Attitudes to Ji-geiko Part 2
In the previous article, I discussed the relationship between Ji-geiko, Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko and examined how Ji-geiko should be approached. I only mentioned in general, how Ji-geiko should be done at each level: elementary, intermediate and advanced. In this article, I would like to discuss how one should approach Ji-geiko when confronted by different types of Kendo-ka, focusing on the following: Ji-geiko with someone senior, junior, of the same level, older, or of the opposite sex.
1. Ji-geiko with Seniors
What should be mentioned, firstly, is to try to get Sho-dachi (the first cut) no matter who you are having the Ji-geiko with. Irrespective of the difference in grade and experience.
Ji-geiko should start with Ippon Shobu played in earnest in an equal fifty-fifty situation, with the philosophy: that there is no second chance in a fight with real swords. It is important to understand this philosophy in Kendo as Budo and try to get a successful Sho-dachi by utilising all of your abilities to the full.
After attacking and defending Sho-dachi, in this Ji-geiko with someone senior, you are recommended then to focus mainly on Shikake-waza. However this does not mean merely attacking randomly against seniors. If you are of a low grade such as Ikkyu and Sho-dan, it is important to attempt to break the seniors Chu-shin [centre] by making the best use of your footwork, Shinai and body movement. It is also important not to be afraid of being avoided and counter attacked, and not to stop attacking in the middle of your action, but to always try to complete your attack. You are supposed to develop various ways of Shikake-waza such as: by being avoided or being struck Debana-waza and Ouzi-waza, repeatedly. However it is not profitable for you to be struck as a result of waiting for the senior to attack. Try to use all the Waza you have and give 100 percent effort. Sumi (2000) points out that juniors should focus only on Shikake-waza and try to do Ji-geiko that makes them use up all of their energy in 5 minutes when they have Ji-geiko with a senior.
If you are 2nd dan, 3rd dan or 4th dan, you should focus more on developing a way of dominating the Chu-shin by using less footwork and Shinai movement against seniors. It is important to attempt to dominate the Chu-shin, by using various ways and not just using the same way. But it is still important to try to strike fully without being afraid of a seniors counter attack.
Summarising this section: Whatever your grade is, it is important to focus on your Shikake-waza when you do Ji-geiko with a senior. After doing Ji-geiko with them, always reflect on how your Seme worked against them and what you need to do when practising Shikake-waza in the next Ji-geiko.
2. Ji-geiko with Juniors
There is no need to stress the importance of Sho-dachi here any more. What you should consider when doing Ji-geiko with a junior, is not to lapse into a Ji-geiko where the only intention is to obtain satisfaction by merely beating them. People tend to feel that they want to impress other people who are watching their Ji-geiko. Such vanity should be severely admonished. From the viewpoint of showing responsibility as a senior, you have a responsibility to develop the juniors skills by making them realise their weak points, by striking them in that weak moment, but also by letting their strong points come through and striking you during the Ji-geiko. This type of Keiko is called Hikitate-geiko (All Japan Kendo Federation, 2000) and is one of the most difficult Keiko to do in Kendo. Juniors will lose their enthusiasm and concentration if seniors just keep on striking them for their own satisfaction or if the opportunity to strike is too obvious. To enable the junior to improve, a senior is expected to perform as though their skill level was 0.5 dan higher than the junior and to concentrate 100 percent when facing them. The senior should counterattack when the junior makes an attack without first making an effective Seme and when there was no appropriate opportunity, but let them strike when they come to attack after making a good Seme and when there is a good opportunity. The senior should encourage the junior to grasp and understand the correct opportunity to strike though this Hikitate-geiko. Seniors are also expected to encourage juniors to understand the importance of maintaining concentration by attacking if the junior is careless after their attack.
There is a saying that explains how a senior should approach Ji-geiko with a junior: Ware igai mina shi nari (everyone is ones teacher) That is, there is always something to learn through Ji-geiko no matter who one does it with. One quite often hears, I am the highest grade in my Dojo and I have no one to teach me – This is not true. It depends on the way you think. Keep in mind that you can learn a great deal from whoever you do Ji-geiko with. It is often taken for granted that seniors can strike juniors easily in Ji-geiko , so for your further improvement, you should not just focus on striking but tackle Ji-geiko with a clear task(s) or by giving yourself a handicap in this Ji-geiko with juniors. However, you must not stick to a form of Ji-geiko whereby you only focus on cutting Men for instance, as even if you try to focus on cutting Men, you need to have a clear idea such as: from what distance to cut Men and on how to make an opportunity. As to giving yourself a handicap, it is also important to explore how to perform under adverse conditions. For example, dare to fence in Chika-ma during Ji-geiko with someone smaller than yourself and to watch for a chance of doing Debana-waza (instead of waiting you should try to lure your opponent into attacking the target you want them to strike!).
I would like to repeat the point that seniors must not lapse into Ji-geiko where the aim is to obtain satisfaction, just by striking more times than their opponent has.
