The Japanese Fighting Arts
Edited by John Goodbody
There is no end to training. Once you begin to feel that you are masters, you are no
longer getting on the way you are to follow.
The origins of karate are somewhat obscure. The most popular tradition traces them to
the arrival in China of the fierce Indian monk Bodhidharma, or Daruma taishi, to give him his
Japanese name. He is said to have arrived in Canton in AD 520 and he was also the First
patriarch of Zen Buddhism in China.
Bodhidharma imposed the most severe discipline on the monks under him at the
monastery of Shaolin. His students and their successors became famous for their physical prowess
as well as their mental discipline and Shaolin was to give its name to one of the foremost schools
of Chinese boxing. Shaolin boxing was introduced into the Ryukyu Islands, of which Okinawa
is the main island, in either the fifteenth or the sixteenth century.
These were tough times in the Ryukyus. A succession of tyrannies, for their own
preservation, had made the possession of weapons by any member of the civilian population a
state offence. Understandably this boosted the interest in unarmed combat, producing a system
called Okinawa-te, a mixture of Chinese and indigenous influences.
There were in fact many different 'schools' of Okinawa-te, each one carefully guarding
its secrets from the others. Secrets had also to be kept from the ruling classes and from any
individual who might have misused them. Therefore, all training was carried out in the early
morning or late at night, or else behind locked doors. No beginner was accepted until his good
character had been established.
Thus modern karate is the outcome of centuries of interchange between China, the
Ryukyus and Japan. It only recently came to be openly taught to the public first in Okinawa and
later in Japan. During 1917 and 1922 the late Gichin Funakoshi, President of the Okinawa
Bushokwai, demonstrated his powers in Tokyo. Funakoshi was to become Supreme Instructor of
the new Japan Karate Association and by 1935 karate clubs were established at most of the
leading universities in Japan.
The contact with intellectual life at university was invigorating for karate. New techniques
were developed, old ones improved, and elements which had always been regarded as mysterious
and supernatural were regarded in a more rational light. It must be remembered, however, that
karate students now more than ever derive moral and spiritual strength from their training.
2. Mental Development
The primary aim of practising meditation in karate is not to turn the fighting art or the
sport into a religion. It serves a practical purpose.
Rigid patterns of thought and confused emotions always tend to obstruct the understanding
and anticipation of an opponent. They close the mind, and meditation or 'mokuso' is the means
by which you are able to clear it before training. Here is how to practice.
You begin by sitting on your heels, Japanese style. Your back is straight, chest out,
shoulders down, and your nose must be vertically in line with you navel. Look straight ahead for
a few minutes, then half close your eyes and fix them on a point two yards ahead of you on the
floor. After a few more minutes completely close your eyes but continue to see the point on the
floor in your imagination.
While you are a beginner, in order to forget whatever you may have on your mind, it may
be helpful to concentrate on your breathing.
Imagine that you send the breath to the top of your head, down through the spine to the
coccyx, the anus and the testicles, then concentrate it in the abdomen for a few moments. Return
it through the chest to the mouth, breathe out and repeat.
Either routine should ideally be repeated at least once every day for five or ten minutes,
and also before and after training. We have already mentioned its use before training. The
purpose of 'mokuso' after training is to quieten the mental and physical excitement which a hard
session necessarily entails. At this time it is practised by all the students, sitting in line, facing
It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of 'mokuso'. You may not appreciate
it at first but you will soon feel the benefits if you practise it every day. It is the moments of
complete blankness, of being empty of all thoughts, that enable you to cultivate the sixth sense
that men have to such a large extent forfeited in return for intellectual development. It was
precisely this sixth sense that enabled the mediaeval 'samurai' to fight in pitch darkness or
anticipate the most cleverly concealed ambush.
Ultimately, karate should consist in the mental control of an opponent or opponents. If
you're challenged to fight, you will be prepared to avoid any attack and at the same time you will
observe your opponent's weakness. You will take for granted a successful outcome for yourself
and will concentrate completely. Without thought you will be aware of every slightest change or
movement in the environment. In such a state of mind you are ready to beat your opponent in
physical combat, and meditation is essential for the cultivation of such a state of mind.
But if, on the other hand, you can control an opponent by sheer mental force - by the
force of your personality - and make a peaceful settlement, this is the course you will choose.
This is a discipline common to all the martial arts. It is known as 'kiai-jutsu' and is the real end
of meditation in 'budo'.
3. Physical Development
If mental development is the real end of karate, the beginning is undoubtedly physical
development. A sound body is always the basis of a sound mind.
But can anyone have a sound body? With a few obvious exceptions, the answer is yes.
Karate training is particularly adaptable for persons of either sex or any age. The training,
although hard, is never excessive. You need no apparatus, no partner, but only enough space in
which to exercise. Later, of course, when you are ready to begin sparring, you will need a
partner. By this time your health should be so improved that you will all be but unrecognizable!
In fact, the benefits are too numerous to be dealt with fully here. No wonder so many
'karate-ka' live to a great age!
Side-kicks stimulate the thyroid glands, ensuring a normal emission of hormones. Certain
postures, particularly the 'iron horse' posture, strengthen the abdominal and hip muscles and also
tone the sexual nerves which stem from the pelvic region. Breath control accompanies every
movement improving the flexibility of sensory nerves controlling tenacity and contractile forces.
Most important of all, perhaps, is the alternative that karate offers to the nervous prostration
brought about by an excess of self-control which is such a hazard of civilization. Karate offers
nervous balance and both mental and physical fulfillment.
4. Breath Control and 'Kiai'
Breath-control has been described as being 'zen itself in its physiological aspect'. Even
before schools of Zen existed the relation of breath-control to awareness was a major
preoccupation of Indian 'yoga' and chinese 'taoism'.
One's rhythm of breathing is, after all, affected by either the physical or mental state that
one is in. When exhausted after training, one breathes heavily; when excited, one breathes
quickly; when one laughs, the emphasis is on the outbreath; when one cries, or is afraid, the
emphasis is on the inbreath. But also it can work the other way: one can affect the mental and
physical condition by controlling one's rhythm of breathing.
The use of 'kiai' (or a shout) in Karate is one aspect of a wide application of breathcontrol.
In order to shout one must breathe out. The obvious point is that sharp exhalation tends
to contract the muscles, and particularly the abdominal muscles the use of which is essential for
any really solid technique. Another point is that by emphasizing the out-breath (by the same
token as that by which one emphasizes the out-breath while laughing) one tends to increase one's
confidence, and if this is communicated with the 'kiai' to your opponent his confidence will tend
to be correspondingly undermined. A further point is that one's vision is clearer (look at a page
of print and breathe out sharply) and reactions quicker during exhalation. It follows from all these
points, not only that one should breathe out at the moment of attack, but also that the moment
of attack should come when your opponent has just emptied his lungs and can therefore only
Don't imagine that a loud shout is necessarily a strong 'kiai'. It must be full of aggression
and come from the stomach. Breathing into the stomach rather than (or as well as) into the chest
is in fact a rule common to all the oriental disciplines, spiritual or otherwise, that are concerned
with breath-control. Breathing in this way does increase lung capacity, but in addition contributes
a sense of well-being perhaps physically connected with the resultant lowering of the centre of
gravity. One feels more stable - this point is certainly important to karate.
Breathing into your stomach must become a habit and then your 'kiai' will be spontaneous
and effective even when not necessarily loud. To begin with, however, you must simply
remember to shout loudly from the bottom of your belly when you perform a technique. In due
course, you will perhaps master 'kiai' in its real sense, and will then often be able to overcome
an opponent without fighting at all! To be able to convey so much confidence and will-power
as to do this - simply by breathing! - is to exercise the advanced martial art of 'kiai-jutsu'. This
might be said to be the perfect finished form to which all the martial arts aspire.
5. Comment on the Different 'Schools' of Karate
There are as many different schools of karate today as there were of judo and kendo in
the old days of 'ju-jitsu' and 'ken-jitsu'. Generally speaking, the various schools or subsidiary
schools are named after the pioneers or experts who founded them. Not only in karate, but in all
the martial arts, each individual has his own idea of what is essential and his style will conform
to it. It doesn't of course follow that each individual is qualified to found a 'school'.
To make a rough classification of the different schools, which are too numerous to treat
in detail, we may distinguish two main categories. These are the 'shorei' and the 'shorinji'.
Schools of the former category chiefly emphasise power through severe muscular exercise while
those of the later have as their chief aim lightning fast movement. The katas associated with
'Shorei' karate are therefore 'tekki', 'jutte' and 'hangetsu' while 'bassai', 'kanku' and 'eubi' belong
to the 'Shorinji' schools. The 'heian' katas (see the chapters on kata) are basic and have
movements common to both kinds of karate.
You will be impressed by the magnificent physique and the powerful performance of a
specialist in one or other of the 'shorei' schools but you may feel that his lack of mobility is a
On the other hand, quite a small man may impress you with his speed and precision in
the execution of 'shorinji' karate, but at the same time you may be doubtful about his want of
strength and even vigour.
Ideally, the karate apprentice will learn and assimilate into his own personal style the
merits of both kinds of karate.
Every training session should begin and end with a callisthenics routine. At the beginning
of a session it should immediately follow the preparatory meditation. This tones up the muscles,
making them easier to control and co-ordinate, and also loosens the joints. At the end of a
session it immediately precedes the closing meditation, and helps to prevent stiffness.
A good idea is to start with the neck, rotating the head first in one direction, then the
other; bending the head sideways, then forward and back; finally twisting it from side to side.
Work systematically down through the body, rotating the arms to loosen the shoulders; bending
sideways, forward and backward; twisting the trunk; rotating the hips; stretching and spreading
the legs; rotating the knees and ankles; and, finally, shaking the limbs loosely in order to relax
muscles and joints. Deep breathing may be added at the end of a session.
Strength exercises may also be included in the routine, but on the whole may be regarded
as 'extra-mural'. Every student should know for himself which particular sets of muscles require
most work in his own individual case.
7. Postures, Stances and Body Shifting
Basically there are three postures widely used in karate. The front-facing posture is mainly
used in attack and the shoulders are at ninety degrees to the line of attack. The half-front-facing
posture is mainly used in defence and the shoulders are at forty-five degrees to the opponent's
line of attack. The side-facing posture, in which the shoulders are in line with or parallel with
the line of attack, is used both in attack and defence.
With all three postures the upper half of the body will normally be straight and
perpendicular to the ground, otherwise the balance will be endangered and the correct
performance of most techniques difficult if not impossible. Naturally, the rare occasion does arise
which calls for a non-perpendicular posture.
As much as the posture, the stance is an integral part of any technique you perform.
Therefore, a strong technique from a weak stance is a contradiction in terms. The different
stances used are the outcome of two considerations - one for strength, the other for agility. The
actual ratio of these factors varies with different stances.
Heisoku-dachi (attention stance). Just stand naturally with the feet together and the weight
evenly balanced on both feet. The knees should be not quite straight.
Hachiji-dachi (open leg stance). As for the above but with the feet about a shoulders'
width apart. This and the preceding stance are simply natural stances from which you can move
with maximum smoothness into stances appropriate to actual karate techniques.
Zenkutsu-dachi (forward stance). This stance is very strong toward the front and is useful
both in attacking to the front and in blocking attacks coming from the front.
Step with one foot about two shoulders' widths forward and about thirty degrees
diagonally to the side. Keep the back leg straight. Bend the front leg, forcing the knee outward
directly over the big toe. Both feet should be flat, the front foot pointing slightly inward. In this
stance the front leg takes sixty per cent of the body weight.
Kokutsu-dachi (back stance). A very useful characteristic of this stance is that, after
having used it in stepping back and blocking or avoiding an attack, a mere shift of body weight
into the forward stance enables you to close with the opponent and counter-attack immediately.
Also, as most of the body weight is taken on the back foot, the front foot is free for kicking.
Again, the legs are about two shoulders' widths apart. A line extended to the rear from
the front foot should touch the heel of the back foot, and this later should be at a right angle with
the line. The rear leg takes seventy per cent of the body weight, and should be deeply bent and
forced outwards. The front leg should not be quite straight, otherwise a stamping kick to the knee
would easily break it.
Kiba-dachi (straddle/stance). This is a strong stance when attacking or defending to the
As in the two previous stances the feet should be two shoulders' widths apart. The feet
themselves should be turned a little inwards, the knees forced outwards, so that the legs are rather
like bows under tension. This involves a screwing tendency of the feet into the floor which is
essential for the stability of the stance. It is equally important that the knees should be bent
deeply, thus keeping the centre of gravity low. The weight of the body is carried evenly on both
legs, all the muscles of which (along with those of the pelvis) should be tightened.
Sanchin-dachi (diagonal straddle stance). A stance equally strong to the sides and to the
front - for attacking or defending.
As in the straddle stance, the knees must be tensed outwards. This is, in fact, just the
straight straddle stance with one of the legs twisted forward, the front knee over the big toe and
the rear knee a little in front of the big toe. The body weight is again carried evenly on both legs.
Neko-ashi-dachi (cat stance). Here the front leg carries hardly any of the body weight and
so it can easily be used for kicking. Another great advantage of this stance is that from it you
can easily and quickly move into any other stance - whether to the front, back, or to one side.
The back should be absolutely straight. Keep the rear foot flat and raise the heel of the
front foot, the knee pointing a little inwards. The rear knee should be well bent.
In karate, body shifting may be achieved by stepping, sliding, turning, or by any
combination of these basic elements. The following general rules apply to all methods of body
1. Your head should be always more or less at the same height from the floor. Therefore,
when moving from one wide-legged stance to another your feet come together and your knees
must be well bent. This helps to maintain a strong balance.
2. You should neither raise your feet very high from the floor nor drag them. You loose
both speed and balance in either case.
3. Whether fast or slowly, the weight of your body must always be shifted smoothly.
4. Begin and end every movement in a strong, correctly-spaced stance, and maintain
correct posture throughout the movement.
8. Hand Techniques (Attack)
Although a wide variety of striking surfaces is used in karate, the basic weapon is the fist.
For our purposes, however, this must be capable of striking surfaces of high resistance with great
power and speed without injury to oneself. It is therefore most important that the fist be correctly
Starting with the hand open, curl the little finger over until the tip of the finger meets the
base. Curl the other fingers in turn finishing with the index finger. Now bend the fingers together
from the roots, so that the back of the fist and the front (the first phalanges of the fingers) form
a right angle. Finally, bend the thumb firmly over the second phalanges of the first and second
fingers. The striking area of this basic fist (seiken) consists of the knuckles of the first and
second fingers and should be toughened by regular practise with a 'makiwara'. When striking, be
sure that the fist is squeezed as tightly as possible and that the wrist is not bent.
Seiken-choku-zuki (straight punch). Starting palm upward from a point just above the
waist, the attacking fist is thrust straight outwards, twisting as it nears the target so that the palm
is downward at the moment of impact. Simultaneously, the other fist is withdrawn sharply to the
corresponding starting position, the reaction of this movement adding to the momentum of the
attack. As with all the hand techniques, the muscles of arm, back and chest are momentarily
tensed at impact, and then relaxed in preparation for the next technique. At no time should the
shoulders be hunched.
Gyaku-zuki (reverse punch). This is simply the adaptation of the straight punch used when
the attacking fist is on the same side as the rear leg usually in 'zenkutso-dachi'. It is very
commonly used as a counter-attack after having parried with the hand or arm on the side of the
When beginning this technique, the hips are at forty-five degrees to the line of attack.
Twisting the hips so that at the moment of impact they face the opponent or target squarely (or
so that the hip on the attacking side is even a little in advance of the other) contributes enormous
power to the technique.
Oi-zuki (lunge push). Here the straight punch is used on the side of the advancing leg
when stepping forward, usually into the forward or the diagonal straddle stance. It is very useful
when closing in on an opponent.
With this technique, the hips should remain more or less square. The fist should reach the
target at the precise moment at which the advancing foot is planted on the ground. In order to
keep a strong balance, be very careful not to lean forward - any feeling of pushing forward into
the attack must come from the centre of gravity.
Riken-uchi (back-fist strike). Actually, the striking surface here is the back of the two
knuckles used in the straight punches. The elbow is pointed at the target, with the fist palm
downward. Then, in the downward strike, the fist describes an arc in the vertical plane; in the
sideways strike, in the horizontal plane. In both cases, the little finger side of the fist leads until
the very last moment, when the fist is flicked over.
Both the downward and sideways forms are very often used to attack from the straddle
stance to the side, often following an 'empi' attack (see below).
Tettsui-uchi (bottom-fist strike). This is also in two forms exactly like the preceding one,
except that the fist is not flicked over. The bottom or little finger side of the fist has a wider
striking surface and is better for striking soft targets (such as the solar-plexus) rather than the
Empi-uchi (elbow strike) can be broken down into four separate techniques: - for striking
to the front, to the rear, sideways and upward. Begin the forward strike with the fist palm upward
just above the waist; finish with the elbow pointing straight ahead and the fist downward against
the chest. The angle between the upper- and forearm should be as sharp as possible. The upward
strike begins similarly but finishes with the fist close to - and palm facing - the ear. At the finish
of the backward strike the fist is more or less in the starting position for the forward and upward
strikes, with the palm upward and the elbow pointing directly to the rear. For the sideward strike
start with the attacking arm pointing away from the target across the body and the fist or open
hand palm upward; finish with the fist palm downward and against the chest.
Elbow attacks are very powerful and often used for close-quarters fighting. Be careful to
avoid raising the shoulder on the attacking side as this weakens the 'focus'.
Shuto-uchi (knife-hand strike). When using the 'knife-hand' or little-finger edge of the
hand the palm should be stretched open at impact, the root of the thumb pulling outward but the
thumb itself bent inward (so as not to get caught in any loose clothing and possibly injured).
Begin the outside strike with the attacking hand palm upward and close to the ear. The
elbow is pointing sideways. At impact, the arm is more or less straight in front of the body and
the wrist is twisted so that the palm is facing upward. For the inside strike raise the hand to the
opposite ear, palm facing the ear. Swing the hand inward in a wide arc and at impact twist the
wrist so that the palm faces downward.
9. Hand Techniques (Defence)
As in the attacking techniques, many of the parries used in karate are 'focused'. That is
to say, one's entire strength is concentrated at the point and the moment of impact, after which
the muscles are immediately relaxed. As a result, pain or even injury may be inflicted with the
parry alone, and the opponent sufficiently discouraged from attempting any further attack.
When parrying, however, you should always have a counterattack ready to follow up with.
Be sure that you maintain a good posture and balance and try always to take advantage of your
opponent's momentum and strength to upset his balance and posture.
Age-uke (rising block). Usually used to parry an attack to the face (jodan).
This block begins with the fist palm upward just above the waist. At the finish, the fist
is at a point approximately twelve inches in front of and six inches above the opposite ear. At
the last moment the fist is flicked over so that the palm faces away from you and the opponent's
attacking arm is struck by the outer edge of the forearm near the wrist. Simultaneously, the other
hand is withdrawn from a point somewhere in front of the face to the usual ready position. It is
important that the elbow of the parrying arm should be lower than the fist at the moment of
Soto-uke (outside forearm block), a parry capable of inflicting considerable damage. It is
usually used against attack to the solar plexus (chudan).
With the elbow bent, swing the fist from above the shoulder down in front of the body.
Focus strongly, snapping the fist so that the palm faces toward you. At this point, the fist should
be about level with the shoulder and the elbow in front of the body (not to the side). The same
striking surface is used as in the rising block.
Uchi-uke (inside forearm block). This technique is also used to parry attacks to the solar
At the finish, the arm is in precisely the same position as in the outer block. However,
it begins with the fist palm downward at the ready position on the opposite side of the body and
the striking surface is the inside edge of the forearm.
Gedan-barai (downward sweep). Another strong defensive technique, useful against
attacks to the solar plexus, stomach or groin (gedan), and particularly employed against kicks.
The fist is carried to a point near the opposite ear, palm facing the ear, then swung
diagonally downward. At the finish, the arm is extended in front of the body and the fist twisted
palm downward. Strike the attacking arm or leg with the outside edge of the forearm and to
avoid damage to the wrist be sure to clench the fist as tightly as possible.
Note that like the three preceding parries this one is very strong against attacks from the
front, and so is usually performed from a forward or diagonal straddle stance. Sometimes,
however, these parries (with the exception of the rising block) may be used to the side in the
Shuto-uke (knife-hand block). Once mastered, this is a very fast parry, and one moreover
that leaves one in a good position for the counter attack. It is used chiefly against attacks to the
The hand begins from the same position as the fist in the downward sweep, palm facing
the ear. Cut downward with the forearm and finish with the palm facing diagonally forward, the
hand and elbow in line with the shoulder and the hand more or less level with the shoulder.
Simultaneously with this parry, the other hand is pulled from a position straight in front of the
body, palm downward, to the middle of the chest, palm upward. This technique is commonly
used while retreating and is conveniently executed from the back stance.
As with the attacking techniques in Chapter 8, it is most important with all these hand
techniques that the shoulders be pulled down and the 'fixation' muscles of the chest and back
strongly tensed at the moment of focus.
10. Foot Techniques (Attack)
Without training, it is really more difficult than one might suppose to damage an opponent
by kicking him - unless, of course, he's already lying on the ground. However, in karate the feet
are so thoroughly trained that their use about doubles the scope and effectiveness of one's
With all kicks, take great care that the supporting leg is firmly planted. It must be capable
of bearing the weight of the body, plus the momentum and shock of the attack, without loss of
balance. The knee should be bent. The foot should be flat on the ground.
It is also of primary importance that the kicking leg should be withdrawn sharply (but
smoothly) immediately after impact. The opponent will then have no chance to catch hold of it,
and a strong stance can be resumed in preparation for the next manoeuvre.
Mae-geri (front kick). The usual striking surface is the ball of the foot. Pulling the toes
back makes the ball of the foot more prominent and also prevents the toes from being damaged.
Start the kick by pulling up the knee and then snap the lower leg and foot toward the target. Pull
back the foot with the knee still held high and finally lower to resume the original stance or to
move into the next stance. While performing this kick avoid the common mistake of raising the
shoulders, pushing the head forward and buttocks backward. The hips should be pushed forward
behind the attack.
Yoko-geri (side kick). This technique uses the edge of the foot toward the heel as the
striking surface. Actually, there are two side kicks. For the snap kick, raise the knee and point
it diagonally sideways toward the target. Then snap the foot upward toward the target from a
position close to the other knee. At impact, the hip is twisted sharply inward and the knee of the
'kicking leg' should point directly forward. For the thrust kick, raise the knee straight in front as
for the start of the front kick, and then push the foot sideways toward the target. Whereas in the
snap kick the foot travels in an arc, here it travels in a straight line. With both kicks, avoid
bending the body too far in the opposite direction as this weakens the balance and also the
strength of the attack.
Both forms of side kick can be performed from any stance, but when attacking to the side
the straddle is most commonly used. To give an example, if one is in the straddle stance and the
opponent is to one's right, cross the left foot in front of the right, quickly raise the right knee,
the right foot passing behind the left knee, then kick (with either the snap or the thrust kick),
pulling back the foot before moving it to the right again to take up the straddle stance a doublestep
further in the direction of the opponent.
Ushiro-geri (back kick). Here the striking surface is the heel. Tehre are again two
independent forms - the snap and thrust kicks.
The preparatory position for both kicks is more or less as for the front kick, with the knee
raised toward the chest and the foot bent upward. The supporting leg must be slightly more bent.
Then, for the back snap kick sharply swing the thigh to the rear and snapping the knee strike the
target with the heel. The target is usually the groin or the stomach. For the back thrust kick, push
the heel to the target in a straight line, the target in this case being the stomach, solar plexus or
face. In both cases, keep your eyes on the target and avoid leaning too far forward. Also, in order
to kick with maximum power, be sure to kick straight to the rear and not diagonally.
Mawashi-geri (roundhouse kick). The swing of the hips through something like ninety
degrees in co-ordination with the snap of the knee make this a powerful technique.
Bend the knee of the kicking leg and raise it to the side. The knee points diagonally
sideward and the foot is near the buttock with the toes and ankle bent well back. Then swing the
hips and snap the knee forward, striking the target with the ball of the foot directly in front of
the body. Snap the leg back to the preparatory position before resuming the original stance or
moving into a new stance.
Once again, it is most important not to bend the body too far away from the kick. It is
also important with the roundhouse kick not to let the hips swing around too far, as this
jeopardizes the balance and makes focusing the kick difficult.
