Learning Kendo Tactics -- 1.Dan and 2.Dan

It is assumed that practitioners at this level can make a sharp strike with small and quick hands and body movement and powerful Fumikiri and Fumikomi. I suggest therefore, that practitioners develop the simple tactics of Osae-waza and Harai-waza and try to attack with feint actions. As the practitioners at this level probably already know, even if you try to strike Men after Osae against someone at the same level or senior, in most instances their Shinai will be blocking the target before your Shinai reaches it, unless your attacking speed is very fast. The same thing will usually happen when you try to strike Kote after Harai from left to right. This suggests that using feint actions before striking are an important tactic. Of course, learning feint actions progress from simple ones to complicated ones. What I would like to introduce here for the practitioners at this level are quite simple feint actions and a slightly complicated one.

Some examples of simple ones are,
"pretend to attack Men after using Osae -> make the opponent defend Men -> then actually attack Kote or Do" and
"pretend to attack Kote after using Harai from left to right -> make the opponent defend Kote -> then actually attack Men".
This develops into slightly complicated ones such as "pretend to attack Kote-Men after using Harai from left to right -> make the opponent defend Men -> then actually attack Do".

What has to be remembered in trying to use these feint actions at this level is act first! Outwit the opponent properly and then strike". For example, in the case of "pretend to attack Men after using Osae -> make the opponent defend Men -> then actually attack Do", you need to lift up your Shinai with a big movement after using Osae to make your opponent believe that you are coming to strike Men and it is easy to defend it.

When trying to use "feint action then strike", many practitioners tend to try to do it too quickly. This will result in not being able to act properly and your opponent will not defend as you wish. The practitioners at this level should remember that what is important for them is not to move fast, but by skilful and slightly exaggerated acts, to make their opponent judge that he / she can defend the target easily by using only their Shinai.

It is also assumed that practitioners at this level have some Tokui-waza (waza that they are good at and use with confidence to score). In addition to tactics with feint actions, what practitioners at this level are recommended to try is to develop their Ji-geiko with thoughts of when or in what situation they should use their Tokui-waza. Here I would like to ask you to stop reading for a while and think:

1 How long after the start of Ji-geiko or Shiai do you attempt your Tokui-waza?

2 What are the conditions of attempting your Tokui-waza? e.g. distance, timing

I would also like you to think about what type of opponent you think that you can / cannot score by your Tokui-waza.

Can you have a picture(s) of a particular situation(s) and type(s) of opponent(s)? How much you know in your Kendo depends on how clearly you can bring picture(s) in your mind. Even if you do not think that you have any Tokui-waza, I would suppose that at least you have your favorite Waza and I suggest that you start thinking of your tactics and how you can use your favorite Waza effectively in Ji-geiko and Shiai. If you cannot bring any picture of a situation and type of opponent, then use your Tokui-waza in your mind; I also suggest that you start reflecting how you fight after each Ji-geiko. As described in the previous article, thinking about the above things will not only help you develop your tactical ability, but also help you develop greater scope in your Kendo and deepen your understanding of the technical and psychological structure, the mechanism of each Waza and its interaction with others.

As well as using feint actions, there are "Sute-waza" or "Mise-waza" that you can use to develop your Ji-geiko and Shiai. Literary "Sute" means to "throw away" and "Mise" means to "show". The meanings of these words here as tactics in Kendo are "Waza that are used for the purpose not of scoring but planting different Waza in your opponents mind so that you can make your Tokui-waza work more effectively in later attacking". Taking easy examples, to score your Tokui-waza, Kote-Do, you can attack simple Kote-Men a couple of times, make your opponent think that your Kote-Men is easy to defend and make the opponent defend by using only hands (then attack Kote-Do). You attack a powerful and sharp Kote a couple of times to score by Katsugi-Men later. An important point is that you should not attack by using only your hands but should attack with your whole body even if the Waza that you use is "Sute-waza" or "Mise-waza". Otherwise you will not be able to plant in your opponents mind the fact that you are attacking and you may get counterattacked easily. Here again, you need to show "realistic acting". Your Sute-waza or Mise-waza may reach a target even if you didn"t intend it. In that case, of course, you need to make it Ippon, so you need to use your Sute-waza" or "Mise-waza with Ki-ken-tai-no-itchi.

As you gain experience, you are expected not only to develop your Tokui-waza and favorite techniques, but also to improve the Waza that you are not good at and to become able to deal with people whose type of Kendo is hard for you to fence. For this, as described in "Attitudes to Ji-geiko part 2", continuing to avoid practicing with people who are hard for you to deal with is not a solution. It will remain your weak point. You should try to do Ji-geiko with them more often than with anyone else. Your attempt will fail and you will be struck again and again, but you cannot overcome this unless you keep trying. Learning through being struck is the way of developing Kendo. Of course, it is also important to try new techniques. However, do not try to do too many things in one Ji-geiko, but have appropriate task(s), considering your current ability and referring to your teachers teaching and advice.

Article by Dr. Sotori Honda-sensei, British National Kendo Team Coach