Attitudes to Ji-geiko
Attitudes to Ji-geiko Part 1
Sotaro Honda 6th Dan & PHd, University of Gloucestershire,
Ji-geiko is the core part of Keiko in Kendo. In Ji-geiko, we (Kendo-ka) can try to use Waza(techniques) in unrestricted situations. We can also learn and acquire what we need to do before we attack (Seme) or how to react to an opponents Seme (intention and attack). Through Ji-geiko, moreover, we can recognise what Waza we are, or are not good at and ones Ji-geiko can lead us to the next Kihon-geiko and Ji-geiko and what we need to work on for our technical progression. It also gives us ways to developing our skills and spirit as proper Kendo-ka.
If we approach Ji-geiko in the wrong way such as focusing only on beating an opponent, we cannot expect real development as proper Kendo-ka in the future. It is important, therefore, to engage in Ji-geiko with the correct understanding.
Therefore the purpose of this article (part 1) is to re-examine what Ji-geiko should be and to present some useful material for Kendo-ka in future Keiko. It starts with an examination of the relationship between Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko followed by an examination of how Ji-geiko should be practised.
1.The Relationship between Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko
As well as Ji-geiko, Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko are important main elements of Keiko.
In Kihon-geiko, the same practice is repeated again and again under pre-determined situations so that we become proficient in striking and thrusting correctly, with full Ki-ai and good posture (Ki-Ken-Tai no Itchi).
Kata-geiko places more emphasis on being aware of the use of the sword than Kihon-geiko, [as kata-geiko is also usually practiced with boken]. Kata-geiko is also where we learn how to breathe (abdominal breathing) properly.
These Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko do not exist separately. They are supposed to be connected fundamentally. However there are some people who can perform beautifully in Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko, but lose posture and co-ordination between their arms and legs in Ji-geiko. There is no real problem, if these people are setting themselves task(s) in order to overcome their inabilities in the Ji-geiko. There are other people, however, who focus only on beating opponents and striking more times than their opponent has. This sort of attitude in Ji-geiko reflects an attitude that is concerned only with winning at that precise moment in time. In contrast, there are other people who focus only on their posture and form and pay less attention to the exchanging of taking Chu-shin and Seme-ai. (control of the centre) This is also ok, if these people are doing intentionally in order to overcome their problems (i.e. trying to keep their back straight when they attack). If they are not trying to overcome their various problems however, then all such attitudes degrade Ji-geiko into just a performance and therefore we cannot experience the real pleasure of Ji-geiko through this failing.
2. What Ji-geiko Should Be
There should not be an imbalance of preference between Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko. It is important to tackle Ji-geiko while we are considering how to use Waza acquired in Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko. By doing so, we can grasp the meaning and purpose of each Keiko and become more interested each time we practice any Keiko. As mentioned earlier, Ji-geiko is aimed at giving us opportunities to grasp our abilities under unrestricted situations. In addition to this, Tomiki (1991) points out that the purpose of Ji-geiko in modern Kendo is allow us to grasp the strict spiritual aspects of Kendo as Budo. In the past, Bujutsu-ka could grasp their abilities only by beating their opponents and surviving life or death situations. The place of battle for life or death in the past has been converted to a competitive place where everyone is protected with Bogu and one can attack and defend safely. In modern Kendo, the Kendo-ka is expected to try to control emotional conflict in competitive situations. Thus, developing our skills and spirit as proper Kendo-ka, it is essential then to understand how to undertake Ji-geiko and do it properly. The way of approaching Ji-geiko is not the same for everyone. At the beginners stage, there is a way for them to engage in Ji-geiko according to their level. Likewise there is also a way for seniors to approach Ji-geiko according to their level. Moreover, the application of Ji-geiko changes according to what a person tries to acquire and improve through Ji-geiko and also who we have Ji-geiko with (i.e. with Kohai, Sempai, someone older, women and so on).
The remainder of this article explains how to tackle Ji-geiko according to one stage of development.
3. How to Tackle Ji-geiko in Each development Stage.
3-1. Kyu Grade
Firstly, the most important point for Kendo-ka of this level to keep in mind is: to try to use Waza (Shikake-waza) on your own initiative. It should not be just Men and Kote, but you should use all Waza you have learnt in Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko. You should not be afraid of failing and being defeated. It is expected that you will gradually grasp the timing of using each Waza whilst you try to attack using your own initiative. Another important point is that you should not stop your movement after striking and thrusting, but try to complete your attack and quickly prepare yourself for the next action. It is quite often seen in beginners Ji-geiko that they loose their attention and guard as soon as they finish their first attack and that they walk back to where they were before attacking. It is important to always maintain concentration wherever you are and to prepare for the next action as soon as you have finished your first attack.