Fumicomi (stamping kick). Can be used to the front, rear, or sides, and is useful for
attacking an opponent's knee, shin or instep. In all cases the knee is first pulled toward the chest
and the foot then thrust downward in a straight line to the target. In stamping to the front, or the
rear, the heel is the usual striking surface. To the sides, use the side edge of the foot.
11. Foot Techniques (Defence)
Blocking with the feet has the great advantage of leaving the hands free. However, it does
leave one momentarily on one leg and so the balance must be very secure. Here are two of the
most common defensive uses of the feet.
Mikazuki-geri-uke (crescent kick block). The striking surface here is the sole of the foot.
Bend the leg slightly at the knee, raise it, then swing it with a swivel-like movement of the hips
to focus on the oncoming attack in front of the body. At the moment of impact the knee should
still be bent slightly, and the toes should be pointing straight upward. Finally, withdraw the leg
as at the completion of the front kick and resume a strong position in order to counter.
(Alternatively, after withdrawing from the block you may use the same foot for a thrust kick
without first returning it to the ground.)
Nami-ashi (inside snap block). Although this technique may be executed from any one
of a number of stances, including the forward and diagonal straddle stance, it is best practised
basically from the straddle stance. From this stance, simply kick the sole of the foot inward and
upward in front of the body, using the hip muscles to give the movement its snap. This is a very
fast technique: only the blocking leg is moved and the body weight should not be shifted. It is
useful either to parry an attack to the groin or to move a leg out of range of a stamping kick.
12. The 'Katas'
There are something like fifty different katas or formal exercises in karate, but all are
based on elements contained within the five basic 'heian' katas and three 'tekki' katas.
In the early days of karate, when sparring with partners was considered dangerous because
no one had thought of focusing attacks short of contact, katas afforded the most realistic training
possible. It is still an advantage that they enable one to practise alone. Another great advantage
is that they force one to use, and co-ordinate, a wide variety of techniques and manoeuvres. If
one practised only sparring, there would be a tendency to narrow one's repertoire down to a few
A kata is a set of predetermined defences and attacks against four or eight imaginary
opponents who approach from various directions. Each set follows a fixed course, which may be
a straight line or a letter 'T' or 'H' or some more complex figure. However, the starting point
should always coincide with the finishing point. If it doesn't, there must have been some mistake
in distancing or direction, and it is important to take great pains to determine where the mistake
was made and eradicate it on the next repetition.
One's aim in practising a kata is always to attain technical perfection. Every detail must
be attended to. The stances and postures should be suitable for text-book illustrations. Muscles
and breathing must at all times be controlled. Finally, the kata must be felt as a rhythmic and
organic unit, not as an arbitrary sequence of independent techniques.
Basic sparring (kihon kumite) was first introduced into karate in the 1920s by Gichin
Funakoshi. It was made possible by the contact of karate with the ethics of Japanese martial arts,
which stress mutual trust between opponents. Gradually, basic sparring was developed until free
style sparring and finally contest became possible. The modern student, in his own personal
development, follows the same path from five- and one-step basic sparring to competition. All
forms of sparring begin and end with a standing bow to one's partner.
Kihon-kumite (basic sparring). In this kind of sparring, the attack and the target are both
predetermined, the participants facing each other from a fixed distance and taking turns to attack
and defend. Commonly, beginners will practise both one-step and five-step basic sparring. To
begin either kind, the attacker steps back into zenkutsu-dachi (gedan-barai) while the defender
waits in hachiji-dachi. In five-step sparring, the attacker announces whether the attacks are to be
to the face (jodan) or stomach (chudan) and then takes five steps forward, attacking with each
step. His partner takes five steps backward, parrying each attack and countering with a 'kiai' after
the fifth and final attack. One-step sparring is similar, but only one attack is made which is
immediately parried and countered by the defender, also with a 'kiai'. After the final counter, in
both the one-step and five-step forms, the participants are 'frozen' for a few moments with the
Jiyu-ippon kumite (free one-step sparring) is the next step towards free-sparring. Both the
attack and the defense are again pre-determined, but this time each participant assumes a ready
position and moves around, the attacker looking for an opening and making the correct distance
preparatory to his attack. The defender must be ready for the attack at every moment. A variation
of the free one-step sparring which is even closer to the free-style proper is to predetermine only
who should attack and who defend. Again, however, only one attack should be used. In free onestep
sparring the participants do not 'freeze' after the counter but immediately resume ready
Note that it is very important to practise all the forms of basic sparring with full spirit.
As the attack is predetermined, the defender should be able to cope with it. Therefore, the
attacker should try his hardest to 'get through'. The counter-attack, on the other hand, must never
make contact, because the first attacker must make no attempt to resist it. He offers himself as
Jiyu-kumite (free-style sparring). This is the most advanced form of sparring. Beginners
are not encouraged to practise it, not so much because it is dangerous because beginners haven't
really the power or the technique to attack dangerously, but because it can impede the
development of power and technique. Faced with an opponent, the beginner will forget all the
basic training he has so far learned. At a later stage, however, it is the most realistic application
possible of the skill he has acquired.
Of course, at this stage there would be danger of serious injury if a vital point were struck
with a focused attack. But the ability to focus even powerful techniques a fraction of an inch
short of contact is one of the measures of proficiency in karate. The rules forbid any actual
contact being made by an attack, and also any such auxiliary action as stamping the instep
strongly enough to cause injury.
In spite of these precautions, free sparring does have elements of genuine competition and
is gaining wide popularity as a spectator sport in Japan and elsewhere. Enormous suspense is
created by the 'battle of minds' that typically precede a physical attack, and this latter is so swift,
and the technique that wins the point so convincing, that the imagination is easily satisfied as to
what the outcome might have been were the rules less civilized.
14. Contest Rules
Selected paragraphs embodying the most important points from the Contest Rules laid
down by the Japan Karate Association can be found in Karate, the art of empty hand fighting by
Hidetaka Nishiyama and Richard C. Brown. Publisher, Tuttle and Co.
15. Contest Hints
The two most important aspects of karate for contest are timing and distance. You must
react the moment you see an opening and be close enough, given the maximum speed of which
you are capable, to get the attack in before the gap is closed or the opponent can move out of
Of course, getting an attack in successfully when your opponent is just waiting and on
his guard is very difficult. You may put him off his guard by relaxing - or, rather by appearing
to relax - or else by giving a really strong 'kiai'. Or you may feint an attack, say to draw your
opponent's attention down to his groin or his legs, and then attack to the face. Alternatively, you
may simply wait for your opponent to attack first, taking advantage of any opening this may
create in his defences, before or after parrying his attack, or better still you may invite him to
attack by deliberately leaving an opening in your own defences. In this last case you should be
able to anticipate his attack and therefore the opening or openings likely to be offered you.
Whenever possible, when your opponent attacks you should move in on him. This doubles
the power of your own counterattack and gives your opponent half the time in which to change
his tactics. However, it does require both boldness and skill. If your timing is less than perfect
you stand a good chance of getting hurt. And, of course, if you are injured from moving in on
an attack you will lose the point!
With regard to your opponent's tactics, it is essential to understand his psychology and
not be misled by superficial movements. No movement must escape your notice, but you should
interpret correctly the intention behind it. This is, of course, more easily said than done, but it
helps if you observe your opponent 'peripherally' - that is to say without ever focusing on any
one detail. Although your eyes will be directed toward his eyes, you must actually be equally
aware all the time of his body as a whole. His eyes, however, are important. They will often
reflect his intentions, for which reason your own eyes should be kept half-closed and your
Remember to be aware of (but again without concentrating on) the rhythm of your
opponent's breathing, this will reveal his physical and psychological condition and it also can be
an indication of when you should attack. When his lungs are empty and he's just starting to take
an in-breath his reactions will be slower and his muscles less responsive.
Control your own breathing - keep the in-breath and out-breath equal in emphasis and
smooth - and you will not only give your opponent a discouraging impression of imperturbable
confidence, but will actually increase your confidence.
Confidence and skill - these are probably of equal importance in karate contest. Most of
the foregoing matter has been concerned with methods of acquiring the latter, which is more
easily explained. About the former, I can say this much in addition to what has been said about
breath-control: confidence must become as much a habit as the correct way to stop a kick.
You must get into the habit of thinking only in terms of victory, whatever aspect of your
life is under review. You can practise winning in daydreams. It should finally be impossible for
you to imagine not winning, even when you dream in your sleep at night.
16. Comment on Wood Breaking
It's perhaps appropriate that we should reserve a short chapter near the end of this section
for the aspect of karate that so many people think is karate!
Although not so important as these people think, 'tameshiwari' is not practised purely as
exhibitionism. It provides the more serious student with additional indications of the progress he's
making. It helps us appreciate how powerful and effective a given attack is when it is not
withdrawn short of impact, as it must be when the target is part of a fellow-student's anatomy.
There are less common forms of 'tameshiwari'. A plank or board may be thrown into the
air then broken with a kick or a punch as it falls. This demonstrates the performer's speed and
To demonstrate how the balance of the body and focus of strength can be transferred, four
planks may be placed in front of, behind, and left and right of the performer. These must be
broken in a continuous flow of movement.
There is something else, however, which it is most important for the serious student to
prove to himself: that through dedicated training a human being can sometimes achieve the
17. The Essence of Mastery
It is often very difficult, perhaps impossible, to know which instructor or school of karate
is right for you until your training is under way. When choosing fruit, you may want an apple
to help if you have indigestion; a banana because it's good for stamina; or perhaps an orange if
you have a cold, because it contains vitamin C. Concerning tastes, however, all we can say is that
there's no accounting for them - and the same might be said of instructors or schools of karate.
What really is important is that, having chosen an instructor, you should trust and respect him
wholeheartedly and unselfconsciously. Your aim should be his own high level of attainment. The
moment you begin to doubt his attainment you will cease to make progress under him and would
do better to give up karate or change to another school.
The relationship between instructor and pupil is to a large extent telepathic - particularly
during the advanced levels of training.
Sometimes you will be bored by your training, tired of practising techniques 'in the air'
'ad infinitum'. This is inevitable and you must simply accept that you're going to be bored. But
at the same time you must hold nothing back. You must punch and kick 'in the air' exactly as
if surrounded by real enemies. And you must polish each technique that you learn until it
becomes a natural reflex - only then are you ready to move on to another technique. When you
really know a technique you will discover for yourself its connection with other techniques. You
will thus gradually come to master a series of techniques. Should you, on the other hand, be in
too much of a hurry to move on before fully understanding the techniques that you study, these
techniques will seem to lack coherence.
Your original purpose was to master karate. To accomplish this you must persevere to
overcome every obstacle. Some students become so absorbed that they dream of little else but
karate even during their sleep. Others, however, soon forget their original zeal. It is a pity to
forget or lose sight of the essence and depth of karate-do while attending to the details. Those
who have the patience or imagination to keep on to the end win the fruits of life itself.
1. The Background of Aikido
Aikido is a scientific form of self-defence created over fifty years ago by Master M.
Uyeshiba, who is still practising at the age of eighty-six at the world centre of the fighting art -
the Aikikai, Tokyo, Japan. Aikido was a secret known only to a relatively few privileged
Japanese up until as recently as 1948. The requirements to gain entrance into the inner chambers
of the Aikido gymnasium and to learn Aikido's art and philosophy were many including at least
two recommendations from well-known, respected citizens of Japan.
Aikido is a combination of many martial arts including ju-jitsu, Kendo and Karate. Most
Budo (military arts) originated from a kind of physical fitness programme, developed into selfdefence
arts and then on to refined Budo.
A physical fitness programme may be compared to preventive medicine programmes and
prophylactics. If we move our body adequately and if the movement agrees with the 'natural
laws', we still have a well-conditioned body and will not be affected so easily by disease. When
we consider various physical fitness programmes we will soon discover the ideal of Aikido. The
flowing flexibility and the importance of a stable balance agree with the 'laws of nature'. The aim
of Aikidoists is complete self-control. When we have self-control, we have a posture which is
completely alert. By exercising our whole body we approach improved health.
In Aikido, the techniques related to each part of the body are necessarily related to the
whole. There are no radical techniques which use strength suddenly or immediately cease using
power. Here lies the secret of Aikido in keeping a healthy body. The exercise of the body in this
way will lead to better health.
The movement of Aikido is natural and is without the physical strain demanded by other
combat arts. Aikido provides tremendous range movement on the study of balance, posture and
most important - relaxation. For this reason Aikido can be practised by members of either sex,
young or old, while it is also a most effective form of self-defence. Aikido has a particular appeal
to most people for the way that it builds a mind which you can adapt to everyday life.
The Art was first introduced in any big way into Great Britain by my teacher Kenshiro
Abbe (8th Dan) in 1955. I was one his first pupils. At that time Judo was very popular and so
people were not interested in the 'new art'. The Aikido training was also found by beginners to
be extremely severe and this put off many beginners.
After many years of study I was graded to 1st Dan. At the time I received my black belt
for Aikido, there were only eight pupils practising in this country. These pupils are now the
teachers of the art in this country. The art received stimulus by the visit to this country of Mr
Tadashi Abbe (7th Dan). In 1963, Mr M. Nakazono (7th Dan) came to England and was asked
to supervise Aikido in this country. At the same time I was appointed National Coach. It is
therefore only comparatively recently that Aikido has spread in this country and it is now being
taught in schools for the Education Authorities.
2. Aikido Gradings
To assess the student's ability in Aikido, he or she has to take an examination before a
Dan Grade (Black Belt). In this examination, the students with their partners go through the
techniques that have been taught. These techniques have been laid down in the grading syllabus.
This applies for all the Kyu grades up to 1st Kyu.
If a pupil is trying for a Black Belt then he can only be graded by a 4th Dan or above.
This method has been laid down by the Aikikai, the world centre of Aikido. All Black Belts who
have been graded by Aikikai teachers receive a diploma from Japan. It is a great honour to
receive one of these as there are only fifteen British students who hold them.
Do not forget that there is a lot of hard work before one reaches this standard. The usual
time is three years based on two practices a week. I believe that ninety per cent of people who
practise Aikido could arrive at the Black Belt stage if they had the strength of mind and
determination to keep up their practice.
It is not so much the practice that is the difficult part but the getting down to the club.
For instance, the pupil may return from work on a cold evening, have his dinner and afterwards
sit by the fire.
It is one of the hardest things to get oneself out of the chair and to get down to the club
for training. This is where the mind must be strong and control the body. This dedication is a
part of the training and discipline which must go with Aikido.
Try to adapt Aikido to everyday life and I am sure that you will understand more easily
the true principle and feeling of this wonderful art and more easily progress up the grades
towards your goal.
3. The Spirit of Aikido
You will find that the more you practise Aikido, the more the self-defence aspect will
become of secondary importance. By the physical practice of Aikido we are trying to find the
truth by technique. If one's technique is not correct or true, then one's way of life is false and one
can never be fully confident of oneself.
I think that material things can only bring happiness up to a point but it is the deeper
inner happiness that we are seeking and Aikido is one way of finding this. You will find that
through Aikido practice your mind will become more positive in deciding matters.
As you can imagine, when one is practising and someone attacks you, one has little time
to decide what technique to use but one moves the way that one's feeling takes you, either
positive or negative. This attack is the same as a problem. If it is an easy one, one can go
positively into it. On the other hand if it is a difficult one, one moves one way first to get out
of the way and then considers it. But if you hesitate you are lost. It is no good saying afterwards
that one should have done such and such a thing. Naturally we all make mistakes. This is a good
thing, but one must try and learn from them.
This is why to find the 'way' we must always continue to practise our technique and try
to put our mistakes right. This is also why Aikido is so interesting as there is no end to it. One
never stops learning and there is always something new to learn and improve.
I have been asked by people if I am not afraid of the wrong person learning the art and
gaining knowledge which could in some circumstances be dangerous.
But I know that it takes three years to become proficient at Aikido and if the mind is bad
and the intentions evil the technique and the Aikido power will not come out. I believe that if
one puts sincerity into the art then good will come out. So I feel that no person with evil
intentions can ever find this natural movement. If they use Aikido for bad reasons then they will
only destroy themselves.
I have known students who have started Aikido in order to use any knowledge they
acquire out of Dojo to change their intentions. They become responsible citizens and one has the
satisfaction that Aikido has changed their whole character and way of life. They are grateful for
what Aikido has done for them.
Aikido is for everyone - not just for the few.
4. Different Ways of Practising
1. To practise with one partner. This is usually the way for beginners and uses the forms
as laid down. Once you understand the basic form then try to add more movement to it.
2. The next stage is for three people to practise. This gives two students against one so
as to provide a more continuous practice and teaches you to react more quickly to the attack.
Sometimes practise gently - other times practise hard. When I say hard I do not mean
with strength but by non-stop practise with your partner making strong attacks on you
continually. When attacking, make sure that your attack is true. Otherwise, you give your partner
a false impression and this will not help him one bit as it will give him a false sense of the
movement. If your partner cannot escape your attack then it is his responsibility. Do not get upset
if your partner catches you off-guard. Just put it down to good experience.
Next try three people against you with all three attacking you at once. Do not try to make
correct techniques but keep your body moving and turning in a circular motion, trying to keep
your mind and body relaxed.
Another method practice is for two partners to hold you and for you to try to escape. This
practice will show whether you are using strength or not. In the beginning always let your partner
hold you but as you progress you should move just before they touch you. Lead their strength
with yours. Do not let your Ki power clash with your partners or you will not feel the real sense
5. Suwari-Waza (Sitting Techniques)
These sitting and kneeling techniques are more difficult for Europeans than for Eastern
students. The Aikido manner of kneeling and sitting is the Orient's natural way of sitting. Unless
one starts young it is hard to acquire this suppleness. But with persistent practice one should be
able to learn these techniques. This is a very good exercise for the student's body especially for
When I began Aikido my teacher instructed me mostly from the kneeling positions. This
lasted for two years. Because of this I got a good idea of the use of the hips in Aikido. Later on,
after practising these postures which can be seen in Plates 51 and 52, try the actual knee walking.
Start with one knee resting on the mat, keeping your feet underneath your buttocks. The other
knee is bent. Keep your hands on top of your knees. Now lower the knee that is bent onto the
mat and spin on your knee until you are in the opposite direction, bringing the other knee into
the bent position. Continue this move - alternatively changing knees and turning from side to
side. Keep your shoulders relaxed, the small of your back straight and your toes bent uppermost.
Practise until you are able to move in all directions with a smooth rhythm. Then practise the
technique with a partner - sometimes techniques should be practised with one of your kneeling
and the other standing. Occasionally practise with both of you kneeling.
Each technique is done to counter a particular attack on form. The form in which your
partner attacks you is described in each technique to help the student.
6. Dress of Aikido
The Aikido dress varies according to whether one is a Dan or Kyu grade. All Kyu grades
wear trousers, jacket and belt of the Kimono style. These clothes are suitable for the art because
of the freedom of movement and the strength of material.
Dan grades wear Hakamas. This dress has been kept from the old days in Japan when the
Samurai used to wear them. The dress has the other advantage that it teaches the student to move
properly by keeping the feet closer to the mat.
Cleanliness is very important in Aikido as well as the other fighting arts. Not only is it
very important to keep your body and clothes clean but also your mind. Aikido's aim is to make
harmony and this will not be achieved if one person in the Dojo is clean and another dirty. You
will find that no one will want to practise with the dirty club member. This can cause bad feeling
in the Dojo. Harmony will thus disappear.
In Aikido toe and finger nails can be very dangerous so these should be kept trimmed.
When stepping on to the mat, the student should bow to it. This is to give thanks to the mat
because without it one would not be able to practise. Therefore we respect it for being there and
it teaches us not to take things for granted.
Slippers should always be worn to the edge of the mat and when they are removed one
should step straight onto the mat. This prevents any dirt or grit getting onto the mat. One should
never walk on a mat wearing ordinary shoes.
When practising try not to have the same partner all the time as you will find that you
get too used to each other. Everyone is different in build, weight and height. Your techniques
becomes more adjustable if you change your partners.
One should not have stupid strength contests with each other or fool about. Try to help
to understand each other and help one's partner wherever possible.
7. The Basic Principles of Aikido
The basic techniques of Aikido are very important to learn thoroughly. In this book I
cannot give you all of them as they are too numerous. But I have tried to give you a good overall
guide. It is difficult to learn true Aikido from a book and the best way is to practise in a club
under a good teacher. But use this book in conjunction with your training.
This book, I hope, will help you to understand the real meaning of Aikido.
If you can imagine that you are like a spinning top and if someone or something attacks
you, they will fly off from you and not be able to enter into your body. In Aikido all movements
must be 'circular' - not 'triangular'. Thus if you are spinning like a top and your opponent is on
the outside, he is controlled not by strength but by your movement. At the same time your body
and mind must be relaxed. We then have a posture which is completely alert.
Always practise with good feeling and spirit. An excessive amount of talking on the mat
is a waste of time. Your breathing should be through your nose with your mouth closed. By this
method you will learn to control your breathing. This will in time enable you to practise at least
three hours a week. At the leading clubs in this country, most pupils practise five hours a week
and Dan grades ten hours a week. At the Aikikai, they have a system whereby the pupils live in
and devote their lives to Aikido. They train up to six hours a day for seven days a week. After
a certain number of years - usually ten - they are sent out as apostles of Aikido to teach the Art
to all parts of the world.
8. The Power of Ki and Kokyu
When listening to people talk about Aikido, you will hear about the power of Ki (Spirit)
and Kokyu (Breath control). Both are things that cannot easily be explained as they are spiritual
feelings. I am still trying to acquire these powers fully. I have found that these powers in Aikido
are only possible when one is fully relaxed. So if one loses one's temper one will never find this
power. This is why I feel sure that it is important to practise not only the technical side of Aikido
but also to discipline the mind and accept the ceremony which is associated with the Art.
9. The Ceremony in Aikido
The ceremony in Aikido is similar to that in the other Martial Arts.
The pupils bow to the teacher before and after practice. They also bow to each other
before each separate practice. This creates respect for each other and is helpful to class discipline.
Discipline not only stops accidents on the mat but also helps in self-discipline which is essential
in Aikido. This helps make the club a strong and happy one.
10. Warming-Up Before Practice
Warming-up is as necessary in Aikido as it is in other physical activities. One loosens up
one's joints and muscles. Starting from the feet, one twists one's ankles. Then one softly but
firmly taps one's insteps with the palms of the hands. Next in a sitting position and with your
legs tucked underneath you tap your thigh, shoulders and chest. From a standing position bend
one knee and push the other leg out. Try to get down as far as possible. Keep the outstretched
Next stand in a natural posture stretch your arms out and twist from your waist from side
to side. Turn your head from side to side in time with your hands. Then move your head up and
down. Finally twist your wrists. This is a little painful at first but with practice becomes easier.
Catch the back of your right hand with the palm of your left and twist down to the right, for your
left hand reverse the procedure. You are now ready to practise.
11. The Aikido Techniques
Shino-nage (four direction throw). 1st form
This technique is the four direction projection as used in Japanese fencing. It involves
turning on the left and right foot and cutting in four directions. Your opponent grasps your right
wrist with his right hand. By making a spiral movement with your right hand, you then catch his
wrist. At the same time catch the back of his right hand with your left hand, breaking his balance
to his front. Do not lean backwards but keep your body slightly forward. Step through with your
left leg, keeping your legs slightly bent. Swivel on the ball of your foot and bend your opponent's
arm backwards. Throw your opponent down.
Koto-gaeshi (small hand twist). 1st form
This technique is called the small hand twist. As your opponent catches your right wrist
with his right hand, grab the top of it with your left hand and at the same time turn ninety
degrees to your right. Keep your head looking in the same direction as you are going and your
partner will come round in a semi-circle. Now change your direction, going back with your leg.
Your right hand should push on the back of his right hand, throwing him. At all times try to keep
this a smooth action and use circular not angular movements. Maintain your own balance and in
no circumstances use shoulder strength to try to force the throw.
Irimi-nage (enter body projection). 1st form
Irimi-nage is the enter body projection (throw) and is a special technique of Aikido. When
your opponent catches your right wrist with his right hand, keep your right arm straight. Step in
with your left foot into his rear side, your left hand encircling his neck. You are now the centre
of the movement, and, stepping backwards with your right foot so that he is on the outside circle
pull him into your right shoulder. Hook your right hand under his chin and throw him down.
Most of the control comes from your grip on his neck. Try not to use strength catching him,
otherwise he will resist you more easily.
