The Iaido Journal  July 2011
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One-on-One with Makoto Adachi
(3rd dan, Kendo)
Part 2

copyright 2011 Douglas Tong, all rights reserved.

The following article is the second part of an interview with Makoto Adachi (3rd dan, kendo), who is a long-time kendo practitioner from Kobe, Japan. In this article, Mr. Adachi gives us a look at police kendo.
Author’s note: This interview was conducted in December 2010 in Mississauga, Canada.

Part 2: Learning Kendo

Question: What do you remember about your grandfather in terms of kendo? His philosophy on kendo?
Adachi: Well, his philosophy was: You will know the position, then you will know how to fight.

Question: Can you explain?
Adachi: It’s like Sonshi.* If you know the enemy, you can’t lose the fight. It’s the art of war. So observe the opposition, then you fight.

* Sonshi is the Japanese pronunciation for Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu was the famous Chinese military philosopher on the art of war. For more information, see: Sun Tzu. The famous quote he is referring to goes like this:

“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”

Question: Can you explain what you mean?
Adachi: Sure. So the fight starts when you get into the dojo. So after, you watch the opposition. Analyze what kind of character they have.

Question: Character?
Adachi: Yes. If the opponent is small, nervous, calm, a big guy, fast, etc… Watch every movement, so that you will know his character. Then you will know how to fight the guy. But do not forget to respect the opponent.

Question: Why?
Adachi: You can’t look down on the opponent. Don’t think you’re stronger than him or better than him.

Question: How come?
Adachi: Because you have to respect the opponent.

Question: Why?
Adachi: As a human being, you can’t forget to respect other people. After all, it’s just a game. It’s not a war.

Question: Do you remember any piece of advice he gave you?
Adachi: Yes. If you respect the guy and you want to live with him, then you want to be like him, generally speaking.

Question: Did he push you hard to train?
Adachi: No, only if I really wanted to. People never force you to do anything in Japan.

Question: What do you mean?
Adachi: If you’re a small child, yes they will make you do things. But generally, no. For example, I was learning violin at the same time. I wasn’t forced to do it. I liked it. But I liked kendo better.

Question: What about learning techniques? Did your grandfather teach you any special techniques?
Adachi: No, nothing fancy. Just basic techniques.

Question: Why?
Adachi: Because that’s all you need.

Question: What do you mean?
Adachi: If you know the basics, pretty much you can cover everything.

Question: Really? What about special techniques like katsugi or jodan or suriage, for example?
Adachi: Well, you can do katsugi, jodan or suriage, but it doesn’t mean you are good at it, or even able to use it correctly. It looks good but it doesn’t mean you can use it well. It’s just a tool. Looks impressive but it doesn’t mean it’s very efficient in a fight.

Question: So why do people use them?
Adachi: I don’t know. I suppose that a lot of people use those fancy techniques because they want to satisfy themselves. Meaning that they want to feel like, “Now, I am using this fancy technique” or showing off that you can use it. But actually, you’re not showing off, you’re just doing it wrong.

Question: Doing it wrong?
Adachi: Yes. Most of the time, you practice basics only. Practicing basics in-depth is more useful and meaningful. Watch The Karate Kid. It’s the same. Just learn the basics. It’s enough.

Question: So the style of kendo you learned was police kendo?
Adachi: Yes.

Question: How is police kendo different from other styles of kendo?
Adachi: It’s more accurate. It’s more powerful. It’s really powerful. So there’s a lot of contact; in the practice, in the keiko I mean.

Question: Contact? What do you mean?
Adachi: Physical contact.

Question: Can you describe more about it?
Adachi: In keiko, there’s lots of kakari-geiko, where you just keep hitting. There’s no rest. No thinking. Just keep coming. There’s lots of pushing. Lots of scrums, body crunching, physical fighting.

Question: Physical fighting?
Adachi: Yes, where you don’t use shinai. You know, like throw the guy on the floor. Push him down on the floor so that you will learn how difficult the human body moves with bogu, different from usual life. When you practice in that manner, you get used to different environments.

Question: Why is this important in police kendo?
Adachi: Because you don’t know what kind of environment you will face as a police officer. The purpose is training in different environments and gaining experience in difficult environments.*
*difficult situations or circumstances or scenarios

Question: Ah yes. I forgot that they are police officers. Are the techniques different?
Adachi: Not really. It’s more basic. Not just kendo techniques but manner in the dojo, behaviour in the dojo. The way of thinking in daily life is different.

Question: Why is that?
Adachi: That’s what kendo was meant to be. Not just a game. But to train your body and soul for daily life.


Author’s post-script:

Mr. Adachi makes some interesting and important points.

Police kendo is physical kendo. He mentioned a lot of physical contact, scrums, and body crunching. It is another way of fighting. Equally useful and difficult to fight against if you have no experience facing off against practitioners who use this style of physical intimidation.

Police kendo is made for police officers as a method of training them for their daily duties. To toughen them up, develop strong character, to be able to face the myriad situations they may face as a police officer. So the training is to develop the body (the physical) and the soul (spiritual). You need a tough body and you need a tough spirit.


Police officers take on a knife-wielding assailant
(Notice the knife in the left hand)
* Here is a real-life situation in Nara, Japan, where an armed assailant wielding a knife was taken out by two police officers using shinai (using police kendo, no doubt). Extraordinary!
For more information, go here: knife wielding criminal stopped by kendo using police officers
So it seems police kendo is useful after all.

There have been various discussions about police kendo in the budo forums online. Typical observations mention how rough it is and how physical it is. Here are some common techniques used in police kendo, that many people have witnessed or experienced first-hand:

-lots of tsuki
-foot sweeps (ashi harai) from tsuba zeriai
-hard tai-atari (body striking)
-grappling hand-to-hand (e.g., wrestling on the floor)
-maki-otoshi
-uchi-otoshi
-lots of tsuba zeriai
-headbutts
-hitting with the butt end of the tsuka
-elbowing to the head
And so on…

Look here for a good discussion on police kendo: Old School Kendo [Archive] - E-Budo.com

Police kendo is not about fancy techniques. It’s simple, straightforward, and basic. It’s raw and some say “old-school kendo”. And as Mr. Adachi says, it’s more like real street-fighting or brawling.

I thought his comment on basics was enlightening:

“If you know the basics, pretty much you can cover everything.”

I have thought a lot about this phrase of his and I find I agree with it, the more I think about it.

In terms of kendo shiai, good, strong fundamentals can take care of katsugi or suriage. In terms of kata performance, degree of proficiency is dependent upon sound fundamentals. It’s all about mastery of the fundamentals.

He’s right. It is enough. Just like the Karate Kid.

Wax on.. wax off…
Wax on.. wax off…


 Mr. Tong can be contacted via email at: doug@dragonfencing.com


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