In this video Andy talks about important points to consider when practicing Suburi at home. In collaboration with John O'Sullivan Sensei (Kyoshi 7dan) he takes you through some of the key things to make sure you get right when practicing alone.
Supporting notes on Kendo Suburi from O'Sullivan Sensei are as follows:
So here goes: -
1. The first point to make is that beginners and intermediate kendoka should practice their Suburi daily e.g. in the garden or hall. This practice is excellent as it keeps the kendo muscles in tune and aids overall wellbeing and fitness. However, if you are practising Suburi incorrectly this is very bad indeed as you can build up poor muscle memory which is extremely difficult to correct later in your kendo career. Also, some kendoka do many (hundreds) of Suburi cuts in a session – all OK if you are doing it correctly – but the worst thing you can do if doing it incorrectly. Better to do less but all correctly. So, the recommendation is = do it correctly and often.
2. So, what is correct? Let me explain a few pointers that will assist you to get your Suburi and cutting action right: -
3. The wrists should hold the shinai correctly, specifically:
- The Y formed by the thumb and forefinger of each hand should be in line with the tsuru (the twine along the top side of the shinai). This make the wrists a natural hinge.
- The little finger of the left hand should be over the end of the tsukagawa (hilt) of the shinai.
- On both hands, the thumb and forefinger should never grip the shinai with any meaningful pressure – if you do the sinews in the wrist will lock the natural hinge noted above and you cannot cut correctly (and no POP sound so loved of shinpan (referees)).
4. The shoulders should never be used to deliver power e.g. as when using a sledgehammer. We seniors often see this power used in gradings and particularly in Kirikaeshi, i.e. when the men cut slides off the opponent's men and sometimes can hit the shoulder! The rule is = practice with soft shoulders and soft elbows – the “pop” associated with a good cut is the combination of soft shoulders and elbows operating quickly in conjunction with the above-mentioned wrist action.
5. At the terminal position in any Suburi, both arms should end up relatively straight (maybe the left a little bent). And so: when doing Jogeburi the full swing of the shinai should be smooth with relaxed shoulders and elbows as mentioned above. At all times trying to swing the shinai in a perfectly straight line from beginning to the end of the cut. The way I personally teach is by aligning the shinai swing with a vertical line on the swing down, e.g. using a corner or gym girder or hanging ropes At the end of the swing (for all forms of Suburi) the wrists should slightly overextend and bingo = the elbows straighten.
6. Many of us are right-handed, and this gives rise to a further problem. The raising and downwards cutting of the shinai should be a function of the left hand ( only) – if the right is used in any meaningful way typically the cut never follows a straight line. It’s the most difficult fault to correct in inexperienced kendoka, later in their kendo career. This use of the left hand is a pet hate of mine!!!
7. Given all the above we should never be seen to cut downwards – the cut should perform a forward arc trajectory to the point of contact. We see this problem often when a beginner cuts kote downwards, misses, and the shinai hits the floor!!! A perfect demonstration of the incorrect cutting action.