During today’s last training of 2016, my Sensei reminded our dojo about the importance of a sharp and snappy movement in our sword when we strike kote. This lively sharpness like the crack of a whip is referred to as sae. The ideal cut in kendo (yuko datotsu) requires a certain sharpness for it to be truly deserving of a point. This was what we really focused on this training.
It’s really motivating for developing my own kendo when I see everyone in the room increase the snappiness of their strikes. A class that responds to the teaching effectively has always improved my own response to the teaching. Even the two guys who aren’t in bogu yet were striking with a clean sharpness that I’m sure the shinpan (judges) would raise a flag for in the near future. I’m excited to see how much sharpness I can bring into my cuts in 2017!
Sae’s importance will appear obvious through exaggerating a strike with sae and a strike without sae. I’ve used this exaggeration in my own home training. I already knew what sae was. It’s not a hard concept to understand. I’d seen it for years. But, I didn’t really experience it with my full physiology until I did exaggeration drills like this.
The strike without sae is sluggish and the body may assume a lazy posture after contact is made. The sword simply falls on the target and mushes out. If the target were to suddenly move out of the way unexpectedly, the sword would fall far below the target and the body would fall with it. Its like you’re dumping your sword on to the target. Just moving this way makes me sleepy-looking.
The strike with sae looks like a whip. A whip may wind up slowly. It cracks quickly at the end. Once the shinai’s whip actually cracks, it immediately returns to a ready position. This may be chuudan-no-kamae, tsubazerai, or another position that outwardly displays alertness.
A kote strike with sae may be a full swing with furikaburi. The swing could be short and small. The swing could be large and slow. But, what gives it sae is the sharpness of the strike’s contact with the target and quickness of the sword to assume a powerful position right after the recoil of the strike. This snappy movement back to a ready position gives makes sae an important part of practicing good zanshin (immediate alertness after the strike) too.
This is one way I like to practice sae at home. Actually, I was just doing this a few minutes ago. ⬇️
Full furikaburi, slow strike, quick sae.
These gifs aren’t slowed down.
Full furikaburi sae to tsubazeriai.
I love how gifs repeat endlessly.
What would I do without an old ‘home-use’ shinai and a chair?