3. Ji-geiko with Someone of the Same Level
Ji-geiko with someone of the same level gives you a good opportunity to reflect upon your progress and the fruits of your efforts. This is even better if you are both about the same age. It is very important for you to know someone of the same level and of a similar age and to do Ji-geiko with them. Its quite normal not to want to be struck by your rival, but it is quite important to have an attitude whereby you try to show your best Kendo no matter what happens. After they are struck, people also tend to try to return the attack before making enough Seme. It is important to control this feeling and try to start again with the taking and re-taking of the Chu-shin. By doing Ji-geiko with someone of the same level, you should compare how your Seme and Waza, [which worked against juniors], works against someone of the same level and whether there is anything your rival has and you do not have and vice versa. It is expected that all people of the same level will try to train harder in order to improve in a spirit of cooperation and friendly in the way of Shugyo in Kendo.
4. Ji-geiko with the Elderly
Here, difference in age is considered rather than the difference in grade. This section is about attitudes to Ji-geiko with someone elderly. It is strictly prohibited to do powerful Tai-atari and Tsuki to an elderly person in Ji-geiko. However there may be some elderly people who are bigger and have more power than you. In that case then, it might be okay, to some extent, to use your power and weight against them. If that is not the case, then, direct physical contact using Seme and Waza that rely too much on strength should be restrained. This does not mean cutting corners in the Ji-geiko. It is still important to try to complete your strike and to strike again in response to your opponent when their first strike is inadequate [but without Tai-atari or relying on physical power]. It is up to you to decide whether you can have a worthwhile Ji-geiko with an elderly person despite the age difference
Elderly Kendo-ka who have great experience may not be able to use many types of Waza and their speed and power may be inferior, but they have a brilliant ability to read the situation (their opponents intention, movement, Waza and so on) Elderly Kendo-ka are models of lifelong participation in Kendo. By observing in particular elderly high grade Kendo-ka doing Ji-geiko and by having Ji-geiko with them, we will receive many suggestions on how we should tackle Kendo, just like them, we will be able to enjoy it throughout our lives.
5. Men Doing Ji-geiko with Women
In the case of men doing Ji-geiko with women, Tai-atari and the use of Waza that rely too much on physical power should also be restrained. Men should not fall into the habit of being afraid of being struck by a women or getting frustrated when you cannot strike as you wish. This causes you to strike, ignoring opportunities, differences in physique and physical strength. This is the worst type of Kendo, because it shows no respect for your opponent and creates nothing between you, even if you are able strike your opponent by doing such Kendo in the Ji-geiko. Your opponent is not an enemy to destroy, rather that you are partners, who should help each other to improve by working hard together in Shugyo It can quite often be the case that you are much the taller when doing Ji-geiko with women and juniors. This is a good opportunity to do Ji-geiko in Chika-ma. [if there is a difference of height between two Kendo-ka, the one who is taller normally feels cramped and uncomfortable playing in this close distance]. Men should realise that having Ji-geiko with women is a good opportunity to learn how to play (without relying too much on physical strength) by fencing in Chika-ma Moreover, through Ji-geiko with women, men can also practise how to acquire the timing of Debana-waza that catches the moment when your opponent comes to move into Chika-ma.
6. Women Doing Ji-geiko with Men
It is often thought that most women find it difficult to do Ji-geiko as they would like to with men who are bulkier and taller. Just the thought of powerful attacks from well-built men may be scary. However, everyone has a weak point, for instance: maybe a distance which they find uncomfortable fighting in or a type of opponent which they find awkward to fight. This applies not only to women but to all Kendo-ka. To keep avoiding practising with people who are hard for you to deal with in Ji-geiko is not a solution. It will remain your problem. If they are hard to deal with in Ji-geiko, it is suggested that you should try to do Ji-geiko with them more than with anyone else and try to overcome this weak point through being struck again and again and by trying to find a solution.
If you find such people who are difficult to handle, then they are the ones who you need to do Ji-geiko more with, in order to overcome your fear and problem. Generally tall people are not good at playing in Chika-ma because it is too close for them to kick the floor hard with their left foot and they feel cramped in this position. The important point is therefore how to reach Chika-ma, as that is an advantageous distance for you. If you try to reach Chika-ma by merely stepping forward, your opponent will try to do a Debana-attack. It is important therefore to devise various ways of reaching Chika-ma from different directions. In the case when your opponent comes to attack before you do, you will be knocked over if you just check their attack and Tai-atari. It is important therefore, to acquire Ashi-sabaki and Tai-sabaki that enables you to avoid direct strong physical contact [using body movement].
I would like to add one piece of advice here. One sometimes hears, unfortunately, that there are some men who behave in Ji-geiko as if they are trying to hurt women. As well as this bad attitude in the Ji-geiko, there is nothing to be learnt from such people. It is strongly recommended that you stop Ji-geiko immediately if you discover your opponent is one of these types, or that you refuse to do Ji-geiko with them if you are asked.
7. Last words
What should be expected of all Kendo-ka when doing Ji-geiko, is that you make your opponents feel that they want to have Ji-geiko with you again. It will give me great pleasure if this and the previous article, which re-examined the relationship between Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko and how Ji-geiko should be approached, give you something useful in your Kendo Shugyo now and in the future.
The All Japan Kendo Federation. (2000) Japanese-English Dictionary of Kendo, Tokyo: Sato-Inshokan Inc.
Sumi, M. (2000) Michi no Kaori. Tokyo: Taiiku & Sports Publ. Co., Ltd.