Fighting from a close distance

A large portion of points in kendo shiai are made from distance closer than issoku-itto and further than tsubazeriai. This is something I feel is maybe one of the areas we as a team could improve in. The close distance game is one of the game sense/constraint based approaches I’ve beet toying with for practicing fighting in various distances.

The close distance game

the it side keeps shinai up front, a bit higher than high chudan, the game starts when the other side touches it sides shinai with her own shinai. Both sides attempt to score from close distance. If the players drift apart or close to tsubazeriai and there is nothing immediately happening the players reset the game to beginning and start with the touch again. In case of one side scoring the scoring side becomes it for the next round.

The idea like in any constraint based approach is to let the players experiment and innovate and maybe find ways of solving the problem presented to them that are suited specifically to them. As this is a game with an opponent really out to get you we are also involving decision making and understanding and responding to the opponents actions — in short game sense. The hope also is that performance in this tasks transfers better to actual shiai use as the situations are more alike than say a drill with a compliant partner to shiai.

We did this on the game + drill + game format where the drill part was devised by each player individually after having a shortish group conversation about what things were difficult and what was happening in the practice. The hope is that the the first game part gives context for the following drill making it more relevant to actual fighting with an opponent and the latter game would show progress. That is an open question if it works. I’ve got some feedback that there is some transfer to shiai. But everything as always is a bit muddled. Another issue is that involving the player input in the practice is perhaps pedagogically better but years of kendo make it still feel a bit odd. I am not certain how the players view this as it is a deviation from the normal order of things and does require thinking of the practice in a new way. It would be nice to improve that part of the practice also but I’m somewhat at a loss how.

As an organisational detail we fought to 4 points so that from each fight losers would fight next with losers of some other game and winners with winners. There is a sweet spot on the required points. Too many makes the matches drag along, too few causes all time to be spent looking for a new partner. We’ve tried with 3 also and it maybe kept the fights more energetic than 4. The idea with the winners with winners rotation is that it slightly nudges the stronger players to play against each other making the fights more interesting for everyone. Also having some consequence for winning and losing is good as winning creates a sense of achievement and losing poses you a question why did this happen.

The overall schedule of the session was as follows totalling 1 1/2 hours.

  1. 15 min. warmup
  2. 5 min of free practice
  3. 15 min close distance game
  4. 10 min discussion/free practise from close distance
  5. 10 min close distance game
  6. 5 min break
  7. 15 min ippon shobu
  8. 10 min kagari-geiko
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