Kaiten-nage (spiral throw). 1st form
This technique is a spiral throw and involves a circular movement. All techniques of
Aikido are circular and not angular. This is important to remember. When the opponent attacks
you for 1st form, step slightly back with your left leg. Your right hand follows your body, taking
his arm over his head as you escape backwards under his arm. Keep your hand in the same
position, push forward thus making an arc. At the same time you should catch his right wrist
with your left hand. With your right hand press upon his neck and roll him forward.
Simultaneously step into him with your left foot, keeping your posture upright.
Tentchi-nage (heaven and earth throw). 1st form
This is quaintly called the heaven and earth throw. As the opponent catches your right
wrist, cut off with your left hand and at the same time step with your left leg to his right back
corner, making sure you keep your left hand straight and pointing down to the earth. The right
foot is then moved with a zig-zag step to his right rear corner. Bring your right hand arm under
his chin and with your fingers of your right hand point directly upwards and throw him down.
Keep your posture upright and your balance correct.
Ikkyo (first principle). 1st form
As the opponent catches your right wrist with his right hand, move your left leg and hip
to the rear and lead him up bringing his arm back to his hand. At the same time, your left hand
catches him just above his elbow and pushing back over his head you direct him to the floor.
Then pin him down by kneeling with your left knee on his arm-pit. Place your right knee near
his wrist. Keep your arms straight and posture upright.
Nikkyo (second principle). 1st form
The first part of this technique is the same as Ikkyo. Step backwards and lead him to the
ground. But when coming back catch his fingers that are grasping your right wrist. Then apply
the lock by bearing down on the wrist. Simultaneously, move your body backwards. This
technique can be most painful to your partner and should not be applied too quickly in the early
stages. Even at advanced levels, care must be taken. Your partner should tap to indicate
submission as is done in the other martial arts. The moment he taps you should release the
Sankyo (third principle). 1st form
When the opponent grasps your right wrist with his right hand step to your left side. Turn
your body move under his right arm, at the same time take his left hand with your right. Now
twist his right hand up and to the left, keeping the palm open. Move your hips to the left. Cut
his right hand down and grasping his elbow with your right hand direct him to the floor. Apply
the lock by keeping the elbow straight and face his body when pinning him on the mat.
Yonkyo (fourth principle). 1st form
The opponent grasps your right wrist. Turn as in Sanyo and catch his right hand with your
left. Twist his wrist with your right hand and put the bottom of your left forefinger on his right
pulse. Push upwards, making sure that his elbow than his shoulder, then cut his arm down to the
ground. At the same time, step forward with the left foot. Pin him down and release on
This concludes the fundamental techniques. Throws are often achieved in Aikido by
forcing an opponent to throw himself if he is to avoid having one of his limbs dislocated. This
is why it is particularly important for the beginner to practise carefully. The beginner will learn
to avoid locks by throwing himself but this may take some time to acquire.
12. Aikido Breakfalls
Aikido Ukemi (breakfalls) are similar to those in Judo. At all times they should be soft,
and your body should be kept like a ball. But unlike Judo at no time should one hit the mat with
your hand in order to soften the shock. In Judo, we argue that if you find it necessary to use
Ukemi in the street softening the blow by hitting the ground with your arm, you will only
succeed in hurting your arm. In Aikido we learn to roll when thrown so as to recover on one's
Ukemi are important. You must remember that Aikido is not so much a sport as a fighting
art. Therefore, I believe that Ukemi are as important as other techniques. If your Ukemi become
proficient then you will follow your partner better because the fear of falling will have gone. This
will allow your mind to be calm and as the body always follows the mind in Aikido then it will
be more relaxed, giving you more speed and natural movement for your technique.
13. Aikido Posture
The posture in Aikido is in an oblique position. The reason for this is that you lessen the
area of attack and you are able to move more easily and with speed. Stand with your left foot
half a step forward as shown in the photograph. This is left Hamni. Right Hamni is the same
except that your right foot is half a step forward.
14. Advanced Aikido Techniques
Defence against a knife
Attack to the stomach
There are many ways in which you can be attacked with a knife but I am giving the most
basic technique for you to practise. With the practice of Aikido, the others will come more easily
Your partner lunges at you with the knife. Turn to the rear in a clockwise direction so that
your partner is kept moving. Step back with your left foot, at the same time catch the back of
his hand with your right hand and then throw him. As soon as he falls, lock his arm by placing
your right arm on his elbow. Walk around his head bringing him onto his stomach. Now put your
right knee on his neck and push his arm towards his head until he lets go of the knife.
Koky-nage from 11th form
Catching both of your wrists with his hands your partner comes in to you. Slightly bend
your elbows so as to break your partner's power. Step in to him to stop him from pushing you
back and kneel down. Your left hand should be pushing out and down to the mat. Your right
hand goes down to your partner's right foot and you can throw him easily. Make sure that the
small of your back is kept straight and your shoulders relaxed.
Shiho-nage (four direction) 6th form attack
Your partner attacks the side of your head. Step back to your right corner with your left
foot. Your left hand should guide his right. Your right hand attacks his face. Follow through with
your right hand, and catch his wrist with both hands then as in 1st form Shiho-nage step through
and throw him.
Nikkyo (second principle) 4th form attack
Your partner catches your wrist with his right hand. Step back to your right corner with
your left foot. Your right hand attacks his face. Follow through with the back of your hand
brushing down his arm. Your left hand catches your jacket above his hand and with your right
hand take hold under his hand. Now turn it over until his little finger is uppermost, making sure
that you keep it tight to your body. With your left elbow, bend his elbow and bear pressure on
his wrist until he submits by tapping.
Tentchi-nage (heaven and earth throw) 3rd form attack
As soon as your partner's right hand catches your shoulder, turn to your right giving him
no chance to punch you with his right hand. Try to keep contact with his arm across your back.
Now with this movement, he should be moving on the outside of you. Change your direction by
stepping back with your left foot. Your left arm comes over the top of your partner's right, with
a cutting action towards the mat. Your right foot makes a zig-zag step towards his rear and your
right arm pushes across his left shoulder. Keep your forward leg slightly bent and shoulders
Shiho-nage (four direction throw) 4th form
Your partner catches the front of your jacket with his right hand. Step back to your right
corner with your left foot. Attack your partner's face with your right hand. Catch his wrist with
both hands. Now use your shoulder against the inside of his elbow joint. Step through with your
left leg. Turn completely around on the balls of your feet and kneel on your left knee. Your
partner's arm should be bent backwards so as to break his balance.
Irimi-nage (enter body throw) 5th form
Your partner's right hand attacks you to the centre of your head. Using your right hand
push straight towards him so as to deflect the blow. At the same time step into his rear side with
your left foot.
Your right hand should be on top of his right hand. Now cut down his right arm and catch
his neck with your left hand. Step right around with your right foot bringing him in a circle
outside you. Pull his head into your right shoulder and throw him down by bending his head
backwards with your right arm.
Sankyo (third principle) 6th form attack
Your partner attacks the side of your head with his right hand. Guide his right hand with
your left. At the same time step back to your right corner with your left leg. Attack his face with
your right hand. Follow on down his arm to grasp his wrist. Take his arm back in the direction
of his head simultaneously stepping to his front catching the back of his hand with your left
hand. Put your fingers in the palm of his hand and place your own thumb against his. Your right
hand comes down just above his elbow and leads him to the mat.
Shino-nage (four direction throw) 7th form
Your partner punches to your stomach with his right hand. Turn your body to the right
and grasp his fist with your left hand in the same was as Kote-gaeshi. Step back with your left
foot, bringing his hand in the same direction. Now catch his right wrist with your right hand.
Your thumb should be across the inside of his wrists so that you can push his arm straight. Step
into his arm, your left arm pushing against his elbow. Slightly lift his arm up and throw him.
Nikkyo (second principle) 8th form
Your partner catches your collar with his right hand. Step back to his right side in a
crouching position, letting his arm go over your head. You will find that his wrist is now under
your chin. Hold his right hand with your right hand and bend his elbow with your left hand. Now
bear down on his wrist with your chin. Bend your knees slightly as you do this. This completes
Nikkyo and he will submit by tapping.
Sankyo (third principle) 16th form attack
Partner holds you with his right hand around your neck. His left hand is grasping your
left wrist. Bend your body slightly forward, pushing forward with your left hand.
Step back to your left side, at the same time turning your left hip. Catch the back of his
hand with your right hand, thus applying Sankyo. Keep moving your body to your partner's front,
your left hand catching him just above his elbow. Move your body backwards, lowering your
partner on to the mat. Kneel down with your left knee by his neck. The other knee is by his side.
Ensure that his arm is straight. Change from your right hand holding his wrist to your left. Push
your right arm down his arm bearing towards his shoulder until he submits.
Ikkyo (first principle) 7th form attack
Your partner punches to your stomach with his right fist. Step back with your left foot
towards your right corner. Your right grasps the top of his wrist. Take it in a downward
movement by bending your knees slightly. When you feel your partner resist slightly bring his
arm back into him. Your left hand should be just above his elbow pushing towards his head. Step
in with your left foot, pushing him into the mat. Make certain that his body and arm are flat on
the mat. Push his arm more than ninety degrees towards his head. Put pressure on his arm with
your arms so as to immobilise him.
Irimi-nage (enter body throw) 4th form attack
Your partner holds your lapels with his right hand. Step back to your right corner with
your left foot. Attack his face with your right hand. Follow through until your arm is under his
right hand. Swiftly turn back and with a big circle with your shoulder break his grip. At the same
time, step into his right side with your left leg. Catch his neck with your left hand. Take a big
step with your right leg so that you are in the opposite direction. Bring your partner in a wide,
smooth circle. Keep his head into your right shoulder. Your knees should be a little bent and
your shoulders relaxed so as to maintain balance. Now bring your right arm over his face and
bend his head back. Throw him to the mat. Do not bend from the waist but use your hip
movement to throw him.
Kote-gashi (small hand twist) 6th form attack
Your partner attacks the left side of your head with his right hand. Step back with your
left leg to your right rear corner.
Your left hand should be guiding his right hand. At the same time attack his face with
your spare hand. Follow through with your right hand on top of his wrist. Push his hand in a
circle in front of him whilst you move to your right. Now catch his hand with your left, with
your right hand pushing on the back of his hand, step back with your left leg and throw him.
Make sure that you keep his arm straight and project your power. The breakfall can be either
forwards or backwards. But if it is forwards roll on the side that you are thrown. Do not try to
forward roll on your left arm if you are thrown by your right.
Kokyu-nage 4th form attack
Your partner catches you by the lapels with his right hand. With his left he punches at
your face. Side-step to your right by moving your hips and head. Deflect his blow by using your
left hand, making sure that your arm is straight and that feeling is coming out of your fingers.
Now turn into his body with your right arm coming under both of his armpits. Do not try to lift
him over but lead his body down to the mat. Your left hand is still in contact with his left arm
and now lead him down to the mat.
Sankyo (third principle) 14th form attack
Your partner holds your elbows from the back. Keep your arms slightly bent and push
forward. Step back to his left side, with your body in a crouched position. Bring your right arm
over and catch the back of his left hand, making sure that your fingers are well into his palm and
your thumb against the knuckle of his thumb. Step round to his front with your left leg. Break
his grip from your elbow. Hold his elbow with your left hand and guide him on to the mat so
that he is face downwards. Kneel down, putting your right knee in the middle of his back. Your
other knee should be bent and the foot flat on the mat. Change the grip from your left to right
hand closing his wrist. Now use your left arm to pin his arm against your own body. Turn to the
right until you get the submission.
Koshi-waza (hip technique)
The hip techniques are different to those in Judo.
In Aikido, we make what we call 'T' form. This is not so much lifting your partner up as
using your hips as a see-saw. Imagine that the thrower is the upright part of the 'T' and your
partner is the cross. There are numerous techniques that one can do with Koshi-waza. But usually
these are not taught until the grade of 1st Kyu because of the special use of the hips and the
breakfalls involved. I have selected two main ones for this book. This is one of them.
Sankyo (third principle) Koshi-waza 13th form attack
Your partner holds both your wrists from behind. Moving your body into a crouched
position push your hand forward and twist them. At the same time, catch the back of his left
hand with your right in the Sankyo position. Do not worry if he is still holding your right wrist.
Now push your hips through to his right side so that you are in a 'T' form. The small of your
back is against his thighs below his belt. Look up at your partner. Now to throw him turn your
head to your left, your right arm following him at the same time.
Irimi-nage (enter body throw) 8th form attack
Your partner catches the back of your collar with his left hand. Attack his face with your
right hand - usually the side as in the Karate shuto techniques. He will defend against this attack
with his right arm. As you hit his arm, step into his right side with your left foot deflecting his
right arm down. Now catch his neck. Step back with your right foot making a ninety degree turn,
bringing him with you. At the end of the movement, bring your arm over his face throwing him
backwards. He should escape by a backward roll, so as not to injure himself.
Nikkyo (second principle) 12th form attack
Your partner attacks both shoulder from your front. Step back with your left foot to your
own right corner. Counter with an attack to his face. Follow through, bringing the back of your
hand down his right arm so as to break his balance. Catch the back of his hand with your right
hand and bring it back so that his little finger is uppermost.
Keep his hand close to your shoulder, your left hand bending his elbow. Now step in with
your right foot to the front of him and put pressure on his wrist. At the same time move
backwards so as to bring him face down on the mat. Kneel down with your right knee by his
neck and your left knee next to his armpit. Use your left hand under his elbow to turn it over.
Grasp his hand in the crook of your bent left arm. Bear down with your right hand on his
shoulder joint and turn your body to the right until he submits.
At all times when going back you must think about going back. When coming forward
think forward. It is no good thinking forward when you are going back or vice-versa.
Kokyu-nage, 13th form
Your partner grasps your wrists from behind. Move your body backwards and push your
hands forward. Simultaneously, twist your wrists slowly and lower your body by bending at the
knees. Escape to your partner's side. Still pushing your power through your fingers, lower your
hands to the mat, thereby throwing your partner. This technique calls for complete harmony and
understanding between partners. If you use strength, you will make your partner resist or break
Aiki-jyo jutso (stick technique)
Techniques against a stick are very popular in Aikido. This is one of them.
Your partner thrusts to the stomach with the end of the stick. Move to the outside - as
shown in the photo - and catch the stick with your right hand. Bring your partner round in a
circle. Then grab the centre of the stick with your left hand, bringing your right hand over your
own head. Push the stick in front of your partner's body. Turn your own body by swivelling on
the balls of your feet and throw him backwards.
Irimi-nage (enter body throw) 7th form attack
Your partner punches your stomach with his right hand. Use your right hand to deflect
the blow. At the same time, step with your left leg into his right side.
Now catch your partner by the shoulders and push him down so as you move past his
back, bending your knees as you do so.
Kote-gaeshi (small hand twist) 5th form attack
To counter an attack to the centre of your head, turn your body to the outside, at the same
time follow his hand down with your left hand until contact with his hand is made. Your body
should be moving towards his back, bringing him in a circular movement. Make certain that you
keep your arm straight. Now change direction, stepping back with your left foot. Put the palm
of your right hand on the back of his hand. Then push his hand over with your hands thus
throwing your partner.
Ikkyo (first principle) 3rd form attack
Your partner catches your left shoulder from one side. Step back to your own right corner,
bringing your right hand up to attack his face with either a punch or a blow with the side of the
hand. Follow through brushing the back of your hand down his arm. Catch his wrist with your
right hand and place your left hand just above his face. Bring your body back and push his arm
into the mat to immobilise.
Henka-waza (combination technique)
The idea of combination techniques is to train the individual to change from one
technique to another. Thus if your partner escapes from one technique one can quickly switch
to another. Also by being able to follow him by the feel of his movement and direction,
combination techniques give you control over your partner the whole of the time.
There are many combination techniques but you will find that if your practise properly
they will come automatically through your Aikido movement. This will eventually come to you
without you thinking about them. I will give you the basic idea from 1st form Shiho-nage into
Kote-gaeshi and then into Ikkyo.
Take your partner into 1st form Shiho-nage as I have explained. Now when you are
throwing him he will make a backward breakfall, so make certain that you keep hold of his wrist
with your right hand. Now take hold of the top of his hand with your left hand. Your right hand
catches the back of his hand. At the same time, step back with your left foot, throwing him with
Kote-gaeshi. Keep hold of his hand with your left hand, your right hand coming over to grasp
his wrist. Switch your left hand grip to just above the elbow. Turn your body to the right,
throwing him in Ikkyo.
Counter techniques, 2nd form Nikkyo (second form) into Sankyo (third form)
With counter-techniques you must completely follow your partner. At no time resist his
technique, otherwise you will find that you cannot counter him. This is a very good exercise for
harmony and relaxation. Make sure that you first try to 'give' yourself to your partner. Do not
practise these techniques too fast until you have learnt to completely relax.
First I will describe 2nd form Nikkyo. Your partner grasps your left wrist with his right
hand. Step back with your left foot towards your right corner. Your right hand attacks your
partner's face. Carry down his arm to grasp his right hand at the back. Now bring it up until his
little finger is uppermost and his hand is resting on your left shoulder. Your left hand should be
grasping his wrist. Now by bringing your left elbow over push down and out. So as to bend his
elbow do not stay in this position but move backwards. Bear down on his wrist. These
movements should not be done too sharply, but smoothly.
Let us assume that your partner has obtained Nikkyo on you. Go forward, pushing your
elbow into his body and turning it across his chest. Catch his thumb between your thumb and
forefinger and move your left hip out. Now you will be able to catch the back of his hand with
your own left hand in the Sankyo position. Draw his hand down to the mat. At the same time
push your left hand downwards just above the elbow, with your body moving backwards.
When you are practising these counter-throws, try to keep you mind always going
forward. If you let your mind go back it will be too late for you and his technique will win. This
is the real fight in Aikido - to try to completely give yourself to him. This lets your partner feel
that he has secured the technique and won. This lulls him back into a false sense of security and
you will be able to counter him. If you cannot control your ego and try to show that you are the
stronger by resisting him, you will lose.
Kaiten-nage (spiral throw) 2nd form left side
Your partner's right hand grasps your left wrist. Keep your left arm straight and step with
your left foot to the left. Attack your partner's face with your right hand. Follow down with your
right hand pushing it under your partner's right arm. Step with your right foot so as to turn your
hips, going underneath his arm with your head coming through last. Catch the back of his head
with your right hand, your left hand grasping his wrist, and push his arm in the direction towards
his head thus throwing him. Try not to break your own balance when you throw. But if you are
off-balance, take another step forward to regain it, keeping the front leg slightly bent.
Irimi-nage (enter body throw) 15th form
Your partner catches you from the back by the shoulders. Step forward and bend slightly
to one side. On the next step bend slightly the other way. Then make a ninety degree turn into
your partner. Take your head and the arm that is furthest away from him between his two arms.
Keep moving until you feel that he is coming off-balance. Now change your direction by
stepping back with one arm coming in the direction of his head. Do not knock him down but
steadily push him. Keep your body moving backwards until he falls to the mat. Your partner
escapes with a backward ukemi.
Nikkyo (second principle) 10th form attack
Your partner grasps your right forearm with both hands, his right hand round your wrist.
Step back to your right corner with your left foot. Your right hand follows in the same direction.
Catch the finger of his right hand with your left and lock them against your arm. Make a big
circle, coming back into him with your right arm. Your hand now goes over the top of his wrist
and pushes him to his right side so as to bend his elbow. Begin to move backwards at the same
time bearing on his wrist. Bring your right hand towards your own stomach and he will crumple
on the ground. You can immobilize him as in Nikkyo 12th form.
Irimi-nage (enter body throw) 5th form attack against stick
Here is another defence against a man with a stick. It calls for perfect timing and speed
as well as relaxation. You are attacked from the front to the centre of your head. First of all look
to see which of his hands is leading. As he brings the stick to your head, move directly towards
him. Keep your body in an upright position and step with your leg into his right side. Turn your
hips and head as you step so that your chest is nearly touching his back. Your left hand catches
his neck and your right hand goes over the top of his right wrist so as to stop him bringing the
stick back. Step ninety degrees with your right foot to the rear, bringing your partner in a wide
circle. Now take his head close to your right shoulder and with your right arm coming over his
head throw him down.
I end this techniques with another of the Koshi-waza (hip techniques).
Ikkyo, 1st form (Koshi-waza)
The first part is the same as 1st form Ikkyo but instead of you pushing your partner's arm
towards the mat, you take it over his head, pushing your hips through. Your right side is now
touching him and the small of your back is completely against his body and underneath his centre
of gravity. Keeping his arm pushed out, swivel your hips and throw your partner over.
15. Exercise for One Person
Often Aikidoists should supplement their Dojo training with practice at home. The
exercises I am giving here are for you to practise by yourself for the purpose of building your
Ki power, movement and balance. They are also good for relaxing your mind. Stand in left
Hamni posture, your hands having the feeling of pushing down and out. Step forward, with your
right foot turning at the same time. Repeat with your left so that now you are in the reverse
position. Do not stop dead. Repeat the movement. Keep this movement going so that you build
up a smooth and fast movement. On no account jump when you are doing this exercise. Keep
your centre of gravity down.
In the next exercise take the posture of left Hamni. Now with your arms pushing forward
and your fingers open and stretched out, keep the small of your back straight, shoulders relaxed
and head upright. As you push forward with your arms slide slightly forward and bring them
back to your side. Keep doing this until you can get someone to test you by standing in front of
you when you push out. See if they can push you back by holding your wrist. Practise this
exercise on both sides.
16. Breathing Exercises
Sit in an upright position with your legs folded underneath you. The small of your back
must be straight, the shoulders relaxed and your hands in your lap. Push your hands out to your
front bringing them up and out so as to open your chest. At the same time, breathe deeply in
through your nose. Your hands come back to catch the left hand in the right. Push your breath
down below your navel. Hold this for a few seconds. Now blow your air out of your mouth
whilst your hands are pushing forwards. Repeat this exercise four or five times before and after
From a standing position bend your knees and try to imagine that your body is a ball.
Keep your body in a crouched position. Now roll back. Do not roll right over as in the backward
roll. As your head touches the mat regain your balance by rolling forward.
There is no such thing in Aikido as a contest. It is against all the principles of the art.
Thus, if you practise 'contest' Aikido, you are not practising true Aikido but street fighting. It is
therefore better to practise in the streets as it is cheaper and the training is not so hard!
In Aikido, you must remember that your partner is not your enemy but your friend. Look
after his welfare as well as your own. Help him to learn Aikido. If you injure him purposely then
he will go away and you will not progress by yourself. There is an old Japanese saying: 'It takes
two hands to make a noise; one is no good by itself'.
I truly believe that by giving to others you can obtain a great deal of pleasure. Higher
grades must be kind to lower grades and help them in their difficult periods. Lower grades must
have respect for their seniors and listen to them when they are teaching. In this way,
improvement can be assured.
1. The Introduction
This section on Kendo is more a manual for students thana 'Teach Yourself' attempt. It
has been taken for granted that the reader is either a student already or considering starting. True
Kendo, in common with older Martial Arts, will lack clarity unless it is practised.
The writer studied Kendo under Master Kenshiro Abbe Sensei during the period 1955 to
1964 and wishes to thank him for all his help. He is well known as one of the leading Martial
Arts teachers - he was the youngest-ever All Japan Judo champion, and also studied Kendo,
Aikido and Juken Jutsu (the art of bayonet fighting derived from spearmanship).
Until the end of the Second World War, the Butokukai (Martial Arts Society) controlled
all gradings and teachings and Kenshiro Abbe Sensei was awarded a 6th Dan in Kendo from
them, in 1945.
The specific theory or system of Budo (Martial Arts) created by Kenshiro Abbe Sensei
is termed Kyu-shin-do and its application is particularly easy to understand through Kendo. Kyu
means a sphere, or circle. Shin means the heart, or nexus point and Do means the way or path.
There is little space here to deal adequately with this ancient Japanese philosophy but its three
fundamental precepts are:
a. Bambutsu Ruten - All things existent in the Universe turn in a constant state of flux.
b. Ritsudo - This motion is rhythmic and smooth.
c. Chowa - All things act in a perfect accord.
Kyu-shin-do is a Japanese equivalent of the Buddhist Karmic cycle especially as far as
its application to life is concerned. This is an old Japanese idea but the writer's teacher was the
first to grasp its real significance in relation to Budo. To attain perfection in technique means to
attain to perfection as a human being and through our studies to become a better person and a
useful and positive factor in society.
