Day 1 – Jeffrey Marsten sensei kendo training @ Tucson Kendo Kai

Nihon kendo kata

Marsten sensei was directly and meticulously taught under Inoue Yoshihiko sensei in Japan on kendo kata. This is why he’s 7th dan and not stuck at yondan like so many in the US. On all of the katas, there has to be an in-depth understanding of each of the katas. It forms the basis of kendo. For ippon-me, there is the righteousness represented in jodan. And the split opening of the body in half has to be felt by the uchidachi. The pressure has to be real. In godansha kendo, every cut is made within the context of in-depth understanding. Without this, it’s a mere stick fighting. Sanbon-me is a mercy. It’s not mere mastery of technicality — there has to follow a real understanding. The pressure has to be real, not a mere routine. The shidachi has to feel as if he’s won in a fight; uchidachi has to feel as if he’s lost in a fight if it’s a kata that ends with a kill.

On shomen

When doing yakusoku geiko with Marsten sensei, he pointed out good shomen. It’s also the one I felt as such. It’s little hard to explain, but it’s a combination of tenouchi, ki, ken, tai that somehow comes out really good.

On kote-men

We usually practice wazas in steps as if for beginners, but in wazas, the last strike is what is really counted. In kote-men, the kiai kote-men are three syllables, but we take two steps; so the kiai can be shortened to te-men. And also, the waza is meant to be executed as one compounded motion.

On why we do kendo

We don’t get promoted as often around here, and we don’t even have taikai — but they all help us to know where we stand. The ranks are just for pecking order in dojo, and doesn’t mean much more. Each federation has “good boys” club where certain people get ranks because they belong to certain federations, and they had paid the dues there. This probably explains for that unexplainable failed shinsa where the other guy who completely screwed up passed while I did not.

On nihon-me

Cut with a power just enough to slice through the wrist and leave the hand dangling.

On what we call “warm-up”

It’s a kihon drill, not a warm-up. Perfect practice leads to perfection. When doing suburi, don’t break it into two motions of lift – strike, but make it into one where the footwork feels like one move on a strike for both going forward and backward.

On “dead sword”

Lifting up the sword too much — it’s merely adding the distance + time.


Have a written plan. Solve one problem at a time.

On seme

You mentally cut the person, and then the sword follows.

On fumikomi

No need to take a bigger step, the longer step you take, the more time you’re taking.