When is a retreat not a retreat?

After last weeks blog post I received some good feedback from online martial arts acquaintances – get your head down, train like you mean it, concentrate on doing your best and giving your best.  All this advice helpfully detail in this blog post by Ando Mierzwa : http://www.senseiando.com/perfect-sparring-partner/   Cue me going along to training with a very different attitude.  (Sometimes we need the metaphorical boot up the backside.)  And guess what?  Instead of coming away from training feeling like a failure I came away knowing I had gained something, that I had improved and that I knew exactly what to work on away from class.  So thank you everyone who commented on that blog post.

There is one thing I want to share, and which will also help jog my memory in the future, and this relates to a paired sword work exercise.  The aim is to help hone your foot work, striking technique and maintaining good distance from your partner.  It goes like this.

  1. Tori attacks – shomen (straight sword cut).
  2. Uki counters by side stepping and bringing their sword onto tori’s.
  3. This is then repeated with tori effectively chasing uki across the dojo.  At the end of the dojo you switch rolls and former tori is now chased up the dojo with the attacks.

All well and good.  Except when I was dong the counter we were making it across the dojo in about five attacks, but when I was attacking it was a good eight to ten before we reached.  I know I have small legs, but my stride isn’t that tidy.  What was going on?  Our instructor watched and then pointed this out.

“If you retreat a lot, he’s going to move in to close the distance.  If you stay put then he can’t move in because he can’t attack close up.  So he is adjusting to what you do.”


Well that’s like jitsu!  You can’t swing a punch if you are hugged up close to someone.  (And similarly you can’t make contact if you are more than an arms length away from them.)  So with my iaido by not retreating I was taking control of that attack.  In fact, I could even turn my counters to the attack into a form of attack by stepping in more.  Because if tori wants to attack he is now going to have to make room to swing that sword.

So in response to last weeks question about being scary enough, the answer to seems to be take the imitative and train hard.



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