Kyu-shin-do also states that the accumulation of effort is a steady motion about the radius
and centre of gravity and that all things resign to this basic cyclic pattern. The normal perception
and focus of awareness in the human being, flies along the outer periphery of existence, events
flash past too rapidly for the mind to grasp. By re-discovering the original centre of things,
events turn more slowly in perception and the general scheme is more easily viewed. All this
refers directly to the original Great Principle of Creation, under which the Universe was first
formed. By understanding and harmony with this Principle of God a better purpose of life is
brought about. Instead of hopeless repentance or regret for bad things, the human being should
strive for good actions.
This does not mean that every student must involve himself in complicated metaphysics
but these laws of Material Nature still exist and cannot but become clear during the course of
study. Kendo in itself is a vigorous and healthy activity, developing a strong physique and sharp
mind. There is no reason why it cannot be practised and enjoyed purely and simply as a sport,
or interesting game; even just for exercise. Kendo also has within itself the capacity to include
the deepest significance of life and the highest goal of human conception. The student should
concentrate firstly on the purely physical aspect of training, since interest in other aspects will
occur naturally as they become problems.
The student involved in the sheer physical problems of training will scarcely be aware of
his mind, but once the body is reasonably under control it will be seen that the mind is the real
bar to progress, for one reason or another. The human being consists of both a spiritual and
physical side. Too much concentration on one aspect will lead to an unbalanced life and the
student should attempt to develop both parts equally. The student who is too prone to think,
should train harder and with greater regularity whilst the student more sluggish of thought should
strive to improve his mind and increase his intelligence by thinking things out, and reading.
Once past the first initial stages Kendo is a battle with oneself to catch the mind and force
it to obey the will. Over the years the student will pass through periods of elation and depression,
keen enthusiasm and lack of interest. The main object is to overcome all difficulties and to press
forward with a firm mind and iron will. The student who misses classes because he cannot be
bothered to attend, feels tired or thinks that he is getting nowhere has defeated himself from the
very beginning. The senior grades and masters are merely those who have had the tenacity of
purpose to continue in the face of any difficulty.
It is not thought necessary to describe equipment here, since this will be seen clearly
enough once training is begun and the same applies to individual Dojo (training hall) regulations.
The widespread attitude of behaviour and etiquette in the Budo arts derives from Kendo since it
was foremost of such studies in former times. The only Budo are pre-dating Kendo is Kyudo
Philosophy and semi-religious attitudes, as a universal concept of swordsmanship, is
regarded as dating from the sixteenth century although the broad field of techniques and
movements can be traced to the ninth century and the introduction of the modern Japanese sword.
The term Kendo (Sword-Way) has only been in general usage since 1895 and prior to this many
terms were in use at various periods. Whilst Kendo derives directly from swordsmanship it must
be understood that the wearing of padded armour and of the bamboo Shinai or practice sword
changes many aspects, both physical and mental. Swords are still sometimes used in Kata or preset
'Forms' but the real appreciation of the 'heart' of Kendo is only gained in direct combat and
is thus very difficult to understand in modern times.
Kyu (Student) and Dan (Step) grades are awarded in Kendo for proficiency and are the
exact equivalent of other Budo art grades, except that no belt or distinguishing mark is worn. It
is easy to assess a student's ability by the way he sits, stands or moves about the Dojo. Grading
is a relatively modern idea and as a general rule not much attention is paid to this. It is normal
fashion to ask the grade of a strange student prior to, or after, practice but a more common
question is merely how long he has been training.
As a very broad guide to progress the grade of Sankyo (3rd Kyu) normally means the
student has probably trained two or three evenings per week over about a year. The grade of
Shodan (1st Dan) may take anything from three to five years and progress through the Dan ranks
becomes progressively more difficult. The average European could expect to pass a number of
years equivalent to the next Dan rank taken. Mastery is generally accepted as being 6th Dan or
above and even in Japan may take from fifteen to twenty years unless the student is particularly
brilliant. Only three or four Judan or 10th Dan exist at any one period and these are elderly
gentlemen who display not only technical ability but possess very real human qualities as well.
It has not been uncommon to find Kendo Masters in their nineties who train five hours every day
retaining agility and skill.
Grade refers to a certain level of technical proficiency and is not necessarily relevant to
ability or the understanding of Kendo. Since we have competition without any direct physical
contact Kendo is predominantly psychological by necessity and since the full personality does
not develop until about the age of forty there is no noticeable drop in ability with advancing age.
In pre-war years, when a deeper study was made, the Champions were always at least in their
fifties and Kenshiro Abbe Sensei tells of his own teacher at the Busen College, who, at the age
of seventy-five, could not be touched on the body by any young students or even young teachers.
2. The Fundamentals of Kendo
Ability and progress in Kendo is said to consist of some eighty per cent posture and only
twenty per cent technique. In Kendo we are not merely attempting to hit the opponent, but to
deliver a correct technique in a specified manner. From this viewpoint Kendo has much in
common with shooting, since both posture and breathing are of importance. But the situation is
more complex in Kendo; both attacker and target are very likely to be in motion. Aiming has
little to do with Kendo and we do not even watch the target as we cut. Aim develops quite
naturally if left to itself. One does not make a fully conscious effort when reaching to pick up
an object and in the same way the precise target areas may be easily struck immediately by the
novice, providing that he is not inhibited by the concept of aiming, or it being particularly
Shisei (general posture and carriage)
Shisei forms the foundation and platform from which all actions must spring and the
techniques will only be as stable as the base provided. The simple way to view the repertoire of
techniques is as each being the spoke of a wheel. To one side branch the purely aggressive
techniques and to the other the more passive techniques. The waiting condition should be in the
centre, where a free adoption of other techniques can be made with equal facility depending on
circumstances. Any intellectual planning or concentration on one aspect will inhibit the technique
at the crucial moment. The basic posture should therefore express the neutral and natural
condition of the human being and this applies equally; both externally and internally.
The hips and shoulders should be square, the spine and head erect with the chin tucked
slightly in. The body should be relaxed but firm, neither rigid and tense, nor loose and drooping.
Equally the mind should be calm and watchful, but not committed to any specific attitude. Any
heavy extreme is bad and it must be remembered that each negative expression includes a little
positive expression within itself and vice-versa.
The natural physique of a human being is shown by an upright spine and head whilst
excessive egoism results in hunched shoulders and rigidity without suppleness. The shoulders
should therefore fall downwards to their natural position and the body-weight dropped to the
Chushin (centre of gravity) just below the navel, and the general feeling of balance carried in this
area. Balance is of more importance in Kendo than in the other Budo arts in that the student has
no contact with his opponent to aid or assist his own balance. The student must act and move
in a completely independent fashion, automatically harmonizing with the opponent's actions but
having little control over them.
What we term the Chushin-sen (body centre-line) is an imaginary line which we visualize
as passing through nose, navel and striking the floor exactly between the feet. Regardless of
changing foot positions or widening the stance the Chushin-sen must be kept straight to maintain
balance. This line is important as related to technique and in most cases the movement of the
sword follows this line.
Shisei can be simply regarded as the basic posture of the upper torso and head in relations
to floor and hips. In Kendo the basic Shisei should hold true, regardless of the movements or
position of arms and legs at any given moment. Naturally enough, the position of Shisei is very
similar to meditation posture and known for thousands of years in the East as the ideal and
natural positioning of torso and head. One should not be confused by different circumstances in
other Budo arts which demand variations due to the different techniques. Essentially the Shisei
is the same.
Kamae (positions of posture)
Kamae actually means 'Posture' but in context is more clearly expressed as 'position' since
it refers specifically to the position in which the Shinai or bamboo practice sword is held. The
height of blade is divided into three levels or Dan (steps) and designated as Jodan (high step),
Chudan (middle step), and Gedan (low step). 'No-kamae' means 'posture of', but the short form
as above is general.
Seigan-no-kamae (natural posture)
Seigan (natural step) is the more common name for Chudan. The right foot is advanced
with the knee slightly bent; the left leg is straight with the heel clear of the floor. The Shinai is
held in front of the body with both hands, in a natural manner that does not interfere with the
basic Shisei. The sword points directly at the opponent's eyes and crosses his point about three
to four inches from the tip. This is at a distance of some seven to seven feet six inches and
defined as Ma-ai or the theoretical distance from which an attack can be launched with a single
Seigan (or Chudan) is defined as when the blade points forward from the left hand, which
is held in line with the Chushin (body centre), at an angle above horizontal and below the
opponent's eyes. A lower angle more completely covers the front attack line whilst a higher angle
to cover the eyes has more psychological effect on the opponent. Seigan is the most important
posture to study and understand. It is the only position which covers the front attack line and also
the only position to give equal facility for offence or defence as required. All variations are
virtually a weakening of this basic stance, used to deliberately provoke an attack by the opponent.
Judan-no-kamae (high posture)
Jodan is the only important variation used today and is favoured in contests. Jodan has
a very strong character since it is very aggressive. 'Jodan' is universally taken to mean Migijodan-
no-kamae (with right foot advanced) unless otherwise specified. But the more common or
comfortable form is the Hidari Jodan (left foot advanced) this makes single handed cuts very
convenient as explained later. The angle shown is fairly conservative (about forty-five degrees)
but this can vary a good deal from almost perpendicular to nearly horizontal. Some schools
suggest that the arms be as shown - in a natural position - whilst others allow the elbows to
spring out. The body direction can be square or slightly turned to either side. Sometimes the
Shinai is held in this line whilst at others it may be canted over or held almost cross-wise. Much
of this variation is due to the particular techniques specialized in or according to personal taste.
At any rate the only classification made is left, or right foot advanced. An exception to this is
the radical Katate Jodan (single hand) postures in which either hand will release its grip on the
hilt and the blade is balanced back on this hand which supports the back edge of the blade.
Any form of Jodan completely opens the front attack line and the student must have a
good sense of timing and outmatch his opponent if he is to take any advantage.
Gedan-no-kamae (low posture)
Gedan is still used to some extend and in this case the attack line is opened by dropping
the point. In some variations the Sinai may be turned off to either side and Gedan is in itself an
invitation to attack the head. The posture is defined as when the point drops below horizontal.
Waki-gamae (side posture)
Waki-gamae has little use in modern Kendo apart from Kata (forms) in that it was
originally designed as a Sutemi Waza (sacrifice technique) and such techniques merely result in
Aiuchi (double hits) in modern Kendo.
Hasso-kamae (figure of eight posture)
Hasso-kamae is not illustrated but the Shinai is carried almost vertically at either shoulder,
so that in combination the two complimentary sides are likened to the Japanese figure eight, or
Hachi. These are sometimes referred to as Yo-no-kamae and Inno-kamae, Yo-in being the
positive/negative principle (Yinyang in Chinese). Hasso has variations in the Jodan and Chudan
positions, the former high above the head and the latter low at the hip and canted backwards. As
a minor point Waki-gamae takes what would be the Gedan position of Hasso, except that the
blade is reversed.
Hasso-kamae is also a Sutemi Waza and has little use in modern Kendo but with Wakigamae,
Gedan, Chudan and Jodan, completes the five fundamental postures.
There are literally dozens of other postures - many very ancient. Some better known ones
are the Kasumi-kamae found in low, middle, and high positions in which the arms are crossed
over so as to partly conceal the technique; Kasumi means 'mountain mist'. Another variation is
the Kongo-kamae in which the blade is held vertically in front of the face. There is a particular
phase during which such postures appear attractive to the student but he should not become
involved in them. It is, however, as well to learn by experience and it will soon be found that
such postures are too restrictive under modern conditions.
The essential posture to concentrate on is the Seigan (natural posture) and this is
absolutely essential as a basis for anything else. To enable the hands to grip as naturally as
possible it will be noted that the elbows are slightly sprung outwards. The Shinai is exactly in
the centre line and the posture should be relaxed and comfortable. An amount of stiffness and
awkwardness is inevitable at first but if no effort is made the position cannot be achieved with
ease at a later date.
Nigiri (the hand grip)
The method of gripping the hilt is the foundation of the cut and the movement of the
Shinai. If the hands are incorrectly placed it is impossible to deliver a correct stroke, especially
with regard to the left hand. Because of the gloves, this is difficult to see clearly but the position
is the same as in the plate.
The left hand is always at the very end of the hilt, regardless of whether the student is
left, or right-handed. The hilt lies transversely across the palm of the hand along the line of life,
crossing under the base of the index finger and the butt lies in the heel of the hand. The three
smallest fingers curl back over the hilt to point back at an angle of forty-five degrees to its
length, and tighten firmly to pull the butt into the inner palm which we call Tenno-uchi (inside
hand). The fore-finger and thumb just curl about the hilt in a comfortable position.
The Tuska-gawa (hilt leather) of modern Shinai are constructed with more length and the
right hand is placed with an inch or so clearance below the guard. This is to avoid the excessive
wear of the glove constantly rubbing against the guard.
The wrists are snapped well inwards so the hands lie along the top of the hilt and the
knuckles of each fore-finger should be aligned with the edges. The Shinai should form a natural
extension of the arms and the hands be in the ideal position for maximum control. The correct
grip will only be possible if the wrists are supple and again this is a question of practice.
The Tenno-uchi (inner palm) of the left hand is the main cutting source and the placing
of the left hand most important. The right hand does almost nothing, merely supporting the
Shinai and guiding direction. Once the correct grip is understood the left hand is aligned with
the Chushin (body centre) and thrust about four inches forward.
Students should avoid grasping squarely since this stiffens the arms and shoulders, or
allowing the hands to slip around the sides of the hilt. In this case it is impossible to control the
cutting and movements of the Shinai.
Shintai Dosa (basic footwork)
If it is understood that Shisei (fundamental posture) is the foundation of all techniques it
will be equally clear that the only way to preserve this position is by footwork. All footwork is
designed to preserve Shisei and generally speaking to maintain the advanced position of the right
foot to facilitate instant attack at any moment. The basic aim is to step forward and strike the
opponent in a special way and the only method of closing this distance without loss of Shisei or
balance is by the correct step.
In the basic waiting position the left heel is lifted clear of the floor and the right knee
slightly bent so that the body is inclined forward and some seventy per cent of the total body
weight falls on to the ball of the right foot. In Kendo we are not concerned with attacks from the
side or rear. There is only a single opponent who will always approach from the front. The basic
posture is rather weak to the sides and backward movement is also less efficient but the whole
body is poised for forward attack when required.
The right foot is advanced about the distance of its own length. There is just sufficient
room for the left leg to pass in front of the right if necessary and the toes of both feet point
directly forward. If the left toes are allowed to point sideways (a common fault) or if there is too
much lateral distance between the feet, the thrusting action of the left foot will tend to throw the
body over to the right and balance will be lost. The left foot should be as close to the centre-line
as possible, but not so much as to cause loss of balance or awkwardness. Balance is greatly aided
by turning the toes slightly inwards, which has the effect of steadying the body inwards to the
centre-line, rather similar to the result of Shibori, as will be seen later.
Fumikomi (diagram I) shows the actual attack step and in all illustrations the starting
position is shown as shaded whilst the number refers to the sequence of steps. Fumikomi means
'jumping in' and this is the only occasion when the feet leave the floor. By studying diagrams 1
and 2 this may be clearly followed. The left foot thrusts the body forward and the right knee
punches upwards, the right foot strikes vigorously into the floor as the cut lands. This is followed
almost simultaneously by the left foot, which is drawn up into its original position. As the cut
lands the body is virtually travelling forward in the original Shisei position. At this moment the
direction of body-weight is direct forwards and downwards at an angle of forty-five degrees to
assist balance. There is a very brief pause as the cut lands. Then a series of smaller steps are
made until the forward momentum is dissipated. This follow-through, or Tsuzukete, continues to
maintain the right foot in advance whilst the left foot constantly pushes. The result should be that
the feet slide smoothly across the floor in a fast 'shuffling' action.
As will be seen later, a full Fumikomi (attack step) means that some three feet to three
feet six inches must be covered and so the Tsuzukete not only aids balance but also gives a
smooth finish to the technique. It also has the extra function of avoiding any retaliation by the
opponent. For clarity the Tsuzukete is shown in a direct line but in actual fact it is necessary to
sidestep to avoid crashing into the opponent.
The method of keeping the right foot advanced is termed Tsugu-ashi (following feet) and
is the method of stepping employed at any time when the opponent is at Ma Ai distance or attack
range. When stepping backwards the right foot pushes back and is drawn back afterwards. A
single Tsugu-ashi step is two separate movements of the feet made almost simultaneously, ie,
'one-two", 'one-two' and so on.
Nami Ashi (diagram 2) are normal 'pace' steps in which one foot is advanced from the
rear. Nami-ashi means 'succeeding feet'. As the left foot advances in Nami-ashi any attack action
is very difficult and because of this, Nami-ashi is avoided altogether except when well out of
range. In Nami-ashi the feet are still slid smoothly along the floor, without lifting up, so that
constant contact is maintained.
Diagram 3 shows a combination of Nami-ashi and Fumikomi in a method of attack from
long distance, often used in competition. To cover the extra distance the left foot comes forward
in advance of the right and the right foot is then advanced in normal Fumikomi style. In this
specific case the advance of the left foot does not inhibit the attack since it is contained within
the actual process of attack as the initial phase. With this type of attack it is possible to cover
double the distance or more.
Ugoki (side steps) are mainly employed to pass by the opponent after attack and normally
comprise the first of the Tsuzukete (follow through) steps. Diagram 4a shows the Mae-migi Ugoki
(forward right) and Ushiro-hidari-ugoki (rear left) diagonal and by definition these are Tsugu-ashi
(following feet). Diagram 4b shows the Mae-hidari-ugoki (forward left) and Ushiro-migi-ugoki
(rear right) and to prevent the feet crossing over and to avoid tripping, these are technically in
Nami-ashi (succeeding feet) style. Because of this, movement along this latter diagonal is avoided
where possible. The Ugoki step has the effect of taking the body out of line whilst maintaining
the shoulder and hips square to the direction of movement. If the body is allowed to swing
sideways in passing, balance will be very easily lost.
Mawashi (turning steps), mainly used when meeting an attack, shift the body out of the
attack line and turn the receiver's own centre-line inwards, to allow for a counter stroke. Since
the opponent is attacking, the distance is rapidly decreasing and thus, although vigorous, the
Mawashi step is very short and balance to the side is not threatened. Diagram 5 shows merely
the basic side movements of Mawashi and in the case of movement along either diagonals the
sequence of steps will be as for Ugoki. Where possible it is better that the first foot be placed
directly in the new line to avoid spinning on the feet. Only a relatively short step is necessary
to clear the attack line and if the feet stamp down properly the balance is better preserved.
Almost any combination of step may be made, according to circumstance and diagram
6 shows one in which a Mae-hidari Ugoki (forward left) side-step is changed to a Migi-mawashi
(right) swinging step by turning on the sole of the foot. The circumstances in which this type of
step might occur would be in attacking the right wrist or Kote or in performing certain counter
techniques to this left hand side.
Generally speaking, footwork should be as smooth and precise as possible, so as to avoid
'Rocking' the body backwards and forwards. No mater what direction the step takes the action
is always that of thrusting with the rear foot; if retiring the right foot becomes the 'rear' foot in
the context. The Tsuzukete (follow-through) will be found difficult but must be concentrated
upon. The Fumikomi is very vigorous and all other steps smooth, so that the body glides over
the floor and the feet are constantly in contact, ready to leap forward as an opportunity occurs.
Another very important aspect of footwork is the distance factor, since only the top
portion of the blade is used to strike and thus the distance and range of each attack step must be
requlated with the appropriate footwork. As the opponent attacks the length of our own attack
step shortens proportionately. This is similar to the 'deflection' factor in shooting against a
moving target and whilst this stepping, in relation to where the opponent will be, is difficult, it
comes with experience.
It is necessary to make a definite step when cutting, or if the distance does happen to be
just correct, then the motion of a step or a stamp is made and co-ordinated precisely with the cut.
Cuts to the front are very much easier than cuts made whilst reversing and thus a forward sidestep
or diagonal will often provide just that little extra space necessary to cut forward rather than
backwards. Backward cuts are quite valid if correctly performed but the student should
concentrate on forward attacks as much as possible since constant retreating and backward
strokes result in a negative style and make it impossible to understand Kendo.
3. The Principles of Cutting
The essence of Kendo consists in Kiri-otoshi, or 'striking downwards' and each technique
is virtually the same. If we can master a single technique of delivery this may be applied with
equal facility in any direction or angle. For clarity we are forced to separate various actions into
sections but the student is advised to regard all techniques as simple variations of the basic
Two directions of cut are included, with the blade moving forward Oshigiri, or backward,
Hiki-giri. The angle of stroke is either straight vertical, or diagonal lateral. For simplification all
diagonals are expressed as forty-five degrees. With two directions and two angles it is therefore
possible to strike any portion of the opponent's body by adjusting the direction or distance in
which our body moves. The diagonal stroke is just the same as the vertical except that the arc
of the stroke is canted over to either side.
Fluidity of technique comes with the understanding of the basic principles involved in the
movement of the body and the swinging of the Shinai (bamboo sword). As mentioned earlier the
great principle of Nature operates on circular or cyclic action and this holds true not only with
the physical plane but also abstracts and conditions. In macro-cosmic proportion the planets turn
and in micro-cosmic proportion the pattern repeats in the wave flow or vibration of matter. This
is also reflected in the 'Turning' of the seasons and the transmigratory nature of all existing forms
and things. With an axis which revolves the simple circles appear as a spiral and should the spiral
also be spiralling the resulting motion is too complex to understand. In actual fact the common
factor in all motion is that it shall be relative to itself rather than to the surrounding space. By
this means we return to the fundamental circle as a basis both for our actions and viewpoint and
our particular school is known as Kyu-shin-do or 'heart of the circle'.
The human body is a perfect circular machine, designed to turn on pivots and capable of
extremely harmonious and smooth movements if properly directed. To make ugly, stiff actions
or to force our limbs into a straight line by our human conceptions of speed and directness is as
though we took up a finely made pair of compasses and proceeded to draw straight lines by
constantly altering the radius. A circle viewed from the side is a straight line and a straight line
can be followed by a gradual unwinding of the joints and the basic attitude of mind is to let the
circles play themselves out and not keep our attention on the straight line as such. In Kendo even
the thrust is regarded and understood as merely a different direction of circle, or cut.
The first principle of the stroke is that a perfect circle is made, as in diagram 7. The two
forces of centrifugal force (Enshin-ryoku) and centripetal force (Kyushin-ryoku) play a great part
in our handling and control of the Shinai. It will be noted that if the Shinai revolves an inch or
so from the hilt end the motion/force/speed ratio increases to approximately x24 at the tip. It is
therefore a great advantage to turn from one end and strike with the other. The Shinai is divided
into three sections on the blade the Dage-kibu (striking base) above the leather Musubi, or thong,
the Chu O (centre section) and the Tsuba-moto (guard base). As a general rule blows are struck
with the Dage-kibu and the opponent's blade controlled or taken off along the Tsuba-moto which
not only moves more slowly but also gives greater control of the point. The only problem is that
the effort required to turn the Shinai will be inversely proportional as we leave the periphery of
motion and the way this is overcome is by the second principle.
Diagram 8a shows an arm turning in a an antic-clockwise direction about a fixed point
(a), another extension arm being pivoted at point (b) and allowed to swing freely. As the inner
arm revolves to position 8b centrifugal force will act outwards from the centre and the extension
arm will open with increasing velocity. Diagram 8c shows the way in which this applies to the
cutting arm in Kendo. In this case the inner section from shoulder to elbow may turn forty-five
degrees. The second section, from elbow to wrist may turn through twenty two and a half
degrees, whilst the Shinai itself may turn only eleven degrees or so. In each extension the actual
distance and motion is less but the speed increases.
This accumulation of effort by direct stages is the main reason for relaxation and the arms
should be allowed to unwind naturally during a stroke. If the feeling is of 'throwing outwards'
centrifugal force provides much of the power of a stroke and the physical action need be very
little. A very popular phrase of Kenshiro Abbe Sensei is 'maximum efficacy through the
minimum of effort'.
A very common fault of people not understanding this principle or who cannot be
bothered to study it during their practice, is to attempt a levering type action with the right hand
and pivot the Shinai from the left hand. Whilst the ratio of correct stroke is 24 to 1 the latter
ratio will only be about 3 to 1 so whilst, the levering section appears easy through ignorance it
is in fact making very hard work of the cut. It is better to start correctly from the very beginning
and loosen the shoulders well. The outward feeling and spaciousness of technique is also essential
in developing the Kokyu or 'breath power' essential to Budo.
