The Sword and the Movement
Maximizing the potential of fighting abilities in humans
The practice of ancient Japanese fencing is different from Kendo.
Unlike his later cousin which is both a competitive sport and a spiritual way ("do" in Japanese), Kenjutsu is part of the Bujutsu family, in other words old military techniques.
Kenjutsu training is not based on the development of athletic qualities specific to sportsmen, but on other skills that are specific to the use of a sword in combat, and are more durable over time since not diminishing not with age.
Among these essential qualities are, can be found above all, the imperceptibility of movement; minimizing the signals given by the body and the mind in order to prevent the adversary from perceiving and anticipating the attack; and an extreme rapidity, fruit of a light gesture and the suppression of any indirect gesture between the sword and its objective. The combination of these skills gives the impression that the swordsman's gesture "disappears" or is "invisible" from the point a martial art point of view. By concealing his intention, the swordman manages to deceive the adversary and become unpredictable.
It would be wrong, however, to believe that the acquisition of such skills is possible by using one's body structure in the manner of ordinary people.
The works of few contemporary Japanese masters , who has specialized in the study of ancient denshos (rolls), ancient texts and illustrations, suggest that the ancients samurais moved using principles that were specific to them. It is possible that at the touch of Western civilization, and especially because of the military service set up under the Meiji Restoration, this way of moving was lost, and replaced by the one we know.
Fortunately, modern specialists are now working to regain these skills and the rediscovery of an authentic movement, allowing the acquisition of a speed of movement that can not be obtained through sports training, as intensive as it is.
Among the elements that are common, allowing to differentiate the traditional movement from the athletic practices, it is possible to mention:
- The development of a light gesture, first condition to the acquisition of a quick gesture. The tensions slow down the movement and allow the oppopent's eye to predict the attack , so it is essential for the swordman who wants to make his gesture imperceptible to minimize them .
- The global gesture, which uses the whole body at the same time rather than a separated and successive use of muscle groups.
- The absence of pressure in the ground, which gives the impression that the body "floats" or "rolls" above the ground without the weight being transferred on leg or the other. In combat, it is much more difficult to anticipate the movement of an opponent if he is not seen giving an impulse with a particular leg when attacking.
- The hips are not used as the motor of the movement. Unlike many sporting practices such as West and Southeast Asian boxes where they are used to ensure the power of strikes, the samurai kept the hips relatively low during combat and did not dissociate their movement from that of the trunk.
- An important work on the center and straight lines inside body and mouvement that minimizes time and effort required to reach the opponent, as well as the opportunities for the opponent to perceive the attack and react.
Classical Japanese fencing courses that I pass on are the result of a personal research, inspired by the work of contemporary masters who focused their work on the rediscovery and transmission of the movement of samurais. Through my work in Alexander Technique, I strive to convey a pedagogical approach easier to access for the western public. The Japanese learning methodology, being based on the observation of a model and its reproduction, it may seem difficult to seek to reproduce a gesture whose essence is imperceptible, especially if one is accustomed to a pedagogy rich in verbal explanations. In my classes, while having the concern of the rigor and the fidelity to the principles evoked by the Japanese masters and researchers, I strive to enter the corporal details and the analysis of the movement, in order to allow the student to understand the mechanism of the gesture both intellectually and sensually.