When I arrived at the dojo today, there was no Iaido taking place. The only people there were the main sensei and another student whom I haven’t met yet – a high school student who I believe is either Yon (4) Kyu or San (3) Kyu. Being still too new to wear any uniform or bogu (armor) I changed into my usual sweats and t-shirt. The other new beginner arrived shortly after. Looks like it’s just going to be us four today.
In order for the more advanced beginner to get something out of today’s lesson sensei decided to do something a little bit more advanced than what we’ve been working on: Bokuto ni Yoru Kendo Kihon Waza Keiko wo. For brevity’s sake we’ll shorten that to just Kihon Waza.
Roughly 15 years ago Kihon Waza was created to help beginners develop technique in a way that helps them relate the shinai as an actual sword. A bokken is used as it more closely resembles a katana than a shinai. For a more detailed explanation of Kihon Waza I suggest reading this post on Kenshi247.
Recently, our Federation (the SouthEastern US Kendo Federation) has made it a mandatory part of testing for 4 – kyu and above. There are 9 total Waza and each rank has to learn a little more (1-3 for 4 kyu, 1-6 for 3 kyu, 1-9 for 2 kyu). In Japan and in some places elsewhere, adult beginners can many times be assigned a rank of Ikkyu (1-kyu) right off the bat, however in our Federation you can not directly test into ikkyu, you have to obtain an earlier kyu rank first and then later test for ikkyu; dan rank testing require more formal kata training.
Within our usual time we were able to cover the first 6 waza with everyone acting as both motodachi (receiving the strike) and kakarite (giving the strike). This has been my favorite lesson thus far, probably because it resembled two person combat, albeit in a very structured and obtuse way. I hope we get to practice this again soon. Talking with sensei after class, he mentioned he feels like I might be ready to test for a rank at our annual tournament in June. Based on how I feel, and their observations, they will let me know which rank they feel I can best achieve. I’m in no rush to just blow through ranks, because in reality at this point it doesn’t mean much. Of course I’ll revisit that statement when I approach Dan level testing in who knows how many years.