Having understood the first two principles we must now examine the final result in the
moment of cutting, called Ki-ken-tai-ichi, or the moment when 'spirit-sword-body' become 'one'.
At the moment of impact there must be focus of all available forces to one point and this is best
developed in three explanatory diagrams.
9a shows the angle of approach as the Shinai strikes. In this basic action the only
available force is that implied by the radial velocity, which will fall at a tangent to the arc and
results in a 'penetration angle' of about ninety degrees. This is not good since it is as though we
cut a loaf of bread by pressing straight downwards. The centrifugal force being countered by
9b shows the same condition but in this case the Shinai is metaphorically flung forward
on impact and in the crucial instant this has the effect of countering the centripetal effect. The
result is the introduction of centrifugal force, along the length of Shinai. The result will be a new
penetration angle bisecting the two forces at an angle of forty-five degrees, and an efficient
'slicing' action is implied.
9c shows the force line of the body moving forward and the final angle is again bisected
to arrive at a very efficient slicing angle of penetration. In this way the downward cutting action
of the stroke is directed forward and the penetration action is implied rather than factual. The
Kiai or shout is uttered at his moment and serves to throw the mind and spirit into the Shinai.
10 shows merely the final effect in reverse, when a cut is made with a backward step. In
this case the arms are straightened but the Shinai is drawn back in imagination and the whole
direction reverses inside the arc of the stroke.
The stroke is very rapid and normally made during the first few years with a wide and
full swing to loosen the joints and to develop a free and easy style. When we cut we either stop
the action dead, at head level if exercising alone, or strike to just below the surface of an
imaginary target area. The effect of merely chopping downwards makes the action difficult to
control, especially if the student attempts to directly oppose the arc of the stroke. By flinging
forward at the final moment the Shinai is easy to halt and the right arm acts rather as the tallchain
on a lorry since the major downward force has been redirected forward. A well controlled
blow lands sharply and cleanly, with a crisp snap, and follows through smoothly and easily.
Shibori (wringing) is another most important action on striking. The effect of the hands
being in different positions will be to drag the Shinai off centre and the Shibori action of
squeezing the hands into the centre negate their effect by opposition. Shibori steadies the blade
and gives definition and control to the stroke and it must be timed to co-ordinate exactly with
the moment of impact. The actual physical effect of the blow is more via kinetic energy than
actual downward force.
Immediately after the blow lands the hands are relaxed and the Shinai passes off above
the target in a very natural fashion. This is likened to the effect of a ball which will bounce
upwards at the same angle at which it approaches the floor, but will still continue in the same
Diagram 11 shows the coordination of arms and legs during the attack step. 11a is the
starting posture, 11b shows the Shinai thrusting forward as the right foot begins to rise. 11c
shows the Shinai lifting and still thrusting forward, whilst the right knee begins to punch
upwards. 11d shows the highest point of the stroke, with the arms stretching upwards. 11e shows
the mid point of stroke the whole body is in the air and the blade is in roughly the Jodan (high
posture) position. 11f shows the moment of impact as the Shinai is thrown forward. The action
of taking off on the first Tsuzukete (follow-through) step will be approximately that of 11c.
Note that the blade thrusts forward before it lifts and that the head line is virtually level
throughout. The cut is coordinated with the stamp of the right foot and the left is drawn up
almost simultaneously. Numbers 2a and 2e comprise the development of the stroke and from this
point the left hand having thrust forward and upwards then pulls downward and throws forward,
much as if throwing a knife. The right hand does almost nothing only guiding direction and
aiding in the control on impact. The arms and hands should be supple and relaxed until about two
or three inches above the target, there is then an instant of tension in the Shibori (wringing) and
Ki-ken-tai-ichi as the action is concentrated. There is then another moment of relaxation in taking
off and a slight tension in controlling the following-through blade.
Most movements of the Shinai, including the attack stroke will be found to consist of
interplay between centrifugal and centripetal force and also of relaxation and tension. If great
strength is applied the result will be rigidity and the accumulation of force described in principle
two cannot flow freely into the blade. If the tension is timed too early the blow will be dead for
the same reason and the same will apply if it is too late. A nice technique results in perfect coordination
of all factors.
Kiai means 'spirit meeting' and is only referred to as 'shouting' by association. True Kiai
is the force of the spirit power, and can be equally as powerful if silent. In Kendo this serves the
double function of 'calling the cuts' although a short sharp Kiai is often common as in all Budo
The Chushin (body centre) is often called Saika-tanden or Shita-hara and is regarded as
the centre of motion and the source of Kiai and Kokyu (breath power). The student should
imagine a volume of sound already contained in his stomach, the mouth opens and the sound
comes out, not from the throat but deep in the lower belly. As the breath is expelled the stomach
drops downwards with the body weight.
This power which develops is from out imagination and not muscular. In olden times
swordsmen frequently cut an opponent from head to groin with a single stroke. This factor of
training should be employed against inanimate objects to be understood, but never used in
practice since armour is no protection.
The whole spiritual aspect of Kendo cannot really be discussed and the student will do
better to study this directly from his teacher. However, the whole idea is aided by loud, drawnout
shouts and one hundred per cent vigour in performing attacks. The more running about and
shouting, the better the training and the more easy it is to see the conception of Kendo.
Timing of co-ordination
The initial action is for the novice to raise his Shinai before stepping forward since the
arms normally lag behind the feet when untrained. The second phase is when the Shinai is raised
as the step is made, giving less warning to the opponent. As the timing sense grows finer the
lifting action can be delayed still further as necessary.
In diagram 11 the action will appear almost the same for diagonal cuts except that the
blade will cant over on the downstroke. By raising each time to the direct high centre position,
the minimum of warning is given.
4. The Preliminaries
Suburi (foundation action)
An evening's training normally begins with some form of callisthenics to loosen up and
what we term Suburi or practice swings of the Shinai. These preliminary exercises are sometimes
performed individually by students and also in group form. Suburi is the most important exercise
in Kendo since it develops the stroke and can also be employed to build up stamina and strength,
which is naturally important for drawn-out matches or practice sessions.
San-kyodo-no-suburi (cutting in three stages) is the basic form. The first action is to raise
the blade, thrusting forward and upwards as in diagram 11. After the highest point, 11e, the arms
are folded back as in plate 106 and the body is stretched upwards so that the fullest possible
circle is made and the joints well stretched. To do this the right arm must relax its grip and
revolve about the hilt as it is turned by the left hand; this is shown in plate 107 and it will be
noted that the left hand has retained its grip so that the cutting edge of the Shinai faces to the
direct right. The Shinai touches the base of the spine and the hands have turned inwards. The cut
is performed by simultaneously stepping forward with Tsugu Ashi (following feet) and cutting
by throwing the Shinai upwards and outwards with the left hand. The right hand gradually
revolves as the left hand turns the Shinai to its original position, but in this case the action is
delayed so that the correct hand position is re-assumed at the exact finish of the cut. Plate 108
shows almost the final instant. The left leg is just drawing up to position and the hands are just
about to squeeze as the wrists snap inwards. The cut is halted at head or eye level.
Suburi are always made in this very wide and exaggerated action to give maximum
exercise and often the novice cuts only in this way throughout his initial training. The cutting at
head level may be varied by diagonals but it is not necessary to exercise cuts against other targets
in this way since only a matter of height is involved. This is automatically adjusted just as we
adjust to varying heights of opponent without effort.
Mae-ato-suburi are the normal form in which cuts are made forwards and backwards in
a rhythmic fashion, with the cutting action coordinated with the footwork. A more exhausting
form of Suburi for stamina training, are Tonde (with a leap) Suburi in which a jumping or
skipping action is made rather than a simple sliding step. Sonkyo (crouching) Suburi strengthens
the legs and may take the form of cutting whilst sinking and rising from this position or may
consist in bouncing up and down whilst cutting from this position, or even cutting and walking.
The most exhausting of all are Tobigaki (jumping) Suburi in which the student leaps as high as
he can and attempts to touch his buttocks with his heels as he raises the Shinai and cut as he
It is really true that no progress is possible without Suburi training and the keen student
should set himself a target of 500 or 1.000 cuts per days if conditions allow.
It will be noted that in the final action the right shoulder swings a little forward since the
right hand is advanced on the hilt, but the hips remain square. This swinging forward should not
be exaggerated and the student will find it occurs naturally if he concentrates rather on keeping
the shoulders square but letting the shoulder come forward a little if this feels awkward. The
student will almost certainly find his hands blister until a tough hardened palm develops.
Callouses along the forefinger show that the technique is incorrect, the areas of callous as shown
in diagram 12 give a good guide to correctness of technique. The right hand is hardly affected.
Correct footwork will also cause blistered feet until the soles harden, after which very
little trouble is experienced. The only injuries normally resulting in Kendo are a few bumps and
bruises from blows and sprains or self-inflicted dislocations. At any rate there are few serious
accidents although Kendo often appears dangerous. The student should ignore any painful blows
and never duct or show any sign of discomfort. In actual fact a blow is far more painful if the
student cringes. To ignore a blow means that it is rarely felt and normally bruises are only noted
when changing after practice.
5. Reishiki (Ceremonial Form)
Reishiki is important for self-discipline and safety during the practice, since it reminds the
students that they are there to study seriously. The details of laying out equipment and the precise
form Reishiki takes will vary from Dojo to Dojo but that given here is fairly typical. The student
when visiting merely follows the particular form of that school. A training session without
Reishiki will be casual and lacking in form, which prevents the development of united spirit
among students and also leads to accidents. The effect of Reishiki is that from the moment of
entering the Dojo all outside thoughts are to be put aside until we leave again and to create a
proper atmosphere for serious study. The atmosphere should not be over strict or depressing.
Amusing incidents often occur and the students should feel free to laugh or talk providing that
this is not interfering with training. In actual fact the student is normally fully occupied during
training and so discipline is hardly a problem. Enforced discipline is of little worth. The student
must himself want to follow his own discipline and etiquette to build his character.
The correct style of entry to the Dojo is shown in plate 109, the breastplate and lower
armour have been donned in the dressing room and the head towel, gloves and loose cords placed
inside the mask, which is carried grill downwards under the left arm. The Shinai is carried in the
left hand, parallel to the floor. A Tachi-rei (standing bow) is made on entering the Dojo and the
more senior students line up in order of grade to the instructor's left-hand side.
Plate 110 shows the Seiza (seated posture). The spine and head are erect and the body sits
well back on the heels. The body-weight is dropped to the stomach and the hands placed on the
knees. The Shinai is placed to the left side with the guard level with the knee and the mask laid
on the gloves, to the front, with the towel draped across the top. The Senior student ensures all
are ready then shouts 'Kyo-tsuke' (attention) and everybody braces up and pays attention. The
second command will be 'Rei' and the class and teacher perform Za-rei' (kneeling bow) as in
plate 111. The left hand is placed on the floor followed by the right, the elbows lowered to touch
the floor and the forehead to touch the hands.
A high ranking teacher will often be accorded the courtesy of a special salutation and on
the command 'Sensei-ni-rei' (bow to the teacher) the class bows whilst the teacher remains in
Seiza position. Japanese Dojo have a Kamiza or shrine and a bow is made in this direction. It is
also etiquette to pass in front of the teacher and perform Zae-rei by way of thanks after an
evening's instruction and also to other students.
After the Rei have been completed a short period of meditation is made to calm the mind
and settle the thoughts. At the command 'Mokuso' (meditation), or 'Muso' (no thoughts) the hands
are folded in the lap, right over left (negative over positive) and silence reigns for about two or
three minutes. Students concentrate on breathing or the Chushin (body centre) and attempt to gain
the right frame of mind. This whole procedure is performed in reverse at the end of the evening.
Before any practice, exercise with a partner, or contest, the following form is always
followed. The junior approaches to the senior and both make Tachi-rei as in plate 112, in this
case the Shinai is at an angle as though in a scabbard. Next the two participants move to Ma-ai
(fighting distance) and drop down into the Sonkyo (crouch position) and make the motion of
drawing a blade with the right hand, over the head and down into the Chudan (middle step)
position. The left hand is placed in position as in plate 113, and upon standing and assuming
correct Seigan (natural posture) as in plate 114, they are ready to begin. The same form applies
in reverse on finishing.
All bows are performed as naturally as possible, with rather a military flavour, avoiding
both casual half bows and heavy elaborate ceremony. The bow is a courtesy or greeting to the
opponent and should be treated as such. Its meaning is that all students help one another to
progress and wish to understand one another by direct technique and spirit during practice or
6. Kogeki-Waza (Offensive Techniques)
Uchi-dokoro (striking areas)
The target areas in Kendo are classified as Men (the mask area above the ears), Kote (the
glove, just above the joint of the wrist), and the Do (side portion of the breastplate). All blows
must be declared loudly by name as they are struck to the targets. In general terms, the complete
top section of the head is counted as Men, the gauntlet portion covering the lower forearm as
Kote and the entire lower section of the breastplate as Do. The only thrust in Kendo is termed
and declared as, Tsuki.
Direct attacks are known as Shodan-waza whilst composite techniques or two separate
attacks used in combination are called Nidan-waza (two step techniques). The most complex form
employed are Sandan-waza (three step techniques) and if no score is made the participants must
separate and re-start. The following classifications refer to delivery and are not specified when
Shomen-uchi (striking the front mask)
This is shown in plate 115 and consists of a vertical, or straight blow to the centre of the
mask. Note that the blow is delivered on the reinforced padding above the grill, with the cutting
edge of the Dage-kibu (striking base).
Plate 116 shows the position during the follow-through, on the first step, as the attacker
passes to his own right and carries the Shinai forward. In actual fact the attacker is dashing past
at this point, rather than standing.
Hidari-yokomen-uchi (striking the left side mask)
This is shown in Plate 117 and after lifting the blade exactly to the centre it is canted over
to strike diagonally to the opponent's left temple. Note that the cutting edge has turned inwards
to strike the rim of the grill at ninety degrees. The follow-through will appear exactly as for
Shomen and apart from the canting over, the same form applies.
Migi-yokomen-uchi (striking the right side mask)
This is shown in plate 118 and is exactly the same as Hidari Yokomen. It is normal to
pass to the attacker's own left after cutting to this side.
Migi-gote-uchi (striking the right wrist)
In its basic form this consists of a vertical blow which strikes over the joint of the right
wrist. Note that the arms are extended and the blow is again delivered with the cutting edge of
the Dage-kibu. As can be seen the Migi-gote is the only directly open target, plate 119.
Plate 120 shows the first follow-through step as the attacker passes to his own left. Note
that the Shinai is carried forward and brushes over the opponent's right shoulder.
Migi-do-uchi (striking the right breastplate)
This is shown in plate 121 and consists of a low diagonal blow to the right side of the
breastplate. Note that the technique is delivered a little more deeply than for the Men and Kote
attacks and again the cutting edge is turned inwards. It will be seen that the arms are well
extended forward into the line of attack and that the left hand remains inside the Chushin-sen
Plate 122 shows the first follow-through step after cutting the Do, as the attacker passes
to his own right. So as to pass clearly the blade is snapped back to the attacker's right shoulder
when passing. This form of pass can also be used when attacking the Migi-gote, if the opponent's
Shinai happens to be high.
These are the five basic striking attacks in Kendo and all are precisely the same in nature,
merely directed to various targets. The direction is forward when cutting, neither downward in
cutting the Men, nor sideways when cutting the Do.
Hidari-uchi (striking to the left)
A single blow to the left temple is regarded as sufficient practice to this side, which is
the easy side. In normal practice the Hidari-do (left Do) plate 123, and the Hidari-gote (left
Kote) plate 124, are out of play. These come into play if the opponent adopts an initial variation
Kamae (posture) and thus conceals or restricts the targets. This does not apply to actual processes
The above attacks are known as Men, Hidari-men, Migi-men, Kote, Do, Hidari-do and
Hidari-gote in their shortened form.
Tsuki (the thrust)
The only thrust in Kendo is to the throat guard or Kubi-tare, the stiff pad at the lower
bottom of the grill. The Tsuki is very dangerous since the Shinai is a rigid weapon and this thrust
is forbidden below the rank of 3rd Kyu. At all times the Tsuki should be performed with caution.
A wild jab can easily damage the neck, or slip under the pad and cause permanent damage to the
throat. The Tsuki should only be employed when it has been properly taught and practised. This
is shown in plate 125 and it is not possible to pass so a step backwards follows the thrust.
The deliveries are as follows:
Jodan-uchi - Blows delivered from the high position.
Dai-jodan-uchi - Blows delivered with the widest possible action, touching the back each
time when lifting the blade. For exercise and development of technique.
Tenno-uchi - Blows delivered with the hands where instead of lifting to the Jodan position
as usual, the blade lifts in a limited action and both hands perform a 'levering' action which
results in a short sharp blow suitable for free practice or contest. Tenno-uchi should not be
confused with 'inside palm' and when striking the Kote the blade merely passes over the
opponent's point and when striking the Do it is canted back to the attacker's left should, much
as when passing after cutting.
Sashigari - thrusting cut. This is often termed Oshigari (thrusting cut). The blade is not
lifted above the target level but thrusts straight forward and a sharp crisp blow results in positive
footwork with well-timed Shibori (wringing action) as well as complete suppleness during the
delivery. In normal cases the Kote must be attacked by passing over the opponent's point to the
other side but with this technique the attacker can drop his own point and pass straight in. This
is sometimes termed Maki-gote (winding in).
The Tenno-uchi and especially Sashigari cannot be understood unless correct action has
been learned by constant Jodan-uchi in the initial stages. The normal idea is for students of 3rd
Kyu status to begin a study of Tenno-uchi and 1st Kyu students to begin Sashigari. This does not
mean that such techniques may not be experimented with but if allowed to form the basis of
technique too early, the technique and style cannot develop.
Hiki-waza (reversed techniques)
Although students below the Dan grades have little chance of scoring with a backward
cut these are practised, especially when the first attack may be blocked. In this case the student,
instead of passing, steps quickly backwards and cuts to another undefended point. Hiki means
'pulling' although the student should not be mislead by this. The action of Hiki-giri is exactly the
same as a forward stroke, except that the body is moved backwards. The actual pulling action
is achieved by the left hand pulling back with the Shibori (wringing) and the arms remain
With a forward stroke the point passes over the target whilst in a backward stroke the
blade is passing the other way. Sashigiri cannot be made backwards and neither can the thrust.
The important factor of Hiki-waza is footwork and timing.
Hiki-waza comes under the definition of Nidan-waxa (two step techniques) since either
an initial attack, or a defensive action will occur prior to a backward cut. The method of delivery
looks exactly the same and the difference is only felt. For general classification Zenshin means
attacking forwards and Kotai attacking backwards.
Nuki-waza (drawing techniques)
Nuki means a drawing action, such as pulling a cork from a bottle and can refer to
drawing the opponent forward to take an advantage. Nuki-waza are also the types of strokes in
which the blade is drawn back, very similar to Hiki-waza but more deeply on the blade, from
Chu O to Dage-kibu (centre to striking base). Whereas the Hikigiri slides backwards the Nukigiri
drags backwards a little more deeply.
In actual fact Nukigiri is rather more an old fashioned sword technique and is modified
for practice today. The main technique which will concern the student is the Nuki-do in which
the breastplate is struck simultaneously with a side-step to the attacker's right. The blade is drawn
obliquely across the opponent's body as the left hand crosses underneath the right and draws
downwards towards the right knee.
Nuki-do can be performed when close to the opponent or in the face of an attack and to
avoid the downcoming blade, is normally performed directly from the shouldering position. The
blade follows the right foot in this case and whilst the step is normally fairly wide the Shisei
(posture) and head remain upright. Nuki-do cannot be easily performed against a static target.
Naname-waza (oblique techniques)
Naname-waza are not illustrated but consist of blows delivered obliquely, by entirely
changing the body-line. Naname attacks can be performed to any point but are easiest against Do
or Kote targets. Naname-waza are employed in contests since the side-step takes the body out of
the attack line and the return cut is made without swinging the body inwards.
Katate-waza (single hand techniques)
Single hand techniques are valid if correctly performed but should not be studied until the
Dan ranks are reached. The main difficulty is achieving the effect of Shibori (wringing) by
snapping the wrist inwards as the cut is made. Either hand may be used and the body is turned
sideways to the appropriate side. The left hand is much easier to perform and gives greater
control, besides adding some eighteen inches to the reach.
Katate-waza from Seigan (natural posture) consists of circling the blade backwards and
sweeping it up over the head and throwing forward. This is normally used merely as a 'trick' or
'surprise' attack and is rather dangerous unless controlled.
The simplest Katate-dzuki (single hand thrust) in which the left hand throws the blade
forward into the neck; this can also be the means of simultaneously escaping a Kote attack. The
Do and Kote are rather unlikely targets in this style.
The main use of Katate-waza are from Jodan (high posture) and the blade is thrown
forward just as the opponent attacks. The main defence against Jodan is to raise the Shinai point
to cover the high attack line, in a rather high Chudan (middle posture). The easiest targets are
the Tsuki or the Kote, both Kote and Do are in play if the opponent adopts Jodan. In this case
the man in Jodan will sometimes use the Katate cut to simultaneously avoid a Kote attack,
drawing the hand back as he cuts.
Bogyo is not really bothered with in Kendo other than as a means to create an opening
for a counter-technique but certain methods do exist.
Uke-dome (defence stop) is described later and is more or less the direct parry. There are
other methods of deflection or blocking and all avoid direct clashing with the opponent's Shinai
and normally attack the downcoming Tsuba-moto (guard base) which is moving relatively slowly.
The easiest method of defence is Hiraku or 'turning open' in which, for example, as the
attacking blade cuts down to the Kote the defender slips his own point to the right and the
attacking blade slides down the inside. This can be applied in other cases. The attack to Do is
almost impossible to defend against efficiently and will often be simply blocked with the hilt
section, between the hands. It should be remembered that in the cutting position the opponent's
guard will always return to the centre-line so that it is important to cover this line.
Renzoku-waza (combination technique)
Combination attacks are one or two attacks used to create an opening at another point.
It is impossible to simultaneously cover all points at once and if the defender's mind stops on
parrying, or he can be tricked to move in one direction, a clear chance is gained to attack.
The first style of Renzoku-waza is to make positive attacks which the opponent will parry
and thus expose another point. This idea can be extended by circling around so that the point
circles over the opponent's blade, as though to attack the Kote, then continues underneath, up to
its original position and thence to a Men attack. Meanwhile the opponent swings to the right to
protect the Kote. Later still just the merest gesture can cause a reaction or in the extreme a
strongly projected idea of attack in a master's mind can cause the opponent to react. Whilst we
must always call the attacks correctly, we can think strongly about another target and if we lift
the Shinai and think strongly about the Do the opponent will often catch this thought and defend
whilst we attack the Men.
Renzoku practice is extremely good for judging timing and distance as well as developing
speed of thought but all Renzoku-waza are restricted to Sandan-waza or three step techniques,
after which the match must be restarted. This is merely to eliminate scrappy play and the factor
of luck rather than correct application of technique.
There are many variations, many of which depend upon the individual opponent's reaction
against certain attacks. This is a matter of practising the basic forms, which can be easily worked
out and adapted to circumstances at the time.
Shikake-waza (initial opening techniques)
When practising, the teacher will open his attack line to allow the student to cut but this
will not hold true in practice. The opponent may not respond to Renzoku-waza and so another
method of removing the point is necessary. The majority of these actions are employed in counter
techniques as parries and are important movements of the Shinai.
Harai is performed with a semi-circular sweeping action, which spirals forward to turn
the opposing blade aside. On an advancing step the attacker's blade is circled to the right,
downwards then upwards to the left, striking the opponent's blade sharply to his own right and
opening the inside attack line. The action is made by turning the blade with the left hand, as
shown in diagram 13.
Harai-men is shown in plates 126 and 127 and can also allow for Tsuki. The outside
attack line is opened by circling over, or under, and snapping the opposing blade to the attacker's
right. This exposes the Men, Kote and Tsuki, and if taken correctly will also open the Do line.
A very wide sweep is classified as Nage-barai, or long sweep, whilst a sharp sweep caused
mainly by Shibori (wringing) is termed Hari-barai.