Secondly, it is usual that most beginners have not learnt, at this stage, how to defend. It is also quite often the case that beginners do not properly know what to do and they are just absent-mindedly standing without doing anything, closing their eyes and tensing their shoulders, moving back or running away in case their opponent attacks before them. It is also be reasonable to assume, that they may feel fear at someones attack. What is important here is to have a proper understanding of Ko-bo-itchi and Ken-tai-itchi. These terms illustrate the importance of always being mentally and physically ready to defend against the opponents counterattack whilst attacking, and ready to counterattack while defending (All Japan Kendo Federation, 2000, p. 47). There is no defence just for the sake of defence, in Kendo. Defence is done for the next attack or counterattack. Using a proper defence enables you to immediately attack after defending, but you should not just be standing and defending by using only your Shinai, you should keep your knees relaxed and defend by using both your Shinai and your footwork. As you gain more experience, you come to acquire a wider variety of Waza and better timing. What you are encouraged to do for your progression at this stage is to use big techniques involving all of your body and not relying on small techniques or trying to strike more times than your opponent has.
If you form bad habits on the way you attack and defend at this stage, it will take a long time to get rid of them in the future. It is important to reflect how you have been tackling Ji-geiko by listening to your Sempai and Senseis advice and by self-examination.
3-2. 1st dan~3rd dan
The Kendo-ka at this level is required to further refine their Shikake-waza and it is important to try a variety of Shikake-waza on your own initiative. It is also important to attack not only going forward, but also to actively use Hiki-waza (going backwards) and you should always keep in mind that you should try to complete your attack. As mentioned earlier, beating or being beaten is not the priority in Ji-geiko. You must not focus only on how many times you strike or are struck by your opponent, but reflect on the process of how & why in each case [strike or struck] Utte-hansei, utarete-kansya (to reflect on ones attack after successfully scoring and thank your opponent after getting scored against) is an attitude that is expected of Kendo- ka.
Kendo-ka at this level should also start considering three ways to overwhelm the opponent (San-sappo) in Ji-geiko. One is to kill the opponents Ki (spirit). This is to overwhelm the opponents Ki by showing the fullness of your Ki. Another is to kill the opponents Ken (sword). This is to control the movement of the tip of the opponents sword by restraining or deflecting the sword. One more is to kill the opponents Waza. This is to anticipate the opponents attack by giving the opponent no chance to attack (All Japan Kendo Federation, 2000, pp. 79-80). At this level, it is still ok to make more use of Ken and Waza than Ki in order to overwhelm and anticipate the opponents attack. Kendo-ka at this level still has more Waza to acquire. (It is too early at this level to start doing Kendo that places the most emphasis on overwhelming your opponent by force of personality or by presence, as 6th dan and 7th dan Kendo-ka can do). They are still encouraged to try to use a variety of Waza in Ji-geiko by using Shinai, footwork and the body actively and they are encouraged to use Oji-waza in a ratio of 2 to 8 with Shikake-waza in Ji-geiko. What is important here is to understand the fundamental idea of Oji-waza. You must not wait for the opponent to attack you and respond to it. You must lure the opponent into a position where you wish them to attack. You will be too late to execute successful Oji-waza if you just wait for the opponent to attack. You should try to show your attacking spirit to the opponent without stopping your footwork and Shinai movement and lure them into a position where you welcome them to attack. There are some people who think that the reason they cannot do Oji-waza is due to their techniques (movement and form). What should be considered, however, is whether you are trying to lure the opponent into attacking you. At this level, it is not necessary to be able to execute Oji-waza without thinking, although you are encouraged to practise it in Ji-geiko, by keeping the fundamental idea for successful Oji-waza in your mind.
3-3. 4th dan~5th dan
Kendo-ka who reach this level are called senior or Senpai Kendo-ka at this level are expected to have developed their ability to read the opponents mind (intentions), to deal with information in various situations and to make decisions. Kendo-ka at this level should also be able to use various Waza according to the various situations, without thinking. 4th dan and 5th dan is the stage at which to start practising to acquire Kendo that dominates the opponents Chu-shin (centre) by small Shinai and body movement, by controlling the opponent and by taking use of the opponents intentions and movements. Kendo-ka at this level should place more emphasis on attacking after dominating the Chu-shin and on rational and economical Shinai control and footwork. This does not mean, however, excessively and immediately restraining Shinai control and footwork. You should gradually change your Kendo from Kendo that relies mainly on physical ability to Kendo that controls the opponent by small movements and the interior action of Ki. At this level, it is recommended that the ratio of the use of Shikake-waza to Oji-waza should be 60 % and 40 %.
