Mr. Michael Lindsay


USA





I had the great fortune to record nearly twenty pages of notes from what I experienced at Shi Ku Kai working with Iwanami sensei. The kendo I experienced there will influence me the rest of my life, and it would be difficult t choose just one topic to elaborate on for this report. However, one particular lesson stands out in my mind from the rest: Kiai. 

There are many aspects of Budo in general that are very difficult to understand. Iwanami sensei mentioned this to us several times about many different concepts, but for me personally the truth behind the importance of kiai was a linchpin that I had never understood well enough to implement in m kendo. I have done it wrong ever since I started practicing kendo.

Iwanami sensei taught me that Kiai, like Seme, comes from the "heart" of the person. If the person's heart is not engaged, there will be no seme. However, there are many situations in which kenshi practice where maintaining this engagement comes under heavy assault from both the outside, and the inside; fear, confusion, doubt, surprise, exhaustion, frustration, etc. However, even when you are experiencing these influences, your kiai mus remain strong. You must be aggressive, regardless of any hesitation you might possess.

Kendo is not about fighting, or trying to cheaply beat the opponent to points. Kendo involves a deep level of communication that requires participants to be totally focused on one another, free from outside influence. By using kiai--pulling tension into the tanden--you can push aside distractions and focus totally on th opponent. 


In this way, you can train your mind and spirit to continually strive towards correct action. In this way, Kendo becomes Budo--the primary goal of practice being to train ones humanity. 

The harder a kenshi works from the beginning of practice forwards, the harder it becomes to maintain constant concentration and mental stability. However, this is the purpose of kendo; training the mind to endure states and situations of extreme duress--in the same spirit that a samurai woul approach Shinken Shobu. This all begins with Kiai, which in my opinion is the gateway to stronger Kendo. 

I would never have come to this understanding without the help of Iwanami sensei and the rest of Shi Ku Kai, and I will be eternally grateful. Some things in Kendo can be spoken about, but must be felt to be truly understood. I felt Kiai for the first time at Shi K Kai. 

Michael Lindsay
July, 2011



Ms. Leo Olton


USA




My experience at the Shi Ku Kai dojo is what I would say is very humbling. Even though I knew about kiai, striking men, ji geiko and why I thought we did all of it, my understanding after attending the Shi Ku Kai dojo has completely transformed.

Kiai is not just a “battle cry” as I understood it as before, but a recharging of the spirit. Kiai must be constant and unyielding in order for one to keep fighting. Kiai is your own secret weapon; if your kiai is loud and comes from your diaphragm, your body and breathing will keep going steadily. Without right kiai, we cannot hit ippon, we cannot use proper ashi-sabaki, we cannot keep fighting well. If your kiai “melts” at the end of a hard practice, so does your Kendo. Your kiai is not just for your opponent, it is for you. Without it, you have no Kendo.

I learned what it means to strike the opponent and ippon correctly. We should not become desperate to hit your opponent. Even if we miss the target, we must practice hard and frequently to keep the swing strong, our backs straight, our foot work in conjuncture with our shoulders and arms, and our concentration not broken. It can still be a good strike even if it misses. We do not just hit men, kote, tsuki, or do, we must strike our opponent’s heart and spirit.  To do so, we must not warp or change our own because of frustration or fear.

At Shi Ku Kai, we practiced mainly kirikaeshi and men uchi. By doing these basic drills over and over, our bodies will learn what it means to do the right thing when the time comes. We do not need to know complicated techniques to do Kendo, but we must know how to hit men correctly in order to do Kendo.

Lastly, I came to understand what each part of practice meant. Jigeiko, I always understood was essential for every practice for all the wrong reasons. We practice basics so that our bodies will attain muscle memory. Jigeiko is to help our spirits become strong, for we can only be strong when presented with a difficult situation. Even if defeating the opponent seems impossible, we must show our best spirit and fight hard and “never mind” getting hit. Basic practice will help improve our jigeiko, but only if we practice basics correctly and often. We do shiai geiko so that we can “check ourselves” with others and that is all. All rank tests will simply show how you have practiced. We do Kendo so that we understand our own pain and difficulty and by doing so, we may understand other people better.

What I learned the most from Shi Ku Kai: we must be brave in times of difficulty, and press hard even when we are afraid we might fail at something. We do ourselves a big injustice when we do not try our hardest, for we practice with other people, and because we are not true to them, we would not be true to ourselves.

