In kobudo, however, my gradings remain at 3 month intervals and my next one is on Sunday. This time I am grading with the bokken. Our syllabus for bokken is based on Iai-jutsu and has 3 levels, my husband and I are taking level 1.
The level 1 bokken syllabus is much more demanding than the level 1 syllabus of other weapons and cannot be learnt to a high enough standard in just 3 months. We have been training with the bokken for at least a year now alongside the three weapons we have already graded in. The last three months have been dedicated to just training with the bokken.
The syllabus focuses on drawing the bokken in different ways, the five basic cuts, the basic stances, four disarming techniques in seiza, wrist locks with the handle of the bokken, 5 muto dori techniques (disarming techniques) using jujitsu moves, an elaborate Reishiki (beginning) ceremony and demonstration of decorative cord (sageo) tying to the handle of the bokken.
Learning to use a bokken effectively definitely requires you to learn how to relax into a technique until the last second when you apply tension. Without this ability to relax you look like you're hacking someone to death rather than smoothly cutting them! It is a skill that transfers well to karate where the ability to alternate between soft and hard is also necessary to generate speed and power. This is no coincidence - many ideas and training practices used in karate come from several styles of sword. I previously wrote about this in Karate and the Sword .
Iai-jutsu not only has some overlap with karate it also has a lot of overlap with jujitsu, as you might expect. The sword is the weapon of the samurai and so is jujitsu. If a samurai was disarmed of his sword he would have to fight empty handed and so the art of jujitsu was developed. Samurai were particularly adept at Yoroi-kumi-uchi: Techniques for grappling in armour which required the combatants to use their hips and limbs in a particularly powerful fashion, allowing them to lock onto each other without actually grabbing the armour.
So my bokken training has taught me many things that are directly applicable to my karate training - I have learnt to move more fluidly and have learnt several jujitsu techniques that have improved my grappling skills in karate. I think that some selective cross-training like this is an excellent way of perfecting skills and body movements that transfer across different martial arts. Cross training can give you a new perspective on a similar technique learnt in your main art.
Another challenge of training with the bokken is learning how to move in a hakama! The first challenge is just getting the thing on and then learning how to get into and out of seiza without treading on it.....well, you can imagine the problems that presents!
Anyway, all is ready for the grading.
Here's a short video of a Reishiki ceremony (beginning ceremony). The one we have to do is similar but about 3 times as long and requires quite a lot of standing up and kneeling down again!
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