A stiff opponent will instinctively swing his point back to the centre, so that in this case
the blade is pressed aside by turning the attacker's edge to his right and running down the
opposing blade, pressing the point off and controlling until the point is cleared. Rather than
pressing directly to the side, we thrust obliquely across the blade and Osai-men is shown in plates
128 and 129. Osai-dzuki is more awkward and so this technique is normally followed by a Men
Uchi-otoshi (striking down)
This is not illustrated, but will appear very like plate 128 and is employed when the
opponent adopts a low Chudan (middle posture) or Gedan (low posture). The angle of approach
is as for Osai but instead of pressing, the blade is smacked sharply downwards with the side of
the attacker's blade. A powerful form of Uchi-otoshi is often employed to disarm.
This is best employed against a very stiff opponent and in pressing slightly to one side
the opponent will react by pressing back and by sliding our blade off the point the opponent is
caused to swing to the reverse side. This is shown in a very wide action in plates 130, 131 and
132, this opens the outside line and instead of Hajiki-gote as shown the attack could as well have
been Hajiki-men. Hajiki-dzuki can be made by slipping the point underneath the opposing blade.
The inside line is opened by pushing from the opposite side but only opens the Men
attack line. By pressing downwards the opponent can be made to spring upwards to his left side
and expose his Do. The Hajiki principle is very useful at very close range, which we term Irimi,
or Tsubazeri-ai. The pressure should not be too obvious or the opponent will realise what is
This is best performed against a limp opponent and in this case the opposing Shinai is
wheeled off with a spiral action, as shown in Mawashi-gote in plates 133, 134 and 135. Although
the opposing blade is more or less 'scooped' aside the factor to concentrate upon is maintaining
the point of contact as the blades twist about each other.
These are the more important Shikake-waza and as a rule the following stroke is short and
sharp rather than wide. The actual Shikake action may at first be made with a half step forward,
then later included in the initial development of the cut. Another name for Shikake-waza is Sakiwaza
or point techniques since the control the point of the blade.
7. Receiving Techniques
Kaeshi-waza means 'returning techniques' although the currently favoured term Oji-waza,
or 'replying techniques' is less confusing since one of the categories is known as Kaeshi. Ojiwaza
are methods of deflecting the attack, or avoiding, in such a way as to allow a counter blow.
Uke-dome (defence stop)
This is the straight 'parry and riposte', plates 136 and 137. The attacking blade is caught
and held in the Hidari-men-uke-dome (left mask parry) position and the counter attack stroke
made before he can react. In this action the blade is canted forward and across the body, whilst
being snapped backwards so that strength enters the blade by the linear motion applied along its
length. The point of the defending blade remains along the centre-line to aid in delivering the
counter-blow and strikes against the opposing blade's Tsuba-moto. Instead of a clumsy side
movement this snapping backwards keeps the blade perfectly under control. This position is in
itself too weak to parry the attack so it must be ensured that the blade is actually snapping
backwards as the attack strikes.
As a general rule, the Hidari-men defence will allow a Men or Do attack whilst the
reverse Migi-men defence will allow all three attacks in reply. The Kote-uke-dome is performed
lower at the hip and can be followed by Kote or Men and the same applies to Do. They are
signified as Men-uke-dome-men or the attack, the action, and the reply, whichever may be
This is the same action as in Shikake-waza but instead of a full circle only a semi-circle
is necessary, to sweep aside the down-coming blade. Men-barai-men is shown in plates 138 and
139. The action of Harai is to thrust the defence spiral, or cone obliquely into the attack arc, so
as to cant it over and tilt the axis off, see diagram 13. Strong Shibori (wringing) action is made
when sweeping and the hands and palms should relax again prior to the actual cut.
Harai give the greatest variety since they can be performed to both sides and against any
attack. The effect of Harai is a sharp clash which knocks the attack aside.
Uchi-otoshi (striking down)
This is in effect the reverse of Harai, in that in this instance the semi-circle strikes
downwards instead of upwards. This is not illustrated since it will appear the same as plates 138
As with Harai the defending blade clashes against the Tsuba Moto (guard base) of the
attacking blade but is normally less efficient since it is necessary to lift the blade again to make
the reply cut, and time is lost unless the attacker is striking to either the Kote or Do. In the case
of Do, which approaches at a very oblique angle the action is very similar to that in the Uchi
Otoshi of Shikake-waza, except that the defending blade points towards the opponent's right
shoulder and hip.
Suriage (brushing upwards)
Suriage is an action peculiar to counter techniques and is shown as Men-suriage-men in
plates 140 and 141. The defending blade thrusts forward and slides up the attacking blade, from
Tsuba-moto to Dage-kibu. Whereas the Harai is a clash, the Suriage is a soft, sliding action,
particularly useful against a thrust, or thrusting cut. After brushing the attack aside the defending
blade will be close to the Jodan position and a reply stroke is easily made.
Plates 142 and 143 show a variation of Men-suriage-do in which the blade is drawn back
to the defender's left shoulder to facilitate a reply to the Do, in this case Nuki-do.
As in plates 144, 145 and 146 the defending blade thrusts forward into the attack, then
suddenly reverses so that the opposing blade slides away and from there is swung up into the
Jodan (high posture) position to strike. Great suppleness is necessary and the twisting off action
should be smooth. This can be very easily performed against Tsuki and can be performed to
either side. It is normally necessary to step further out to the side with Kaeshi-waza, so as to
allow more room for the reply.
Hazushi-waza (avoiding techniques)
These are not illustrated but consist in allowing the attacker to almost complete his stroke,
then suddenly avoid the cut and reply before he can recover. It is not considered good form to
'dodge' about or 'duck' and Hazushi-waza are performed in correct posture, normally raising the
blade at the same time.
Hazushi-waza can be performed by stepping backwards or to the side and also by
releasing the right hand and cutting or thrusting with the left, as described before. If we move
too soon the opponent will merely follow and if cutting against a real Master one normally thinks
the blow has landed and in this moment the reply suddenly snaps in as a complete surprise. This
precise timing is not a matter of judgement but a certain feeling or sense that develops with
training, an intuitive feeling for the correct time to move which can only be discussed in the
vaguest of terms.
These are the more common counter-techniques and in any case where the blade is to be
swept aside or touched, the defending blade should have the cutting edge turned away to follow
the spirit of the old sword techniques.
8. Timing Techniques
Sen means 'before' and these techniques apply to attacks made just before the opponent's
stroke is delivered. In Kendo it is impossible to cut without exposing the body to attack, since
the act of lifting the Shinai opens the attack line.
Men-senno-do is to attack the Do as the opponent strikes down to the Men, this normally
takes the form of Nuki Do (drawing Do) and the side-step avoids the cut as the counter attack
Men-senno-men can be made by attacking directly forward as the left hand passes down
below the attacker's face and is taken to the right. Men Senno Dzuki is performed by dropping
the point and thrusting upwards but this is very dangerous unless both the attacker and attacked
have a good idea of what is happening.
Kote-senno-gote or Kote-senno-do can also be taken but the timing is more difficult. Dosenno-
gote is easier since the attacker's Kote is entirely open as his Shinai swings inwards.
Do-senno-men is shown in plate 147 and as the attacking Shinai swings across to the left
the Men is exposed. The illustration shows clearly the method of carrying the Shinai off after
cutting and dashing past to the left.
In these techniques it must be remembered that the opponent is himself leaping forward
and our own attack is very short, often a mere quarter step. This idea of distance is essential to
keep the delivery within the Dage-kibu (striking base).
De means 'at the outset' and Hana 'coming out'. This is similar to Senno-waza but in this
case the attack is made just as the opponent starts to move. The most common form is a cut to
the Kote, just as the blade thrusts forward to begin the attack and this is known by the short form
Dehana-do is taken just as the opponent raises his arms and clears the Do and of course
any combination of attack against any movement may be made as appropriate. The reverse of
Dehana is Oi or 'following' in which an attack is launched to follow a retiring opponent. It is
common practice to step backwards and forwards rhythmically in practice or contest and attacks
made on the advancing step are classified as Dehana whilst those on the retiring step are
classified as Oi-waza.
This literally means 'before-before' and whilst this may sound strange it forms the best
opportunity in Kendo. Sen-senno-waza means the attack is made just in the instant before a
movement is made. This is done just before the opponent's point stirs and whilst his mind is
occupied with the decision to attack. In this split second he can neither defend, nor perceive our
In my own experience with high ranking teachers nothing will happen until the student
decides to attack. But as the thought arises it is suddenly too late, since the teacher has just
stepped forward and struck. As with most Kendo the observer will note nothing other than one
side has struck. But to those concerned a very definite and skilful technique has been employed.
Whilst the lower Dan grade students may catch this timing occasionally it is a permanent factor
with skilled teachers and is again a question of sense and intuition. There are said to be such
techniques as Sen-Sen-Senno Waza but I must confess this is beyond me at present!
The Oji-waza or reply techniques are often designated as Go-no-senno-waza or techniques
'after-before', since they occur after the crucial time. The above techniques of Sen-Sen, Dehana
and Senno-waza are regarded as the most important since they illustrate the real heart and spirit
of Kendo. 'As your opponent attacks ... you attack' this is often said and no thought of defence
should occur if Kendo is to be understood fully. In olden times it was necessary to dispose of
the enemy and the loss of one's own life was regarded as a fair bargain if no other alternative
When practising with a highly graded Master the blows are either not seen at all or appear
to be merely 'lucky hits' taken just because we were not prepared. It is only when this happens
again and again that the student realises that this is in fact the real essence of the technique. In
a case where the teacher is seen to step forward very casually and strike, whilst we just do not
move, or react far too late, this means the attach time at the turning of the breath has been taken.
As the breathing changes and turns, so the consciousness lapses for an instant. This timing can
be taken accidentally but in reality the opponent's breathing cycle is sensed and one's own breath
keyed in to compliment this so that any attack made to our breathing phase will be timed exactly.
This other sense is vital to proper Kendo but cannot be developed properly unless practice
is made every day. During a period when this is possible the student will find he can sense the
attack before it begins, know the place of attack, or even the nature of the combination to be
employed and this is before his opponent has moved. This is termed Senken (seeing before) or
precognition and the instant of attack can be felt building up, even when watching. The spiritual
build up of the time of the attack can be caught even by relative novices providing it is pointed
out to them. The flow between the opponents can be strongly felt almost as a physical force. This
is necessary to take advantage of the five basic times of attack:
1. A moment of distraction, breath change, a blink or outside disturbance or thought (Sensen-
2. Immediately prior to the beginning of any action (Sen-senno-waza).
3. As the mind is involved in beginning the action (Dehana Waza and Senno-waza).
4. As the mind is involved ni the finish of the action (Renzoku and Oji-waza).
5. As the mind relaxes just after the completion of the action (Hiki-waza).
Each of these points is known as a Suki or 'mind stopping' and it is only at these times
that it is possible to strike. It is impossible to be so fast as to hit even a novice, providing he has
normal reflexes and a basic knowledge of Kendo. Speed is of importance but of no use unless
timed correctly. The crucial moment which will decide whether or not the attack is a success is
not the moment at which the blow lands but the moment at which the blow starts. Since we can
hit many times, even in the early days this aspect is often not fully understood and since the
above five moments are constantly occurring and re-occurring there are plenty of opportunities.
The idea is to take them as definite applications rather than merely by luck.
Returning to the aspect of 'mind stopping' it is obvious that in the vast majority of cases
we are struck merely because the blow was not seen in time, and this because our mind was held
at another point. The idea of non-stopping of the mind is expressed in the Zanshin or 'lingering
of the heart' in that awareness should be maintained even after cutting and the mind is not
stopped at that point.
Providing the opponent is practising seriously it is possible either to draw him forward
to attack, or to make it very difficult merely by our own spiritual condition. If we take a positive
mind and press our spirit forward the opponent will reciprocate and a pressing feeling arises
which feels like two opposing magnetic poles. If the opponents are both very strong willed, it
may even appear that the tips of the Shinai or swords are clamped together. If one side suddenly
draws his spirit inwards the opponent is forced to attack without his own volition and although
he may not be aware of this he will be completely under the control of his opponent. This is a
little difficult for the average Westerner to grasp but is easily demonstrated by causing a student
with closed eyes to sway forward or backward at will merely by suggestion.
In olden times it was the Samurai custom to look into the eyes of other passing
swordsmen and test their spirit. If the fighting mind is suddenly taken off and replaced with a
vacuum the other's spirit is taken away and a peculiar feeling is felt in the stomach. In this way
the Samurai could assess his rival and it was not necessary to draw swords to discover who
would win unless the loser could not understand this factor. More of this timing or spiritual
feeling can develop without dedicated training and it develops quite naturally of itself so the
student should concentrate on his exercise but also train this other side from time to time.
9. Practice and Contest
Keiko means 'practice' or 'training' and can take various forms. The normal type of
instruction consists of one or two techniques, exercises and various types of Keiko for
application. Keiko is normally preceded by Kirikaeshi (cut and return) or exercise to develop the
stroke in which one student will take the teacher's action and accept or defend against attacks
according to a pre-set pattern. The most common forms are an initial Shomen-uchi (striking the
front mask) followed by a series of Yoko-men-uchi (side mask attacks), delivered in rapid
succession to alternate sides whilst moving forward and backwards. The teacher normally parries
the side cuts and then allows the student to strike a final Shomen-uchi and dash past, to complete
the exercise. The style of Kirikaeshi may vary from place to place but follows this universal
Kakari-geiko (teaching practice)
In Kakari-geiko the teacher opens the attack line and indicates various attacks or
combinations and yells encouragement as the student dashes in, cuts, dashes past and turns to cut
again without pause or rest. This style of practice is very exhausting and the teacher will often
take a rough attitude and strike the student if he pauses or even hit his legs or back if he does
not dash past. Two or three minutes at a time is normally quite sufficient if the student is
expelling his full effort and shouting loudly.
Kakari-geiko is often sub-divided into Dai Ichi, Ni, or San Kyoshu (first, second, or third
teaching action) according to the complexity of attacks indicated. This training builds up stamina
and gives full facility in delivery of blows. Sometimes the student holds his breath for a full
minute or so of vigorous action. Nobody enjoys Kakari-geiko but it builds up spirit and tenacity.
Ji-geiko (level practice)
In Ji-geiko a more level aspect is taken and neither side is committed to initiate the attack
although the student has not much chance other than to keep attacking. It is rather difficult to
practise freely if too wide a grade space separates the two participants since the timing sense is
different. A more normal form is Hiki-tate-geiko in which the senior grade will assist the junior,
either by deflecting incorrect blows or by allowing some opportunities for the junior to take and
adjusting a certain level of technique for the junior to match himself against. If we practise with
a novice at our own level it will merely consist in him being beaten about. Therefore adopt a
level just about a grade above his own and he can then work directly to some end and take an
Shiai-geiko (contest practice)
This is a form of simulating contest conditions. In normal Keiko points are acknowledged
in passing but often the loss of a point occurs whilst developing a specific technique. In Shiai
Geiko a more serious concentration is maintained and this is the time for practice of techniques
9. Shiai Kite (Contest Rules)
Contest is normally performed under the eye of one or more referees depending on senior
grades available. The contest Ma Ai (fighting distance) is greater, with a good twelve inches
between the points.
There is an Omote Shinban (front referee) and one, or two Ura Shinban (rear judges) and
contestants normally have coloured sashes on their backs and flags are employed to indicate
scoring. Two simultaneous decisions are required for the cut to score, according to complex rules.
A good understanding of technique is necessary to properly understand scoring but the following
will give a rough idea.
1. The technique must originate from at least full Ma-ai (distance) unless composite.
2. The Shisei (posture) and balance must be maintained throughout the action.
3. The blow must strike accurately and be delivered with the cutting edge of the point
4. The blow must be properly controlled and taken off.
5. There must be no contact between the opponents Shinai, the cut must be clear.
6. The opponent's Shinai must not be in contact with the attacker's body as the cut falls.
7. The cut must be delivered with spirit and declared loudly by name.
A scoring point normally gives an impression of fluidity and hits the opponent's body
quite naturally. Awkward or uncontrolled blows are not counted as valid. If two blows land
together this is taken as Aiuchi (double hit) and no score. If a time lag can be seen the first blow
to hit takes the point. After three contacts of the blade the Shinban will normally halt the match
and restart from the centre.
Properly marked out Shiaijo (contest areas) are not available in Britain but a rectangular
area of at least 15 by 20 feet is necessary. After each score both the contestants return to their
original position since the point is declared to this side regardless of whether or not the
contestants have changed sides during the match. Some referees words are given below.
Ippon Shobu or Sanbon Shobu - Match for one point, or match for the best of three.
Hajime - Begin. Yame - Finish. Men Ari - A Men has been scored (or Kote Ari, etc). Wakarete -
Break. Moto Ni Kaeru - Return to your original positions. Nihon Me - For the second point.
Ippon Shobu - One each, for the final point.
A normal contest lasts five minutes but many extensions are allowed and often the
championship matches will last half an hour or more before a single cut is made and the point
taken. Hiki-waki or 'drawn matches' rarely occur and contest is not normally required for grading
until 3rd Kyu.
This section gives you an introduction to Kendo but many advanced aspects have been
ignored. The student is advised to begin training and see whether or not he enjoys it. Kendo is
utterly absorbing and fascinating to those who practise and a new field of technique or different
aspect of thought is always beginning. The basic conception of cutting is very simple and the
main study is in co-ordination, timing and the mental aspects of training.
There are currently several dozen clubs scattered over the country, three of them being
in London. Not all clubs originate in the same school or theory and some remain independent.
Information can always be given on all known clubs at the headquarters of the British Kendo
Council, 10 Stuart Road, Acton, London W3 (tel 9929454).
Most established clubs have a limited amount of equipment on loan to the novice. Buying
equipment is rather a problem since it comes from Japan, but it can be obtained.
1. Judo History
Judo as a martial art came into existence in 1882 being derived from the much older
techniques of attack and defence called ju-jitsu. Before the advent of judo or more properly
Kodokan Judo there existed some twenty independent ju-jitsu schools. A young Japanese man
Jigoro Kano, wanting to be able to handle some bigger bullying companions, decided to join one
of the ju-jitsu schools.
He studied the techniques of various schools for several years. Finally in 1882 he
established his own which he called the Kodokan and instead of using the word ju-jitsu used judo
instead. One of the reasons for choosing a different name for his school was that with the
ordinance of 1871 forbidding Samurai to carry swords the martial arts fell into decline and then
disrepute. Some ju-jitsu experts of Kano's time were rogues and bullies and ju-jitsu acquired a
low reputation. Kano, not wishing to inherit this, began his school with a new name.
Kodokan judo was not just a rehash of ju-jitsu techniques. Kano selected the good points
of each ju-jitsu school and with his own fresh ideas and innovations turned an old martial art into
a new system of physical culture and mental training. There was much rivalry between the new
Kodokan school and the ju-jitsu men and four years after its foundation the Kodokan had a
public match with the top ju-jitsu school. It was an overwhelming victory for judo with the
Kodokan winning nearly every match.
The techniques of judo have slowly been streamlined and modified over the years with
some new ones being added and old ones on account of their inefficiency or danger being
eliminated. With judo becoming an international sport during the last ten years rules governing
contests have been formulated to make it safe for competition. Nevertheless, the essence of judo -
throws, strangles, joint-locks and hold-downs - makes it an excellent system of self-defence and
2. What is Judo?
Modern Judo techniques consists of four main divisions. They are throws, strangles,
armlocks and hold-downs. Any one of these scores a point in competition. One point only is
required to win. This is because in the early Samurai days it was thought that one of these
techniques would finish off the enemy or at least put him at a serious disadvantage.
A successful throw is obvious. The man is whirled up and over and thrown with impetus
on his back. The thrower must show that he has control and could increase the force of the
With the armlocks and strangles the opponent must signal defeat or else he suffers injury.
A hold-down must be maintained for thirty seconds. The inter-play of all these techniques
with defensive moves, continuation attacks, counter-throws, styles of fighting and so on makes
judo a fascinating sport.
3. The Sport of Judo
From the early days of the Kodokan, Japan has held Judo Championships. However, it
is only in recent years in the West since judo gained popularity that national and international
matches have been held. World championships have been held regularly in recent years. In 1964
Judo was included in the Olympic Games for the first time. It is now recognized as a fully
fledged sport and takes its place in many other games including the Pan-American Games and
the Maccabiah Games.
Judo is not just a knack learnt after a few minutes. It takes just as much training to throw
a good man as it takes to become a top boxer or high jumper. International judo players include
running and weight-training routines plus several hours daily practice in perfecting their actual
judo technique. Judo is an exacting combat sport making great demands on the body and is an
all-round strength and fitness builder.
4. Judo as Self-Defence
Although ability in a judoman to throw, strangle or put an arm lock on an adversary
makes him somebody to fear in a brawl, judo itself is not a complete system of self-defence. The
judoman, although practising some form of kicking or striking in kata, is not thereby made
All the combat arts are deficient in one way or another. A boxer is vulnerable to attacks
at a low level or in close quarters. The karate man is weak on the ground or perhaps due to the
continuous pulling of his opponents' punches and kicks is not able to take punishment in the way
a boxer does. A judoman is vulnerable to kicks and punches. It takes a combination of all the
combat arts to acquire a complete defence.
The ideal would be a judoman who boxes and does karate for the kicking techniques.
However, a practitioner of any one of these combat arts will be fit, will have good reflexes, will
be strong and without dithering will be able to attack instantly with his particular techniques. This
puts such men at a huge advantage over the average untrained man.
5. Starting Judo
The best way to learn judo is at a reputable club. If you have difficulty in finding a local
club the British Judo Association will advise of your nearest one. It is also advisable to check
with the BJA about your instructor. There are many charlatans professing to be judo experts who
will tell you they are such and such a black belt.
Grades in judo are awarded for ability and progress through various coloured belts and
then through Dan grades. They are:
6th Kyu white 3rd Dan black
5th Kyu white 4th Dan black
4th Kyu white 5th Dan black
3rd Kyu white 6th Dan red and white
2nd Kyu white 7th Dan red and white
1st Kyu white 8th Dan red and white
1st Dan white 9th Dan red
2nd Dan white 10th Dan red
Sixth Dans and above may wear black belts if they wish and generally do so except for
formal demonstrations. The top international competition men are usually 4th Dan and they
acquire higher grades as they grow older through knowledge and service to the sport. The club
you join should have a proper judo mat and will provide a judo kit. If these are not available
some surface soft enough to absorb a heavy throw is necessary with some loose strong clothing
tough enough to take a lot of pulling. You will then be ready for your first lessons in Judo.
6. Breakfalls, Holding and Moving
Before a beginner can start learning to throw somebody there are three simple things he
must learn first. He must learn how to fall, how to hold his partner and how to move around.
The art of falling is, in most cases, letting the broad expanse of the back take the shock
of the fall. With this there are two important points to remember. The first and most important
is keeping the head tucked in to avoid it banging the mat. The second is to not use the arms for
saving one's position. For example, when a beginner takes up skating and his skates fly out from
underneath he will drop down on his backside with both arms stretched out backwards to stop
his upper body and head from hitting the ice. This is dangerous because if the fall is hard all the
joints in the arm and shoulder could suffer injury. In this case it is better to keep the arms out
of the way, with the chin tucked in and let the curve of the back take the impact.
Breakfalling is quite a simple business and shouldn't take much time to master. The
following are few exercises to be mastered before taking an actual throw.
1. Lie on the back, head up off the mat with the chin almost touching the chest, arms held
across the body. Now starting with either arm beat the mat with the whole arm down to the flat
palm and then with the other arm and so on alternately. Try to get a slight roll to the side which
you are beating. The idea of beating the mat is to absorb some of the shock that the back takes.
In a heavy throw the arm hits the mat as hard as possible. The arm should not be too rigid or
too limp but with just enough firmness to hit the mat hard without damaging the elbows. The
position for starting and beating the mat can be seen in plate 151. This is quite a simple exercise
and can be learnt after a minute or two.
2. The next step is to crouch down, then slowly falling backwards, roll into the mat. The
head must be kept near the chest right from the beginning. If the head is slack when thrown it
will snap back and hit the mat. The other natural tendency is to use the arms as supports. This
must be avoided. The beginner must get used to keeping his head out of harms way and using
his arms only for beating.