It is important to maintain good balance so that you can move in any direction smoothly and keep your Hikagami (back of the left knee) tensed (not too much, just enough) so that you can kick the floor anytime without doing Tsugi-ashi (to pull left foot in close to the right foot before attacking). If you keep these points in mind during Ji-geiko but you feel or actually get cramp in your left leg, then it means that you have not previously been using your left leg correctly and that you have just started using it correctly now. What you must avoid, is feeling embarrassed at being struck by your opponent, this is caused by having too much pride in the fact that you are 4th dan or 5th dan. You are supposed to develop your Kendo by being struck in Ji-geiko. It is important not to hesitate to use big Waza and to use them as soon as you see an opportunity. There are some 4th dan and 5th dan who adhere only to Men and do not use other Waza. It is, however, still important to try to use all the waza you have, in Ji-geiko. Especially in Tsuba-zeri-ai, as there are some who do not pay attention in Tsuba-zeri-ai and loose their concentration, and it is important to keep good concentration and prepare yourself to attack whenever you see the opportunity.
3-4. 6th dan~
It is not possible for me to describe how Ji-geiko should be done at this level because I have just become 6th dan. Therefore, I would like to refer to “Michi no kaori” written by Masatake Sumi, Hanshi 8th dan, and discuss how Ji-geiko at this level should be.
Kendo-ka who reach this level are called Sensei. Sumi (2000) points out that Kendo-ka at this level should not be arrogant, but be modest and have a desire to improve themselves even if they become 6th dan. In Ji-geiko, it is needless to say that Kendo-ka at this level are required to show further rational and economical Shinai and body movement. Kendo-ka who have reached 6th dan and above are usually at least middle aged or older. This means that their physical abilities are now lower than in their younger days and they cannot use the Shinai and move the body as quickly as before. It is important to try to compensate for the decline of your physical abilities by further improvement of your Ki and Waza. Sumi (2000) also points out that Kendo-ka at this level should try to change their Kendo from one which initiates an aggressive attack to one that attacks when the opponent is about to attack (de-bana). He also encourages them to practise not only straight attacking Waza, but also Suriage-waza, using Tai-sabaki moving sideways or diagonally. At this level, it is more important to read the opponents intention and movement and to practise reacting properly in comparison with before. To acquire Debana-waza, Sumi (2000) explains that it is important in Ji-geiko to work it out for yourself, i.e. what situation and how you should move to break the opponents balance, upset the opponent and lure the opponent into where you wish the opponent to attack., as it is often difficult for Kendo-ka at this level, compared with lower grades, to have the chance to get advice from other people. It is necessary to always reflect after each Ji-geiko on how you performed with the opponent in the process of attacking, defending and counterattacking.
For Kendo-ka at this level, Sumi (2000) also suggests one of the methods for a Ji-geiko. You decide on only one target you can attack and on only one Waza you can use. Then you use that Waza against any opponent and any Waza the opponent is about to use and in any situation in that Ji-geiko (however it should not be just Men!). This is for acquiring the timing of Waza you would like to acquire. The way to acquire the timing of each Waza is never supposed to be easy. Sumi (2000, p. 202) also explains that there are a lot of things for Kendo-ka at this level to consider, such as how to take your Kamae, how to keep your balance, where and how much to tense and relax your muscles, how to breathe and what type of Shinai to choose and so on. In the end, what he says comes back to the same important points in Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko. This proves the importance of the connection between Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko. Kendo requires Shugyo throughout your life. There is no exit or easy way out in your training. Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko should not be neglected even if you reach high grades such as 6th dan and 7th dan. Then it is just as important to tackle Ji-geiko while considering how to use Waza we have acquired in Kihon-geiko and Kata-geiko.
So far the importance of the connection between Kihon-geiko, Kata-geiko and Ji-geiko, and how Ji-geiko should be approached at each level has been discussed. In the next article, therefore, what attitudes should be taken in Ji-geiko and how to tackle Ji-geiko with various types of opponents will be covered and giving examples on how to tackle Ji-geiko with lower grades, higher grades, the same grades, someone much older, women and so on will be discussed.
The All Japan Kendo Federation (Zennihon Kendo Renmei). (2000) Japanese-English Dictionary of Kendo, Tokyo: Sato-Inshokan Inc.
Sumi, M. (2000) Michi no Kaori. Tokyo: Taiiku & Sports Publishing. Co., Ltd.
Tomiki, K. (1991) Budo Ron. Tokyo: Taisyu-kan Publishing Co., Ltd.