The children and adults that I practiced with at Shi Ku Kai dojo were truly inspiring, for even though sometimes they were very tired, they would not succumb to their tiredness. All the sensei that were there were very kind, and did not let big mistakes go unnoticed. Through the hard practice I feel I have a better understanding of correct Kendo, even though I cannot quite do it myself yet. This is something priceless, and a gift that I can take back with me to Oklahoma.

Thank you!

Leo Olten
July, 2011



Mrs. Bonnie Lindsay



USA



I do not practice kendo, but as my husband has done kendo for several years I have had the ability to see much kendo in America and in Japan. As I am basically just a spectator, I would like to report what I observed and hopefully what I can share with others who were not able to share in my experience. I recently had the opportunity to visit Japan and Shi Ku Kai dojo and was really amazed by what I saw. Iwanami sensei presents the basic elements of kendo in a way that is different from that which I have experienced before. For one thing, I have not seen tsuburi practiced with bokuto regularly as a standard part of practice. However, this makes a great deal of sense to me. While the bokuto has a different balance than a true sword, it is closer than that of a shinai and thus helps the student gain a greater understanding and feel for the proper mechanics of men. From this foundation, the understanding of kote, and do can grow.


> One of the concepts that I think I personally found most enlightening is the concept of circles and their application to kendo. Iwanami sensei drew a circle then divided it into four equal parts as you would cut a pie or pizza and then more and then more slices. He explained that it didn't matter which line you started the cut as long as the outside angle was maintained. If you imagine it similar to the face of a round clock and you think of the tip of the shinai moving from 12 to 9 over and over and moving along the outside curve of the clock, it may be easier to picture. If you were to start at 11 instead of 12 with your strike, it wouldn't matter as long as it moved along the same curve.

> This was very interesting to me because it made so much sense given the physics of a curved sword. if the tip is constantly moving on a perfect circular curve, than the cutting area of the sword would always hit the point at the same cutting angle and with a great deal of force behind it without more effort than necessary.

> In keeping with the circular concept, if you imagine more circles added to the first until it looks more like a wireframe ball around the person, you can see that the tip can move on different circular planes while still keeping the same focal point. In this case it would be a point at your center to which your left hand will still come. So, your sword is still moving in essence on the same circle, it has only slightly tilted its position.

> Another concept that really stood out to me, was the focus on posture. It seems to me that the proper posture is with a straight back and with momentum appearing to come from the small of the back and forward. This bears a notable difference from leading with ones stomach or hips too much which I have noticed sometimes makes people lean their heads forward too much to balance or offset the motion without thinking. Keeping the back straight and moving from the proper point seems to minimize bouncing and leaning to extremely forward which I have also noticed can be a common problem for many kendo-ka.

> Finally, the idea of wanting the proper ippon strike and not the "point" was very important but this is difficult for me to describe. I think that sometimes people's competitiveness can get in the way of their kendo. They compete and want to win and want the point. They want the hit too much. Iwanami sensei calls this the "wish." You wish too hard to make the hit and then soon your body starts to move in such a way that is not in keeping with the points afore mentioned. You will reach too far forward for men or point areas out of reach because you wish for it too much. You might find that your not moving on the circular planes because you are trying to get your tip to the target too quickly and aren't focused on the path it needs to take to get there. This is a difficult concept. The mind says that if you try to strike for men and miss, then it was a failure. However, if you try to strike for men and miss, but completed the strike properly, then it is my understanding that you are doing kendo. You are learning the way to hit and your are understanding the foundation of the hit. If you find that you are hitting men properly but your opponent is out of reach, then you need to work on your footwork and the concept of mae, but you are doing good kendo. You are learning and maturing and sometimes all things don't come together at the same time. That is okay. Progress is still being made and you are still enduring and moving forward. It seems to me that the true kendo-ka should focus more on the art of kendo and the strengthening of his character through his art.

>Finally, I would like to personally thank everyone at the Shi Ku Kai dojo who made our entire stay (in and out of the dojo) wonderfully memorable, educational, and fun. If you have the chance to go, you should. Be ready to come with an open mind and humility and your kendo will improve.