3. After a few attempts at No. 2 exercise stand now not quite upright but with a bit of a
crouch. Fall slowly backwards and to one side and roll into the mat. Do not hold the body stiff
as a board or too limp. In this case where the body is falling to the side only one arm is used
for beating. In most throws it is only possible to use one arm. However, this is sufficient. As the
beginner gains more confidence he can do this last exercise with more gusto until he is almost
throwing himself off his feet backwards.
Exercise 4 is possibly the closes one can get to an actual throw. With a partner stand as
in plate 152. The man standing grasps his kneeling partners sleeve and trouser at the knee and
pulls up sharply thus lifting his partner up and spinning him quickly on to his back. The man
who is being spun over uses his free arm to beat the mat. The force of this exercise is then
gradually increased. There are several breakfall exercises. The best one is to take an easy fall
and, bearing in mind the important points about the head and arms, get one's partner to gradually
increase the force and speed of the throw. As this happens naturally from the first lessons on
throws it is wise not to waste much time on the exercises. They should occupy no more than half
of your first lesson with perhaps one or two revision periods in the second and third lessons.
Holding your partner
If you are right handed, grip opponent's left lapel at about your own shoulder height with
your right hand. If you are tall or your opponent is very small stick to this rule about shoulder
height. It can be of great advantage to hold up high around the collar at the back of your partner's
neck. The left hand holds the opponents sleeve halfway on the outside. There should be no slack
but with the cloth gathered up until it is tight on the opponent's arm. There are several variations
on holds. The standard hold is best as it gives maximum control of the opponent. The body
should be slightly inclined to the right with the right foot forward. Left handers should follow
these instructions substituting left for right, and right for left in all cases.
Having completed a few of your basic lessons your instructor should get you on to 'free
practice'. This is where you try to put into actual practice all you have learnt against an attacking
and defending partner. This is where the beginner is surprised to learn that the throws which
seemed so easy to do against an unresisting partner now seem impossible. This is where knowing
how to move round the mat comes in useful. The beginner will be shown that for most throws
there is a particular position in which his partner's feet and body should be in. Some throws
depend upon whether the opponent is upright or crouching over, moving forward or scuttling
back. An inexperienced man will in the beginning be in a bad position but it doesn't take long
to learn how to keep out of trouble and this is where it is essential to know how to manoeuvre
your opponent into a suitable position for throwing. It is not usually possible to make a man
move as you want. If, for example, you tried to make a man step forward with his right foot by
stepping back with your left foot and pulling him forward with your left hand the chances are
that he would realize what you were after and do the exact opposite. This gives a clue, however,
for action. If you want a man to step forward push him backwards. In many cases he will react
against your push and come forward.
However, if you make your push too hard and obvious, the opponent will realize instantly
what is happening and use your own pushing action for his forward throw. The art in moving is
not to make your manoeuvering obvious.
If a man is moving backwards then push him just a little faster than his own movement.
Then when you get some forward reaction pull harder than he is pushing you. This can be done
from front to rear or from side to side or a combination of all four. The actual time during which
a man will be doing what you want will be very short so that it is necessary to attack
immediately the opportunity presents itself.
As for your own movements, try to make them unpredictable. Change direction as often
as possible in any random combination.
If your partner doesn't know what you are going to do next it will upset his attacking
plans. It is also essential to be able to change your weight from foot to foot. Therefore don't
stand with your feet spread wide or close together.
Stand with the feet shoulder width apart and the body upright. When moving about try
to keep roughly to this distance. Do not cross one foot in front of the other when turning round.
It is very easy to trip somebody with crossed legs.
The extent to which you will move around will depend upon your height, weight and
temperament. In general the big men are slow and the little men fast. However, a big man may
meet someone even bigger and the small man someone smaller. In which case it is necessary to
change the tempo of attack, etc.
A little man practising with a big man must rely on his speed and stamina and try to
outmanoeuvre his larger partner. The bigger man, being slower, must rely on his strength and
weight to anchor his wily partner on one spot so that he can pick him off.
Most throws can be done with the two men standing almost stationary providing that there
is not much weight or strength difference between them. On the move it takes a lot more
accuracy but they are more successful as they combine both the thrower's and defender's impetus
7. Throwing Techniques
There are forty basic throws. In this section I will describe the ten most efficient ones.
Throws can be divided into leg throws, hip-throws, hand-throws and sacrifice throws. Starting
with leg throws I will illustrate some from each section in the above order.
The throws which I shall describe will, in some cases, differ slightly from the standard
text-books on judo.
This is because my experience has shown that the methods I describe actually work in
top competition which is the ultimate test of technique. Body mechanics and theories of 'what
should work' are not taken into great consideration.
One reason for this is that surprise, which plays an enormous part in judo, can help a man
win from a very inferior position. It may be possible to say that such and such a position is the
best mechanically but if this position gives one's opponent a chance for an easy counter or block
it will be of little use. We attempt what we can get.
This is a diagram of throwing directions against an opponent standing with his feet about
shoulder width apart facing you. These directions will often be mentioned in the description of
Note that most throws are in a direction which is usually against an opponent's weak
point. Try not to stray from these directions as you might be trying to throw a man against his
8. Ashi-Waza (Leg-Throws)
O-uchi-gari (major inner reap)
When a man stands with his feet fairly wide apart his weight and balance will be evenly
spread. The idea of this throw is to take one leg away suddenly causing him to fall over. This
is not so easy as it sounds. A man sensing that you are going to reap one of his legs away will
either close his legs or shift his weight to his other leg. The essence of this throw is to catch him
with his legs spread wide and in the actual execution of the throw make sure that his weight is
mostly over the leg you are hooking away.
Stand in the natural posture with your partner bracing backwards with his legs spread
wide. We will assume for the minute that you have got your opponent into such a position. As
you stand now it is not possible to stretch out your right leg to hook the inside of his. Starting
with the right foot take a short pace forward followed by a similar short step with the left. This
will bring you in closer and within range. Stretch out your right leg and with the back of your
heel and lower calf sweep round in a small circle until you hit and reap away the opponent's left
With your right hand which is holding the collar, bear down with all your weight over
the leg you are taking away. Your left hand should contribute to this action by pushing your
opponent's arm and upper body in the same direction. One important point to remember is the
direction of the throw. You are throwing your partner backwards and down. This means that
when you are actually doing the throw you should be moving in those directions too (forward
If you are very fast and catch your man completely on the hop with his legs spread wide
he will collapse backwards instantly. This is not often possible. It is usually necessary to
complete the technique by bearing down on the opponent's left shoulder all the way to the mat.
It is not necessary to fall on the opponent. Your hands still holding your partner's jacket pin him
to the ground and should be used for preventing your body crushing into his. Note the position
of my head and right shoulder. After I have got the man toppling backwards it is necessary to
guard against an effective counter for this throw.
To do this I swing my head and shoulders round my right. Compare this position with the
starting position for the throw. Getting a man to spread his legs is not so difficult. If you attack
strongly several times with a forward throw - a hip throw for example - the man will start to
brace back and spread his legs. A sudden swift change of direction using o-uchi-gari will be
Another example is when you try pulling the man forward. If he resists this movement
he will usually start pulling back with legs spread wide in the manner of a tug-of-war. Once
again a sudden change to o-uchi-gari should succeed.
There are many other opportunities when your opponent is moving round the mat. Every
time he steps with his left leg he is spreading his legs. Try with a subtle pull to make him step
a little further forwards or to the side. Then attack with o-uchi-gari.
This throw is very useful for breaking up a defensive position. It is possible to attack
several times in quick succession with it which should at least make your man stagger.
Depending on what reactions you get it is then easy to come crashing ni with some other throw.
One last point. When you hook your opponents leg do not lift it up. If you do this you
are supporting him to a certain extent. The idea of the throw is to take away his support. Aim
to keep your reaping foot fairly close to the mat.
A similar throw against this wide leg stance is to use the right leg and foot against the
opponent's right leg. This means shifting his weight over his right leg. This is called ko-uchi-gari.
Ko-soto-gari (minor outer reap)
This throw is similar to the last except that one's leg reaps or hooks the opponent's leg
from the outside. Once again it is essential that your partner has weight on the leg you are taking
away. The opportunity for this throw is when one of your opponent's legs is forward. This can
happen when he is moving forward or back.
It is even possible to do the throw against a rear leg. Stand with your left foot advanced
and your partner with his right foot advanced. With a short step of the left foot followed up by
the right, move in closer and to the opponents side extend the left leg and using the flat of your
foot or the back of your heel on the back of partner's right heel. The direction of the throw is to
the opponent's right back corner and down.
The hands help by pushing in this direction and for pinning the man on the leg you are
taking away. The left hand which holds the sleeve pushes the opponent's arm into his waist and
your right hand, holding the collar, pushes the opponent's head and shoulders over and back.
If you are right-handed and hold the opponent's right sleeve it is generally better to attack
his right leg. There is nothing to stop you using your right leg against the opponent's left leg.
However because your right hand is holding the collar and not controlling the arm it is often
possible for your partner to escape from the throw by using his left arm.
As a man walks forward or backwards there is a moment when all his weight is on one
foot. This changes from foot to foot with each step. Experiment with your partner to find these
moments. Even at a slow walking pace the weight passes fairly quickly from leg to leg. In kosoto-
gari, it is necessary to attack instantly at this moment. Try to combine this throw with the
previous one. For example, if you attack with the major inner ear (o-uchi-gari) your partner will
sometimes react by putting his left leg back and out of reach of your reaping right leg. However,
this means that his right leg will be forward which gives an opportunity for the minor outer reap.
With these two throws there is not a complete opposite of throwing directions. However,
the change from an attack to the opponent's left back corner (o-uchi-gari) to his right back corner
(ko-soto-gari) is often successful.
When trying a throw first do it stationary and then on the move, bearing in mind that
physiques vary considerably. As long as the direction of the throw is right and the man is picked
up and actually thrown slight variations from my text do not make much difference.
If it is not possible to finish the throw standing up, be prepared to fall to the mat with the
leg reaping strongly. This throw is very useful for a tall man with long legs.
O-soto-gari (major outer reap)
This throw ranks as number two in the big contest throws. The reasons for this is that
there is nearly always an opportunity for it. Secondly, it can be done very quickly and thirdly,
once in position, it is very difficult for the opponent to escape. Also the man who uses o-sotogari
can apply a lot of power for forcing the throw through even if he is only partially in
position. Study the photographs. You will see that the attacker has swept his partner's leg off the
ground with his right leg and is throwing him to his right back corner.
The moment for this throw is when your opponent's right leg and side are forward either
when he is stationary or moving forward or backwards. Stand with your partner in the natural
posture. In order to sweep the opponent's leg successfully step with the left foot out to his right
side and close to his right foot.
Instantly the right leg follows through sweeping in an ellipse against the back of the
opponent's leg. To complete the throw sweep vigorously back with right leg scooping both of the
opponent's legs up and dropping him on his back. As in all these throws where you take away
an opponent's legs, you must make sure that his weight is on the leg. Notice in plate 161 that my
opponent's left foot is almost off the mat.
In this throw the arms and shoulders push the opponent back and over his right leg. The
action of the arms is not isolated. They start working before or at the same time you step out
with your left leg.
This throw is my particular favourite. I've studied it for a long time and have come to the
conclusion that the action of the arms is most important especially the right arm.
This throw seems deceptively easy. One reason for this is that it is easy to move the feet
quickly and get the right leg almost in position. For this reason everybody tries it. However,
because of bad arm work in the majority of cases, it rarely comes off.
With his right leg in position, it is often possible for an experienced man to hop forward
until his arms come into play and with further hopping and hooking with his right leg force the
throw through. However, to move in quickly and throw the man on the spot needs positive
armwork. Look carefully at the arms in the plates.
De-ashi-barai (advancing foot sweep)
This throw embodies fully the judo principle of seriyoku-zenyo - the maximum efficient
use of mind and body. When it is done properly the thrower exerts very little force at all. Success
in this throw depends upon speed and timing. De-ashi-barai is attempted a lot by beginners with
the result that the opponent's shins get very bruised. Like o-soto-gari it seems easy but is in fact
Study the action shots of this throw. The opportunity for this throw occurs when your
opponents steps forward. As he lifts his foot up and steps forward most of his weight is
supported on the other foot but just at the time his front foot is an inch or so off the mat all his
weight will be transferred to it and this is the moment for the throw.
This throw can be likened to somebody stepping on a banana skin. Their foot comes down
on to the skin and then slides away. Stand with your partner in right posture. With your right leg
step backwards and then forwards and so on, get your partner to do the same with his left leg.
This should be something like a natural walk except that only one leg moves in order to isolate
the throwing movement. Your left leg and the opponent's right leg do not move.
As the opponent's leg steps forward and is about an inch off the mat, using the flat of
your right foot, sweep his foot across diagonally in front of your own left foot.
If you have caught his foot at the right moment he will fall over. If you are a bit slow
and his foot and weight are solidly on the mat it will seem like uprooting a tree trunk. If you are
too soon in sweeping his foot it will just dangle in the air because his weight will still be on his
rear foot. To finish off the throw the right arm pulls the man down to the mat. When this throw
is done, with speed and correct timing the man may be levelled off almost at hip height.
Using this one sided stepping movement as above, keep on trying to catch the right
moment your partner steps forward. After a little bit of experimenting you will find the right
occasions to avoid hurting your partner's ankles, take care to use the flat of your foot. The actual
sweep with the right leg is not a hook or a push. The moment when the opponent's leg is in the
right position is very short. Thus it is necessary to sweep across as fast as possible - using the
weight and impetus of your leg rather than force and strength. In the beginning this will cause
some bruised ankles but in the long run this is the style to aim for.
This concludes the leg throw section. Three of them are rear throws and one is to the side.
There are other leg throws some of which are forward throws and several variations of the ones
already mentioned. As can be seen from the above throws there is almost no position the
opponent can put his legs in without being vulnerable to attack. The beginner would do well to
bear in mind all the opportunities for them and depending upon where your partner's weight is
or how he is moving or reacting attempt to put them all in practice.
One of the best ways for practising these or any other throw is to throw somebody with
them as many times as the person can take, the faster and harder the better. Concentrate on speed
rather than brute force.
9. Koshi-Waza (Hip Throws)
Opportunities for the leg throws mentioned in the previous section occur mostly when the
opponent is standing fairly upright or bracing back against a forward throw. Should your
opponent be bending forward at the waist with his arms fairly straight, it will be difficult to do
the leg throws described in the previous chapters. However, against this posture forward hip
throws are usually employed and three of the most important will be described in this section.
O-goshi (major hip)
This shows the basic action of the hip throws. Stand in the right natural posture. Step with
your right foot to a spot just in front of your opponent's feet. Pivoting on the ball of your right
foot swing your left leg and foot round to about the position where your right foot was first. You
should now have made a complete turn and be facing the same way as your partner with your
feet about shoulder width apart. As you take the first step with the right foot, let go of your
partner's jacket, and as you swing your body and left leg round put your arm round the
opponent's waist and pull him forward onto your right hip. Do not move close in to your partner
with the foot movements. Turn more or less on the spot where you are and aim to pull the
opponent forward and on to your hips.
You should by now have your main pinned tightly on your hip with your legs slightly
bent. To throw the man straighten your legs so that your partner comes off the floor and by
swinging slightly round to your left side unload him off your hips.
Your left hand helps to pin the man on your hips by pulling strongly forward in
conjunction with the pivoting movement of the feet and body. This technique is rather difficult
to do as a straight throw. The reason is that when you let go with your right hand the opponent
usually knows what you have in mind and defends strongly against it.
However, in a mix-up when one man has attacked and failed with, say a hip throw, it is
possible to do. In this case when he is still close to you slide your arm round his waist and when
he moves out from his own attack follow up immediately with this hip throw. Another occasion
when it is possible to attack with o-goshi is when for some reason or other you are only holding
with your left hand. This happens very often. Instead of resuming the normal grip on the lapel
with your right hand jump in quickly, pulling strongly with your left arm, and whip your right
arm round your partner's waist in one movement.
Two variations on this throw can be employed. The first is to throw your right arm round
your opponent's neck and head instead of his waist. This can be used with great effect by a tall
man on his shorter opponent. The other is to hold your partner's belt at the side and heave him
up and onto your hips. This can be a very powerful throw. It does not depend on too much speed
and can be used by a slower short stocky man. These two variations have slightly different names
in Japanese but I consider them as more or less similar to o-goshi.
Harai-goshi (sweeping hip)
Stand in the right natural posture. Step across with your right foot as in the previous
throw, then round with the left foot so as to pivot as before. This time the right leg sweeps into
the opponent's right leg, so it is not necessary to push your hips completely in front of the
As your left leg swings round pull the partner forward and with your right leg sweep the
opponent up so that he almost somersaults and lands on his back. Study the plates. The arms in
this throw pull the man forward strongly and onto the sweeping leg. It is not necessary, as in the
previous throw, to hoist the man up with your hips. Care should be taken to see that your right
leg actually sweeps the opponents legs and doesn't just dangle in the air. In the sweep, keep the
leg fairly firm and use the weight and impetus of the leg to hit the opponent and sweep him off
his feet rather than putting the leg in position and slowly hoisting.
This is quite an effective throw especially for tall long-legged men. The position of the
right arm can sometimes be uncomfortable. If you are shorter than your opponent try to push
your right elbow somewhere under the opponent's armpit, and if you are taller let your elbow
point up to the ceiling. Having pulled the man forward on to your sweeping leg take care to keep
your man pinned tight to your body. Imagine your opponent is like a door hinged not at the side
but at the top. If you want to sweep his legs up, ie, the bottom of the door, you must have the
top of the door hinged to something firm. Try for chest contact. Although it may not always be
possible to keep actual chest contact try to get as near as possible. If you have pinned and hinged
your man firmly on his upper body it will be easy to sweep his legs away.
Once again remember the direction of this throw. You should be pitching forward with
your partner to his right front corner.
Uchi-mata (inner thigh)
This throw is the number one contest throw. Possibly the reason for this is that in contest
people defend and fight in a crouched position with their legs spread wide. This is not an ideal
position from which to attack. But it is a natural tendency to retreat into it when competing
against a good man. A man who adopts such a position is a sitting duck for uchi-mata.
Stand in the right natural posture with the man who is taking the throw bending forward
with his leg spread wide. Pivoting on your right foot swing your left foot round and close in
behind your right. As soon as your body and left leg have pivoted into position, with your right
leg sweep back and upwards into the top of the opponent's thigh. This should lift him into the
air. Now pulling strongly with your left hand across your body turn your man in the air and drop
him on his back.
The important point with this throw is to turn completely round so that you are facing the
same way as your partner. If you only manage to turn three-quarters round the chances are that
you will not be able to sweep your man up into the air. As your leg sweeps up into the
opponent's crotch your arms should be pulling him strongly forward with your head dipping
down towards the mat. For a smaller man it is necessary to put his left leg through or between
the opponent's leg when he first starts to pivot so as to get right underneath.
If necessary in the sweep be prepared to stretch your leg up almost vertically with your
forehead brushing the mat. It is this extreme range of the throw that makes it very difficult to
stop when once the thrower has got into position. The whole movement of the throw should be
as fast as possible especially the initial leg movements. One of the counters for this throw is to
get out of the way of the sweeping leg by jumping slightly to the right side and closing your own
legs together. If the thrower is attempting the throw properly by putting his heart and soul into
it he should go sailing past and turn a complete somersault by his own efforts.
This gives an indication of the amount of effort to put into this or any other throw. In this
throw the thrower should make sure that he does the throw so fast that he doesn't give his partner
time to get out of the way or close his legs. There is a tendency when practising this technique
to take undue regard for the opponent's comfort. Providing you sweep into the opponent's crotch
with the broad expanse of upper back part of your right thigh it should cause him nothing more
than a slight uneasiness.
As can be seen, the preceding three throws are for use against somebody leaning forward.
To get the best effect in practice try to combine them with one of the rear throws of the leg
throw section. If you attack strongly with a leg throw to the rear the opponent should react by
bending forward. As soon as you get this reaction come strongly in for one of these forward
throws and if you fail in this because your partner suddenly braces back instantly try a rear throw
again. An example of this is inner leg sweep (o-uchi-gari) followed by the inner thigh (uchi-mata)
followed by inner leg sweep again.
10. Te-Waza (Arm Throws)
Two throws are described in this section. They appear at first sight to be almost similar
to some of the hip throws. However, the point to bear in mind is that the arms and shoulders do
most of the work. If for example you find that it is necessary to use your hips to get the man
over it is a good indication that you are not doing the throw correctly.
Tai-otoshi (body drop)
This is a very popular throw and forms part of the repertoire of most judomen. One
reason for it's popularity is that it is almost impossible to counter. It is also possible to do it
when the opponent is standing still, moving forward, sideways or backwards. It is most used as
a forward throw which I will describe here. Stand in the right natural posture with your right foot
about midway between your partner's two feet. Swing your left foot round and out about half in
front of your partner's left foot. As you swing your left leg pull very strongly with your arms to
the opponent's right front corner. This should make him stagger forward with his left leg flying
up into the air. Having put your left foot on the ground take one more short step with the right
foot so as to make a trip for your partner's right leg. The position of your right leg is important.
Your ankle should fit snugly into your partner's ankle. Your weight should be now spread evenly
between your two legs. If you find that your right leg is dangling in the air - something like
Harai-goshi - you are doing it wrong.
If necessary when you make the step with your right foot lean into it so that most of your
weight is on the right foot. Remember this is a hand throw. The arms which started by pulling
forward never let up. The thrower's right leg is nothing more than a trip wire. The arms and
shoulders start and finish the throw by whirling the man to the mat. If the throw is done slowly
it will be difficult to get the arm action. All the actions of the arms, leg and body should blur
into each other in one thunder-clap of a throw. To get the arm action right, start by moving your
body into position without moving the right leg across. Practise turning the man into the mat just
with your arms alone. Once you find this can be done successfully start moving your right leg
across. If you find that you are having to use your right leg to sweep or hook to get your man
over go back to practising with the arms alone. My teacher in Japan once described the leg action
in tai-otoshi as an afterthought. The man should be almost thrown before you use the trip.
Seoi-nage (shoulder throw)
This throw is traditionally the favourite of the little man. However, in these days of
weight divisions men of any size can use it. The advantage of this throw for a smaller man is
that once he is in position even though outweighed by two or three stone it is still possible to
carry it through against resistance. Many throws fail if the initial impetus is halted but not the
shoulder throw. There are two ways to do it, both of which are equally effective. I'll describe the
double arm should throw (morote-seoi-nage).
The literal translation of the Japanese name for this throw is not shoulder throw. Seoi
comes from a verb meaning to carry on the back and this can help us in picturing how the
technique should be done. Imagine a man wanting to unload a heavy sack of coal from the low
back of a truck. He grasps the top corners of the sack turns round and sinking down hoists the
sack on to his back. This is the action of seoi-nage.
Stand in the right natural posture with the normal grips. Move the right foot across and
slightly in front of the left foot. Pivoting on this swing the left foot round so that you have made
an about turn. At the same time as you start the foot movements pull strongly with the left hand
so that your partner starts to fall forward on to your back and still holding tight with your right
hand swing your elbow across and under your opponent's arm pit. You should now have wedged
your partner tight to your upper back. To finish off the throw, bend at the waist and unload your
partner on to the mat. If your partner is slightly shorter than yourself, it will be necessary to bend
the knees more so as to swing your right arm comfortably under his armpit. When you do this
throw, imagine the analogy of the sack of coal. Of course, your opponent is not just a dead
weight so it is necessary to do it at top speed.
Your opponent will try to stop you by pulling his right arm free when you swing under
so make sure that you have a strong grip with your left hand. It is not necessary to pivot close
into the opponent's legs. Aim to move slightly forward in the pivot and by pulling strongly with
the arm cause your man to fall or step forward into the throw. Remember this is a hand throw
and most of the power is employed in the arms and shoulders. This is one of the most strenuous
throws and it also requires a lot of speed. The older Judo students would do well to specialise
in one of the other throws which do not require so much energy - for example, o-uchi-gari.
11. Sutemi-Waza (Sacrifice Techniques)
There are several sacrifice throws but, in this section, I am only describing the most
popular. In sutemi-waza one throws one's opponent by sacrificing one's own balance. This is
achieved by using the weight and impetus of one's falling body to throw the other man. From
the self-defence point of view, these techniques are not so useful if one is opposed by more than
one opponent as one is left on the floor at the mercy of the other attackers.
