Queen Mary Kendo Club

Session #3: Introduction to kirikaeshi

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Luckily it didn’t rain too much at the Japan Matsuri, and we all got our share of Japanese grub (and dubious karaoke).

In this week’s session, our coach introduced kirikaeshi, an exercise done in a pair that is required in all gradings up to 4th dan. It is important to remember that kirikaeshi requires effort and concentration from both the cutting and receiving kendoka.

Kirikaeshi (切り返し) literally means cut and return. It may seem complex when you first see it done at full speed, but the steps should be easy to remember when you break it down:

  1. Both kendoka assume chudan (the “middle” stance, where the tip of the shinai is pointing towards the opponent’s throat).
  2. The receiving side shows an opening for men and the cutting side cuts a large men cut and comes to tsubazeriai (position where the tsuba of both kendoka are touching below chest level).
  3. The receiving side steps back with the left foot with the shinai ready to receive.
  4. The cutting side cuts four yokomen (side men cuts) going forward: left, right, left, right. After the first left yokomen, the receiving side steps back on each cut with the right foot, then left, then right, and receives each cut with the shinai.
  5. The cutting side then cuts five yokomen going back: left, right, left, right, left. The receiving side now steps forward on each cut with the right foot, then left, then right, then left, then right, and receives each cut with the shinai.
  6. The cutting side moves out to distance and steps 1 to 5 are repeated.
  7. The cutting side finishes with a large men cut, going through past the receiving side.

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The difficulty lies in executing the above steps correctly, without tension and in coordination with your partner. The finer details of the exercise will be covered in the coming weeks, but I hope this post clarifies the basic steps.

If you’d like to see an example, this video at http://youtu.be/yoyNx7qZFwo shows how kirikaeshi should be done, at first slowly, then at full speed. The second half of the video shows two examples of how kirikaeshi should not be done: (i) cutting only the shinai and not to the head, and (ii) cutting too far down the side of the men.

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Author: Sybil Wong

PhD student in Molecular Oncology at Barts Cancer Institute, QMUL

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