Physical Training May 2008
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Technical Digest: Jodo Kamae

copyright © 2008 Andy Watson, all rights reserved

While it is not my belief that Jodo can be taught through the written word, I would like to provide clarity about some of the more basic points of Jodo, hence the introduction of this technical digest section.

This first unit covers kamae, basic posture and comes with a slightly interesting story. At the recent European Championships in Paris, the Jodo delegation leader, Matsui Sensei, started the one-day seminar looking at kamae and using a pair of white tabi to construct and demonstrate the correct positions of the feet in the various kamae. At first, most of us smiled and laughed to ourselves seeing this bodiless pair of tabi on the floor but in fact it became a very valuable lesson and it was seen time and again where people weren’t following these basic rules. The immediate following of the Darlington Seminar also showed that this basic understanding wasn’t consistent throughout. Many of us yawn at such basic points, however, consistent implementation is rare and the full reasons why these kamae are the way they are, is seldom understood.

I will endeavour to explain these points as has been explained to me…

Shijo Kamae - Jo Postures

Jodo Kamae : Andy Watson The first format of kamae after normal standing-up straight, is Yaya hanmi. “Yaya” means a bit but in this case is used in the context meaning “halfway”. Hanmi means “half body” and refers to being side-on to your opponent. Yaya hanmi therefore means halfways sideon or more simply 45 degrees to your opponent.

The front foot should be straight and pointing to the front. The rear foot should be turned 45 degrees with the heel on the floor. In this posture the hips and upper body are also turned 45 degrees; this is important as it allows the full length of the jo to be reached by both hands without changing the direction the jo is pointing at. The rear leg should be extended and the front leg naturally bent (see below).
Jodo Kamae : Andy Watson

This position is used for the following techniques:
Therefore it is easy to see that this kamae is used very frequently throughout jodo practise and it is ultimately essential that one trains ones body to assume this posture consistently when it is appropriate to do so.

Jodo Kamae, Ma Hanmi : Andy Watson
Ma hanmi means completely side-on. This refers to the attitude of the hips and the upper body in relation to the opponent. The position of the feet has some allowance for variation as some teachers prefer the feet to be more or less side-on to the opponent while others prefer a more forward attitude. The trend seems to be moving towards the latter as shown in the diagram.

With the body turned completely 90 degrees, the front foot is inclined naturally towards the front but only up to about 45 degrees; any more makes it difficult to maintain the side-on attitude of the hips. Ideally the rear foot should be turned at 90 degrees and no more; turning it less, say 45 degrees to the opponent, is acceptable provided it does not compromise the sideon attitude. It does however seem most natural to keep the rear foot at 90 degrees. In this attitude the heels are more or less in line with each other. The head should be turned to face completely towards the opponent. Again, the rear heel is on the floor. The rear leg should be extended and the front leg bent naturally (see below).
Jodo Kamae, Ma Hanmi : Andy Watson

This position is used in the following basic techniques:
While this kamae is used less than yaya hanmi in the tandoku dosa, it crops up time and time again in the kata. It is of absolutely necessary to make a clear distinction within the kata between this kamae and yaya hanmi – mixing the two up makes for loss of shiai, failure of examination and creation of bad habits.

Uchidachi Kamae – Sword Postures

Jodo Kamae, sword : Andy Watson
For the tachi, the postures are slightly similar although no less important. During the majority of practise, especially during the approach and during an attack, the posture is known as Seitai, or straight-on. In this posture, the feet should both be parallel with the heel of the rear foot raised off the floor. This should be a small amount of raise such that rather than tipping the body forwards, it provides a tension in the rear leg which when released (by for example, lifting the front foot) drives the hips and body forwards.

There are exceptions to this posture such as when receiving a technique from the jo such as kuritsuke, hikiotoshi etc but during any attacking kamae such as chudan or hasso , the feet must be in this position.

The hips and body in seitei of course are facing the enemy square on. The front leg is naturally bent with the rear leg extended (see below).
Jodo Kamae, tachi : Andy Watson

Given the emphasis on the importance of correct kamae at an event as important as the European Championships, it would seem prudent to ensure that the assuming of correct kamae is a fundamental and regular part of one’s Jodo study.

This article was originally published in the Jodobu News and Update 8th December 2007. Reprinted with permission.
Andy Watson is the Jodo Bucho for the British Kendo Association.

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Physical Training May 2008