The Iaido Journal  Jan 2012
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One-on-One with Makoto Adachi
(3rd dan, Kendo)
Part 3

copyright 2012 Douglas Tong, all rights reserved.

The following article is the third and final 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 talks about some basics in kendo.

Author’s note: This interview was conducted in December 2010 in Mississauga, Canada.

Part 3: Back to Basics

Question: I notice that you hit very hard.
Adachi: Really? It’s not power kendo. At least, I don’t intentionally try to use a power kendo style.

Question: Isn’t police kendo power kendo?
Adachi: Yes. But it doesn’t mean you hit everywhere hard. It’s very accurate. Depends where you hit.

Question: How do you mean?
Adachi: When I hit your arm, it doesn’t hurt so much. But if I hit your kote, it hurts a lot because the weak point of the kote is hit. Higher up, there’s more muscle on the forearm. But on the wrist, it’s mostly bone and skin so that’s why it hurts. You feel the hit is very heavy.

Question: Yes, it is!
Adachi: (Laughs.) If you hit on the men on the iron part, it doesn’t hurt. But on the top, it hurts because there’s no protection there. It’s only cloth. So it’s very accurate.
Maybe you think I’m a power-hitter because of the way I push the power into the shinai which is very accurate. That’s why the movement is faster and more accurate.

Question: Can you explain?
Adachi: OK. When you hit, you hit with the left hand. So it’s like an axle. And the right hand is like a steering wheel. So when you hit, the right hand is not only guiding but also you put power onto the shinai, just right before the hit.
Usually people try to hit with stiff arms so this is slower and not accurate at all. But better players are very flexible. So although you try to hit, you can still avoid a blow (avoiding being hit), because you are very flexible.

Question: So how do you get the power?
Adachi: Once you decide to hit, you put the power into it. So you need to know when you should put power into the shinai. This is timing.

Question: So you need to be flexible?
Adachi: Usually people grip very hard and their arms are stiff before they hit. The longer you hold this stiff grip, you are not flexible. And you are not fast. But when you’re flexible, you use the natural force* of the shinai as it is coming down. And just before you hit, you put the power.
* the momentum

Question: How do you put the power?
Adachi: It’s like drying out the water from the towel.

Question: I see. And this is very important?
Adachi: This is the basics of kendo, the basics of how to use shinai. And better players know better timing. It’s the same as a Formula One car. Better drivers know when to hit the brakes and when to accelerate and how to control the car. But bad drivers don’t know how to brake or when you hit the brake* or when you hit the accelerator.
* In other words, the timing of braking.

Question: How do you know about Formula One racing?
Adachi: Because I was a mechanic for Toyota Racing for 5 years. Formula 3 Works Team.

Question: Works Team?
Adachi: Yes, meaning the team of the maker. Usually teams are divided into two categories: Works and Private teams. The Works team are teams from the car manufacturer. Private teams buy parts, buy the car, and then race with it. Works teams make their own car.

Question: I see. Getting back to kendo if you don’t mind, how is kendo different now than it was when you were a kid?
Adachi: The numbers of kendo players are gradually declining.

Question: Why do you think that is?
Adachi: Because nowadays kids are busy. There’re lots of things to do now: internet, soccer, baseball, video games. In the past, people lived based on communities.

Question: What do you mean?
Adachi: Well, communities prepared the educational environment so there was lots of kendo clubs but now it’s getting lost. The communities are disappearing because the lifestyle has changed. As the Japanese lifestyle changed into a more individual style, the sense of community has been lost.

Question: So is there a way to change this?
Adachi: Well, for instance, in 1995, Kobe experienced a big earthquake and the city was totally destroyed. During the recovery from the earthquake, the power of the community came back because they had to band together to recover from the severe damage of this disaster. So the communities recovered and now Kobe, it’s been said, is one of the most successful stories of the recovery of a sense of community.

Question: In what way?
Adachi: Meaning providing the educational environment for the community, creating lots of parks for the families to enjoy, and community organizations have blossomed such as NPOs* and associations. So now in Kobe, the kendo environment is also recovering.
* non-profit organizations

Question: Kendo depends a lot on community?
Adachi: Yes. And yet, the community is also created through kendo. There’re teachers, policemen, those people who know kendo, they teach it to the kids in the community.

Question: So kendo is based heavily on community spirit?
Adachi: Yes. Kendo can be a tool for making a community. It’s not just a sport. It’s a good educational tool to raise a kid. That’s why karate has been so famous and popular in North America.

Question: That’s an interesting point. Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you and for spending time with me to talk about kendo.
Adachi: You’re welcome.

Author’s post-script:

I like Mr. Adachi’s analogy of driving a Formula One car to kendo striking. It’s all about timing. You can use all the fancy techniques you want but you really only need one type of strike. The difference between average kendo players and good kendo players is timing. It’s all about timing. Even Miyamoto Musashi said the same thing:

There is timing in everything. Timing in strategy cannot be mastered without a great deal of practice… In all skills and abilities, there is timing.”

Miyamoto Musashi
The Ground Book

Finally, I also agree with what Mr. Adachi said about the local kendo dojo (or local kendo group) as the focal point of the surrounding community. Like other community-driven organizations such as the Optimist Clubs, Lions Clubs, Legion Halls, Veterans Organizations, Rotary Clubs, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, kendo dojos or local kendo associations provide a focal point for the community to come together. They help shape the community and provide a place for youth to congregate and to do something useful that teaches them valuable skills and ways of thinking to help them grow and develop. Kids come there to learn and to meet other kids and make new friends, getting to know others who live in the same community. Adults are there to teach the kids and to pass on community values to the next generation. So, in this way, kendo dojos can be thought of almost as an indigenous and quite essential part of the local landscape in many Japanese towns and communities.

 Mr. Tong can be contacted via email at:

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