultaneous attack from both sides) against Leo Senpai. The purpose of Kakari-geiko is to help train our stamina & speed for rapid & continuous attacks, as well as helping to train our bodies to respond instantly when seeing an opportunity without thinking too much. By doing Ai-Kakarite-geiko, it will help us overcome the fear of seeing someone attacking us, resist the urge to block & encourage us to make simultaneous attack at same time to remain aggressive & proactive to maintain an attacking spirit.

Thank you Marleen sensei for her thoughtful Keiko menu & supervising the Keiko tonight🙏🙏🙏

Many thanks to both Leo & Joyce Senpai for their special instructions tonight & Leo Senpai for helping us with Kakari-geiko. We all learnt a lot🙏🙏🙏


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