[BLOG POST] - The Finer Points of Gyaku-Do (with VIDEOS!)


Recently I taught a session at my local Kendo club, focusing on the finer points of Gyaku-Do. 

Gyaku-Do, means 'reverse' Do, and is sometimes also called 'Hidari-Do', meaning 'Left' Do. As the name suggests, this means that we strike the left side of the opponent's Do, as oppose the usual right side. 

This is a fairly advanced technique, which is reasonably difficult - but more importantly, is it very situational. As with all Kendo Waza, the criteria for Yuko-Datotsu remain constant, requiring correct technique, posture, Kiai etc. However, specifically with Gyaku-Do, the timing and opportunity are vitally important.

Here is a great video I found on YouTube of a teacher in Japan, teaching Gyaku-Do to elementary school children. The points he makes strongly echo the points I made to my class at my Kendo club.

The first point the teacher makes is that we must have good posture, and be facing the opponent - and not the floor, when striking.

His second point - and the point that I feel needs particular consideration - is that the correct opportunity for Gyaku-Do is when the opponent raises their arms high, to block. If the opponent is not blocking in this way, it is generally not appropriate to strike Gyaku-Do. 

This leads to his third point - with the above considered, you have to *make* the opponent block in this way, in order to create the opportunity. In other words, the initial approach - or 'Seme' is equally as important as the actual strike. 

He goes on to say, that there are many ways to do this, and to make the opponent feel that they may be hit on the Men. But the important thing to remember is that the *first* thing you must do is consider how you will achieve this before you even attempt to strike. 

Next he says that after hitting, you can't go to your right, as it doesn't really make sense. You either go to your left, or go backwards to perform correct Zanshin.

He continues that in order to strike correctly, the left hand must be in the correct place, and not above the right hand. He doesn't go into detail in the video, but in order to strike properly, you must keep the left hand below the right, the Shinai must travel diagonally downwards (not horizontally), and the left hand must stay in the middle of your body. As you strike you twist your hips slightly, but your left-hand stays in the middle - following your body round with the twist of your hips.

Finally, he says that you must never take your eyes away from your opponent.

Essentially these are all the main elements of Gyaku-Do, however, it is important that as practitioners, and as referees, we correctly understand how this Waza should be considered Yuko-Datotsu, and how it should not. 

As I mentioned above, the opportunity is extremely important when considering Gyaku-Do strikes. In order for it to be valid, you must have *caused* the opponent to raise their hands, and basically also plant their feet still on the floor. Also, it is more important that the technique is correct, over the strike being extremely powerful. If you perform Gyaku-Do with good technique, at the correct time it will be considered valid. However, if you attack randomly, from no real place of 'Seme', and try to smash the Do as hard as you can, then the strike should not be counted as valid. Further, you have a high probability of really hurting someone!

Gyaku-Do is a difficult technique, that is probably under-practiced. However, it is not something you randomly 'whip out of the bag' because you can't seem to hit your opponent, and you are desperate to make a strike. 

Here is an analysis video I did of the original video, where I talk more about these points:

Sometime in the near future I'll include this in an episode of The Kendo Show, and go into demonstrative detail. But for now, I touch on the subject here - 

Did you enjoy reading this post? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Happy Keiko-ing!


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  • Very helpful Senei! Thank you so much!

  • As a beginner this is too advanced for me, but it was easy to read and follow, so I got something out of it, maintain good posture and the strike must go down, and hand position I’m still a bit unsure about but they’ve been teaching this in our beginner Kendo classes, so I’m sure more instructions are coming.

    Thank you,

  • Nice post Andy. Looking forward to more from your new blog. Cheers mate ;)

  • As always it was a wonderful article to read, and I like many others appreciate you taking the time to share this information.
    Well I know for a fact that I gain so much from the teachings.
    Thanks for sharing and best regards from Nova Scotia, Canada.

    Michael Robertson

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