Tomoe-nage (stomach throw)
This is the old favourite of the cinema and television screen although it is not usually
done very well. It is also a great favourite of the judomen who specialize in groundwork. In the
judo rules it is not possible to drag a man to the ground without making some attempt at a throw
For the groundwork man this is ideal. He can come with whistling in for this throw and
if he connects well and good: if not he can then try to get his man in one of the many
groundwork techniques. Stand as with the opponent bent right forward. Step in deep with the left
foot as far as possible level or beyond his two feet. As the left leg goes in lift up your right foot
and plant it in his stomach. But it is not always possible to do this. What in practice actually
occurs is that one is dropping to the ground as one puts the right foot in the stomach. As your
back touches the floor straighten the right leg and by pulling strongly with the hands to your own
body turn the man over in the air and drop him on his back to a point past your own head.
What usually happens in the movies is that the hero does this throw and as the villain
goes sailing over he lets go with his hands so that the villain comfortably rolls on his back onto
his feet. The idea of any throw is to drop the man with impetus on his back. With the stomach
throw, hang on tight with the hands so that your partner lands on his back and stays there.
If you miss with this throw a grip is necessary to control the opponent for further
groundwork moves. To get maximum effect with this sacrifice throw, literally throw yourself
down under the opponent. Providing you have got your foot in his stomach he won't collapse on
top of you but will go sailing over the top. Exercise some caution when first attempting this as
it is easy to injure your partner or yourself if done wrongly.
12. Throws - Conclusion
The stomach throw concludes the description of ten basic and important throws. There
are many others, but the ones I have described are perhaps the best known. Most of the throws
I have described are capable of many variations for different types of movements and opponents.
One throw can cover most situations although not all. Try to get in as much throwing practice
as possible with all these ten throws on a non-resisting partner. The faster and harder you throw
the better. Gradually you will find that one or two throws suit your physique. These are the ones
to specialize in. When moving around in free practice (randori), try to create opportunities by
your own movement. Study the pictures of the throws carefully. They will show much more than
can be gleaned from the text.
Sometimes the thrower in these will differ in his position slightly from that of the text.
This is because he has adapted his throw in its actual execution to the defender's resistance.
However much it is necessary to adapt a throw keep its direction much the same. In the next part
I will cover the defence and counter attacks for the previous ten throws.
13. Counter-Throws and Defence
Although the best form of defence is attack it is necessary to know how to defend
properly and to be able to counter-throw. It is possible for the older and slower individual to base
his judo on defence and counter-throws. This, from the spectator's point of view, is boring judo
and in the long run it usually gets beaten. The reason is that when a man realises that his
opponent is purely defensive, it gives him a chance to really 'open up' and not worry about his
own defence too much.
Defence and counter to O-uchi-gari
As in all these leg sweep throws, the thrower will try to get your weight over the leg he
is sweeping. Don't let him. Keep on the move with your feet about shoulder width apart. You
will be able to see with which foot he will attack by watching his grip. If he is a right hander
he will attack your left leg with his right. Against a really good right o-uchi-gari, hold the tip of
the opponent's sleeve with the cloth gathered in until the jacket is tight on the wrist. Then push
the arm off strongly every time he attacks. He will be able to stagger you but will find it very
difficult to complete the throw.
In the counter-throw, let your partner attack and, as he moves his leg forward to hook in,
step back with your left foot and sweep his left leg diagonally across in front of your left foot.
This counter is similar to the de-ashi-barai (foot sweep throw). As you sweep across with your
right leg, pull him down to the ground with your right arm. Note that this counter is against a
left side o-uchi-gari. Reverse legs and grips for right o-uchi-gari.
Defence and counter to Ko-soto-gari
The simplest way to avoid an attack with this throw is to keep your leg back and out of
trouble. However, this will leave you open for another throw so I think, in this case, the best
defence is to try the counter-throw. The counter for ko-soto-gari is uchi-mata. When your
opponent moves to your side and attempts to hook your right leg make a half turn to your left
and balancing on your left leg lift your partner up and over with right uchi-mata.
Defence and counter to O-soto-gari
If you look at the plates showing this throw, you will see that both the thrower and his
partner are in the same position. The only difference is that, if the thrower is doing the throw
properly and breaking his partner's balance, the partner will be bent over backwards. To block
this throw step back with your right foot and lean forward with the upper body so that the
thrower will not be able to break your balance to the rear or reach your right leg. For the counter
let the attacker come nearly in for the throw, taking care that he doesn't break your balance to
the rear, step round and back with your left leg. As you do this keep him pinned tight to your
body with your arms and do exactly the same throw (o-soto-gari) back on him.
Defence and counter to De-ashi-barai
Care in moving around is necessary to stop De-ashi-barai. Do not keep your feet too close
together or make large steps forward. Do not skip about the mat on your toes. Instead move
about with fairly small steps, always being ready to transfer your weight from the forward foot
to the rear foot and vice-versa. There is one very spectacular counter for this throw which is
extremely difficult to do. This involves taking your foot out of the way of the attacker's incoming
sweeping leg, inserting it behind it and doing exactly the same sweep back on him using the
impetus of his own attack. An easier counter is to keep your weight off your front (right) leg.
Let your partner sweep your right leg a little and then, using this, move in for o-soto-gari.
Defence and counter to O-goshi
The thrower in this and other throws depends upon breaking your balance to the right
front corner. It is his left hand pulling on your right sleeve which achieves this. To successfully
stop these forward hip throws snatch your right arm and should back with a considerable jerk
causing him to lose his grip. To counter this throw and its variations sweep away his supporting
left leg once the attacker is in position with an action something like ko-soto-gari. This is not a
very 'clean' counter, but if it is done with a lot of gusto it should be possible to scoop the
attacker's legs right off the ground. As the attacker will be hanging on with his right arm round
your waist or neck it will be necessary to drop to the mat as you sweep the legs. If your stand
up as you sweep, the attacker will simply hang on to you. Take care when dropping to the mat,
not to injure yourself or your partner. There are several counters to o-goshi but I think the
beginner will find this the easiest to learn.
Defence and counter to Harai-goshi
Defence is the same as for the first hip throw. To counter, let the attacker get in position
for the throw with his right leg across your thighs but do not let him break your balance forward
- keep upright! As soon as you have stopped the impetus of his throw, step with your left leg
deep in between his two legs. Balancing on this lift up your right thigh under the opponent's right
thigh so that he is lifted completely off the ground. Pivoting on the ball of your left foot swing
round to your left and unload the attacker off your thigh on to the mat. This can often be a very
Defence and counter to Uchi-mata
Once again defend by snatching your right arm and shoulder back making him loose his
grip. Also do not stand with your legs too far apart or with your body bent forward. If the
attacker has managed to get his right leg between yours do not let him lift your left leg up,
instead try to reach forward and sweep away his supporting left leg. Another counter is to get
completely out of the way of the throw. As the thrower begins to turn for the throw bring your
left leg in and behind your right leg as quickly as possible. If the attacker is putting a lot of
power into the attack he should go sailing past and throw himself. However, to make sure, as his
leg goes whistling past, turn his upper body with your arms and stretch your left leg across to
block his left leg. This is the same action for tai-otoshi.
Counter and defence to Seoi-nage
Defence for this throw is the same as for the hip throws. Snatch your right arm and
shoulder back. In the counter throw where the attacker is already in position for the throw let go
with your left hand and encircle the opponents waist. As you stop the movement give slightly
in at the waist. Then thrust the hips out strongly lifting the attacker up in the air. To make sure
that your opponent doesn't come down on his feet again, continue the push forward with your
hips until his legs are out almost straight. Then, pivot round to your left and drop him to the mat.
It will sometimes be necessary to drop a little to the mat to finish off the throw. Take care not
to use too much force in practising.
Defence and counter to Tai-otoshi
The thrower will try very strongly to break your balance to your right front corner. Do
not let him do this and be prepared to snatch your right arm free from his sleeve grip. Stand
upright with your right shoulder well back. There is a counter for tai-otoshi but it is extremely
difficult to do against even an average tai-otoshi exponent. Be content to break the attacker's left
hand grip and push him down face forward into the mat with your left knee. Once he has fallen
forward, move in quickly for a groundwork technique.
Defence and counter to Tomoe-nage
There is no satisfactory counter-throw for a stomach throw. To defend against it, firstly
do not let the attacker put his foot in your stomach. As he sinks to the mat, sweep aside his
rising foot with your left hand so that his foot shoots out past the side of your body. If he has
managed to place his foot in position do not let him pull you forward, sink immediately to the
mat keeping your head and shoulder braced back. If the attacker should manage to get you
actually in the air, try to make a cartwheel and twist so as to land on your feet or on one side.
14. Renraku-Waza (Combination Throwing Techniques)
Attack strongly with o-uchi-gari. As this is a rear throw your partner will bend forward
taking his weight off the foot you are trying to hook away. This leg will probably rise in the air.
Should this happen abruptly, change direction of your attack by hopping in close to the opponent
with your left leg and turning round as you do so. Having turned round, your right leg sweeps
up into the opponent's thigh as in uchi-mata and throws him forward.
It is essential to time your change from the first throw to the second as your opponent
reacts to your first attack. This means that the first throw must be attempted with the full
intention of throwing your man. If you do not convince your partner that the throw is dangerous
he will not bother to avoid it. This goes for any combination attack. Should you miss with the
second attack because your partner pulls back strongly against it, try the o-uchi-gari again.
Providing your balance is good it is possible to alternate from one throw to the other until you
get your man over.
O-soto-gari - Ko-soto-gari
Having attacked with o-soto-gari, your opponent will either brace strongly forward in
which case you must retreat or he will attempt to counter with the same throw by turning
slightly. As your opponent will often try for the counter ko-soto-gari makes an excellent counter
to a counter. Attack with o-soto-gari and as your man starts to swing round place your right foot
on the ground swing round with your left leg and sweep the opponent's left leg. With this counter
do not change direction. As your first throw fails, keep moving in the same direction - that is to
say to the opponent's right back corner - and as you sweep his supporting left leg try to drop his
body in the same direction.
De-ashi-barai - O-soto-gari
If your timing is wrong with the ankle sweep, either your partner's leg will dangle in the
air or it will be rooted on the mat. In either case do not wait or try to force the throw, move your
sweeping right leg across for o-soto-gari and throw the man down. If you should stumble your
opponent with de-ashi-barai so that he ends up on one knee, still carry through with o-soto-gari
but lift the man up so as to get some impetus in the throw.
Harai-goshi - O-uchi-gari
Having attacked unsuccessfully with harai-goshi you will often find that your partner, in
expectation of another attack, will be braced back with his legs spread wide. Make as if to try
harai-goshi, turning slightly and pulling forward, then, as you feel your partner stiffening and
pulling back, suddenly change the direction by pushing to the opponent's left back corner and
hooking his leg away in o-uchi-gari. This counter can also be used for o-goshi and its variations.
Ko-uchi-gari - Seoi-nage - Ko-uchi-gari
Ko-uchi-gari was mentioned briefly with o-uchi-gari earlier. The reaction to ko-uchi-gari
is to take the leg out of the way and back. As your opponent takes his right leg back place your
hooking right leg on the mat close to the opponent and swing through for the shoulder throw. If
this fails it may be because your man is bracing back against the forward pulling action of the
shoulder throw in which case try for the ko-uchi-gari again. Ko-uchi-gari is a rear throw and the
seoi-nage is a forward throw. The idea of this sequence is to use the opponent's reaction of
defence so as to move from one throw to the other.
Tai-otoshi - Tai-otoshi
This is not exactly a combination attack in that one does not move from this to a different
throw. However, I am including it to give some idea of what can be done with just one throw.
Having made an unsuccessful attack with tai-otoshi, you will often find the opponent stepping
over your right leg. As he steps over, swivel round a bit to your left moving your foot in closer
to your right foot then shoot out your right leg again in order to trip your partner. This in effect
is exactly the same throw but from an adjusted position. If your opponent should again slip his
right leg over your right leg, adjust the position and attack again and so on until you get him.
With all these adjustments of leg position, keep the turning action of the arms constant. It is
essential to keep your opponent bent forward. With the continued attacks your partner should be
moving in a circle around you. A further example of continued attacks with one throw is when
the opponent does not step over your right leg but just braces back. In this case one changes the
attack by coming in at a different level. Having made the attack with tai-otoshi and met
resistance suddenly, drop as low as possible. The sudden switch in the level of attack will often
catch the opponent napping. In free practice experiment with your favourite throws and see if you
can get some success with a sudden change in level.
Tomoe-nage - O-soto-gari
Having made a few strong attempts at the stomach throw you will often find that if you
lift your right foot up as if you were going to make another attempt your opponent will brace
strongly back. When this happens, slide your right foot over the opponent's right thigh step in
close with your left leg and throw the man back with o-soto-gari. The roles can be reversed, ie,
attack with o-soto-gari until you get your man braced strongly forward then suddenly throw
yourself underneath him for the stomach throw.
This concludes the renraku-waza section. There are many more examples of combination
attacks and a judoman can easily work out variation of his own.
The beginner should experiment to see what other throws he can use with his favourite
techniques. They should as much as possible flow into each other. If the beginner finds out that
he has to make a violent readjustment of position with lots of foot movements in between, then
it is a good indication that it is not a natural combination technique. The techniques should blend
into each other with a minimum of movement in between.
15. Hints on Free Practice
Practise all the techniques illustrated so far, as often as possible, on an unresisting partner
standing still and then on the move. In randori (free practice) do not let an opportunity for a
counter go by. Some people feel that counter-throws are not quite sporting! However, don't let
this bother you!
Disregarding opportunities for a counter can become a habit which could easily lose you
a contest. Also an attacker will have to sharpen up his throws if he knows a counter awaits them.
This makes for all-round, lively judo. As soon as possible, practise your techniques on the move
against a resisting and attacking partner.
This free practice is the best way to sharpen up all your techniques. Practise with as many
people as possible as many times a week as possible. Try not to waste any time in practice. Do
not move around doing nothing, wasting for an opportunity. Make opportunities with constructive
movement. If you are not defending or countering you should be attacking or making an opening
for an attack. Keep the arms loose. When an opponent attacks, brace suddenly for your defence
and relax quickly as soon as the attack fails.
There is a tendency for beginners to move around with arms like iron bars in order to stop
their partners moving in for an attack. This means they stop their inexperienced partners to
certain extent but against a good man they have no effect. What is worse is that the man with
the stiff arms will be unable to attack. His stiff arms will stop his own attacks. For best results
move around with a loose upper body. Then, when necessary, snap into action to gain maximum
impetus. Stiff arms will be a problem for the beginner so I'll describe a few methods of getting
If you are a right-hander only, one of your opponents arms will pose a problem. For
example, in harai-goshi as you pivot round to the left the opponent's left arm will be pushing you
away. His right arm does not get in the way because you are turning into it. The easiest way to
get past the left arm is to bring your right elbow and arm sharply down, breaking your partner's
grip on your right sleeve. It will be necessary to let go to do this, but having broken the
opponent's grip do not give him a chance to recover his grip, but instantly snatch a hold on his
lapel and come in for the throw. There is nothing more unsettling for a 'strong-arm' man than to
have his safe grip broken. Keep on breaking his grip attacking instantly as you do so. The
opponent's right hand grip on your lapel can be broken by snatching the whole left side and arm
back, pulling your left lapel as you do so. One final example is when you are holding underneath
your opponent's two arms. To break through this grip suddenly lift up both elbows forcing the
opponent's arms up and as you do so pull him forward sliding your shoulders under his arms. As
you get under the man's arms turn in for your throw.
16. Ne-Waza (Groundwork)
During practice or contests, there will be many occasions when one or both judomen will
fall to the mat. This may be through an unsuccessful technique by the opponent or simply
overbalancing yourself when trying to throw. In either case it is essential to continue the attack
on the ground.
There are three ways of scoring on the ground. These are: to hold the man down for thirty
seconds, to strangle him till he submits and to apply a lock on his elbow. It is possible to do arm
locks and strangles when standing up but these are specialist techniques. Most locks and strangles
are done on the ground. A word of caution before describing these techniques. Some of them can
be very painful.
When the man in a lock or strangle wishes to submit he must signal by tapping sharply
two or more times on the opponent or on the mat, either with his hand or foot.
Should he be tied so much that he can't move then he must shout his submission.
Needless to say the man applying any lock or hold must do so with care, be aware of any signal
of submission and release his lock or strangle instantly. There is a tendency for judomen to
neglect groundwork. On the other hand, there are one or two rare individuals who specialise in
groundwork. It is noticeable that all the judo champions are very skilful at groundwork. The allround
judomen should be at home either standing up or down on the mat.
Therefore any opportunity for doing groundwork should be taken so that it becomes a
habit. Should your opponent stumble, never be content to let him stand up again. As he stumbles,
dive in immediately for a strangle or a lock.
Shortly after I won my black belt 1st Dan, I injured my ankle rather badly and was unable
to do any standing judo for six weeks. I used this time to do nothing but groundwork. When my
ankle had got better I found that I had gained a considerable edge on the ground over my fellow
1st Dans. This helped me to win many contents and got me a reputation as a 'groundwork man".
Since that time I have paid a lot of attention to groundwork technique and have won many
contests on the ground. One interesting effect of having such a reputation is that it restricts your
opponents' throws considerably. He won't attack with anything that can be easily countered or
blocked for fear of being taken down. This means that you can open up with your own attacks.
As in the throwing section, there is a huge range of techniques on the ground and here are some
It is not necessary, as in wrestling, to pin the opponent's two shoulders to the mat. The
position of the man being held varies from hold to hold but in general he should be flat on his
back and unable to get up. The man applying the hold must show that he is in control. In this
section I will show holds as a continuation of a throwing technique.
Move in for tai-otoshi. Do it slowly so that your man just stumbles to the mat in front
of you, lying slightly at an angle.
From this position let go with your right hand, drop to the side of your opponent, putting
your right arm round his neck. Pull his head up into your body and readjust your left hand grip
so that you hold your opponent's right arm under your armpit. Spread your legs wide and keep
your own head down. Do not relax your grip on his neck or his right arm. If your partner starts
to move round in an attempt to get up, move with him so as to keep the same relative positions.
Should your opponents try to roll you over his body, shoot out your right arm to stop the
attempt. Instantly resume your hold on his neck when his escape fails. Rest heavily on your
partner's ribs with the part of your body under the armpit where the large back muscle called the
latissimus dorsi sticks out. Keep this chest and back contact at all times.
Kami-shiho-gatame (upper four quarters)
Throw your partner slowly with a shoulder throw so that he lands in front of you on the
mat. From here drop to both knees resting your head, on your partner's chest, at the same time
letting go with both hands and inserting them under both shoulders of the opponent and down
until you catch his belt at both sides. Having caught his belt, pull it up sharply to his chest and
clamp in tight with your elbows with the side of your head pressing down tight on the opponent's
chest. This is the basic position. Depending on individual preference, you can either kneel with
the opponent's head caught tightly between your legs as above or stretch out both legs resting
slightly on one side of the opponent's body. As in the first hold, lock in tightly with both arms
and keep the same relative positions if your partner moves.
Important points, keep your arms locked in tightly under both the opponent's shoulders
and keep the side of your head pressed tightly down on his chest - not his stomach.
Yoko-shiho-gatame (side four holding)
Get your partner to step forward with his right foot and throw him with the ankle sweep
using your left foot. Your opponent should land horizontally in front of you. From this position
drop instantly down, with your chest bearing down on his. Release your left hand grip and insert
it round his neck catching his collar. Pull in strongly with the left arm so that your left shoulder
comes against the side of his head. Your right arm can hold in a variety of positions. In this case
over the opponent's legs catching his trousers. As in the previous hold, the legs can either be up
close in a kneeling position or stretched out straight. Use whichever is effective or comfortable.
Study the plates for the positions of the head, arms and legs. There are several variations of this
hold but this is the basic one.
There are two basic ways of applying the armlock. The first against a straight arm, is to
straighten it a bit more against the joint and the second against a bent arm is to bend it against
the natural range of the arm. In effect, this means that the arm can be locked no matter what
position it is in and in fact there are innumerable ways of applying arm locks. I shall describe
just two, illustrating the basic methods. The beginner should remember these two basic ways and
try to put them into practice at every opportunity.
Ju-ji-gatame (straight arm lock)
This lock has been used with great success in competition. It can be done in various
positions but I will describe the most usual position. Quite often in groundwork your opponent
will end up in the defensive posture as shown with you kneeling close behind him. To apply the
lock, first of all place your left thigh on your opponent's head, at the same time making your
right hand into a ball, push it under the opponent's right arm and then catch your own left arm.
Now swing your left leg over his head and tuck your heel into his neck on the left side.
Your right leg bends with the right foot tucked in under the opponent's body. At the same
time as you swing your left leg over the opponent's head, start to fall back with the opponent's
arm trapped in between your legs. Keeping his arm trapped between your legs start to put on the
pressure by raising your hips off the ground. Carefully transfer your grip to his wrist and in
combination with the raising of the hips pull his arm against the action of the joint until he
submits. To get the right pull against the joint always pull in the direction of the little finger (the
opponent's). Make sure that you trap the opponent's arm tightly between your two legs. Note the
exact position of my legs in the plates.
Ude-garami (entangled arm lock)
It often happens that when you try for the scarf-hold your partner will not let you encircle
his neck. In this case a variation of the scarf hold is taken by holding under the opponent's left
arm. This is a very powerful hold which gives many opportunities for locks and strangles. A
good opportunity for the entangled armlock occurs when the opponent's arms flap about in his
attempts to escape. If he should reach up for your collar let go with your left arm and catch the
opponent's wrist. Push his arm down to the mat and bend it until you can thread your right arm
through and catch your own left wrist.
From this position keep the opponent's arm bent and continue to twist the joint by pushing
his hand down toward the mat and lifting his elbow. Keep twisting until he submits. This lock
can be applied very quickly. Practise it many times until you can get the arm positions right
without having to think which arm goes where.
This method of scoring can be done in two ways. Either by cutting off the opponent's
wind or the blood to his head. Both take only a few seconds to make a man unconscious. I will
describe three methods as actually done in practice.
Okuri-eri-jime (sliding collar lock)
Quite often your opponent will be on all fours in a defensive position. This gives an
excellent opportunity for this strangle. Approach your opponent from the side thrusting your left
hand under his chin catching his right collar deep on the other side. As you do this swing your
right leg over the opponent's body and roll over to his right side clamping his body tight between
your two legs. As you start to roll over, thrust your right arm under the opponent's right armpit
to catch his left lapel. You should now be as in plate 198. To apply the strangle, pull up sharply
with your left hand against the opponent's throat. At the same time lock the opponent's body
tightly with your legs and pull down with your right hand in the opposite direction to your left
hand. Providing you have inserted your left hand deeply in the opponent's collar, the resulting
leverage against his throat will cause him to submit. It is essential to get the left hand position
as quickly as possible.
Kata-ha-jime (single wing lock)
This lock is applied against the same defensive position as the straight arm lock. In this
strangle, insert your left hand under and round the opponent's head to catch his right side collar
as deep as possible. As you do this thrust your right arm under the opponent's right arm and
down past the back of his head. As you do this, lift his right arm up to apply pressure, pull up
strongly with your left hand and shove your right arm deeper past the opponent's head. The
thickening of your right forearm will gradually force the opponent's head into the lock. Keep the
opponent close to your body and don't give him a chance to unravel his arm right.
Ju-ji-jime (cross strangle)
An excellent opportunity for applying this strangle is when you are sitting astride your
opponent. As quickly as possible thrust both hands down into the opponent's collar as deep as
possible with the thumbs on the inside of his collar. As soon as you have got this deep grip,
throw yourself to the side, clamp your man tightly between your legs and pull his head into your
body. As you pull him in the crossgrip of your arms you should press into the side of his neck
and make him submit. One point to remember is that the opponent even though he is underneath
is in exactly the same position to apply the same strangle back to on you. Therefore try to beat
him to it.
This ends the section on groundwork. I haven't included many techniques however the
ones I have included are the essential ones. The beginner should practise all of them as often as
possible until he can do them without dithering.
The amount of progress you will make depends upon the amount of effort you put into
your judo. Obviously going to the judo club once a week will not get you along as fast as you
would if you went three times a week. It is possible for a young man to get his black belt within
a year providing he starts under the right instructor and trains really hard. However hard you do
decide to train, I'm sure that you will enjoy judo. I have been doing judo for thirteen full years
and I still manage to learn something new about this intricate sport every time I go on the mat.
I wish you luck in your efforts.