Bonnie Lindsay
July, 2011


Mr. Nigel Collins



UK

Dear all,
''I was lucky enough to practice at Shikukai dojo after my son had practiced there last summer. Iwanami-sensei is not only an impressive kendo player, but a very impressive teacher. Shikukai, under his tutelage, is much more than a dojo to learn how to do proper kendo, it is a traditional dojo in the true sense of the word. A place to train the mind as well as the body; a place to learn about yourself as much as to learn about kendo. The way Iwanami-sensei’s students conduct themselves in the dojo and the way in which they strive to improve their kendo was great to see. Iwanami-sensei runs a disciplined dojo with an emphasis on correct kendo; kendo that requires patience and good posture; kendo that comes from the sword. Since I practiced at Shikukai under Iwanami-sensei I have been trying to not only improve my kendo, but to improve myself as a person. I learned that improvement not only comes from doing kendo, but also how we conduct ourselves inside the dojo, outside of the dojo and in life generally. I am very much looking forward to practicing at Shikukai many times in the future."


Nigel Collins
Jan 8, 2011

Mr. Rick Collins



UK

Okamoto-sensei,

I'm now back in England, a little tired but otherwise fine!

Thank you so much for all the teaching you gave me at Shikukai this summer! Not only did I learn so much from you and the other Shikukai senseis, but I also began to enjoy Kendo even more than I already did. If I manage to go to Japan again next year, I will definately go to Shikukai regualarly again!

I got back to England safely and although I haven't been back long, I already miss Shikukai keiko. It was the best experience I have had doing Kendo and I very much appreciate everything Iwanami sensei did for me, including the teaching, the advice I was given and the things he did for me outside of keiko too like fixing my kote. I hope to go back next year and experience the great Shikukai keiko again!

Also please pass on my thanks to everybody else at Shikukai including Hiroshi's mother who was not only incredibly friendly and helpful but also made a great DVD for me to watch and analyse my keiko from as well as simply enjoying the great memories.

Again, thank you for everything, see you next year and please be careful in the heat!

 Rick Collins
Sept 7, 2010


Mr. Jim DeBrecht


USA
I first met Koki Abe sensei several years ago when he visited St. Louis while he was studying in the states. He would always give me and my friends pointers at taikai, but  I was surprised to see him at the Nabeshima Cup in April of 2009 since he had already moved back to Japan. It turned out that he was just in the states for a short visit but managed to fit in some kendo. So when I visited Tokyo at the end of the year I decided to look him up. He invited me to his dojo and warned me that his sensei was "pretty strong." I was not disapointed!

Iwanami-sensei impressed me right away. We started off with men suburi, he corrected my posture and told me my abs were too relaxed. He started talking about "ki" and striking each strike like I meant it. Making each and every strike as if it would be my last became the theme of the class for me.

Iwanami-sensei pushed me all through practice and at the end talked to me about the spirit of kendo, while Abe-sensei translated. Iwanami-sensei talked about how kendo isn't a sport, but a martial art and that each strike should kill and not just be swung. He talked about the importance of working on kihon and basic 'men.'  It really struck me when he said that these basics could get you all the way to go-dan.

I really like how Iwanami-sensei took the time to explain things at the end of the class. It stuck with me and I continued to think about the meaning of martial arts when I went back to the U.S.A. About a month later we had a sensei visit our dojo in St. Louis and I felt like I began to recognize the significance of the lessons Iwanami-sensei was teaching me in Japan.

Thank you Iwanami-sensei and Abe-sensei for inviting me to your dojo and showing me around. I'd really like to come back again and train with you longer next time.

Jim DeBrecht
May 2010

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ジミーとの出会いは、私がアメリカに住んでいたとき、ジミーが通っていたミズーリ州セ ントルイスにある道場でした。 私は指導者の立場で、それ以降は、主にメールを通じ尋ねられた事や、気になった事などをアドバイスしていました。

僕が日本に戻ってからは、殆ど連絡を取る事も無くなっていたのですが、 今年(2010年)の四月に渡米した際に試合を見学する機会があり、そこで久しぶりに再会致しました。その後、ジミーが来日するという知らせがあったのです。「折角会うなら稽古を」という事で岩波先生のいらっしゃる金曜日に稽古を設定しました。その日はジミーの指導にかなりの時間を割いて頂いたのを覚えています。 事実当初の予定よりも1時間超稽古を付けて頂き、終わったのは9時を過ぎていたかと思います。

ジミーは、日本各地を観光しながら之久会も含めて結局4カ所で稽古をしたそうです。 その中でも、岩波先生と稽古が出来た事はもっとも勉強になったと話していました。直接的な表現で厳しく指導して頂ける先生が日本も含めてなかなかいらっしゃらないなか、岩波先生のご指導はストレートで新鮮おおいに学ぶべきことがあったようです。

来年また来日したいとメールがありましたので、今度来る時はもう少し回数を稽古出来る様にしたら良いと伝え、その日を今から楽しみにしています。

之久会 指導部長 阿部公揮