After giving two seminars on the Chinese Ken I have made a 私見 shiken (personal opinion), about the way to train and to enrich our budô practice with the help of this fantastic new weapon.
Through thorough 試験 shiken (study and experiment), and exchange with my fellow jûgodan, I came up with the “shiken no ken”, or 4 rules/virtues of the Chinese Ken:
This is G.A.M.A.N:*
1. GRAVITY: Like for the Tachi, I think that a metallic sword is necessary to really understand the major differences in the balance of the blade. The momentum is what creates the 重力 jû ryoku (gravity) feeling. Throw the body by the blade. If you only have a wooden Ken, put some weight at the tip to get this drowning feeling of the head of the blade when moving.
2. AWARENESS: Be careful, train slowly as the momentum of the blade is different from the Japanese sword. This is very true when doing the large (and necessary) horizontal cuts are taking a lot of space. Please check the space around you and avoid hitting the walls or your dôjô friends before doing them. Also, for those training with a wooden sword, be aware that these wooden “taichi” ken on the market are very fragile, they don’t block an attack like a real bokken would; they can break easily and become dangerous for yourself, your partner and your neighbours.
3. MOVEMENT & ARUKI: a straight blade can only create a cutting motion when the movement is circular. Therefore move in a circular manner with your legs and body when doing a technique. Body movement has to recreate the missing curve (反り, sori) of the Chinese blade. Chinese Ken jutsu seems to be at the origin of our particular Aruki of the Bujinkan Taijutsu. Use your legs and get lower even more. Footwork, footwork, footwork!
4. NATURE: Train your regular Taijutsu techniques with the Ken: Ken is in scabbard (held in left hand), Ken is of the scabbard in the right hand: a) scabbard is in left hand and is used as a shield; b) without scabbard, the left hand is free and you can change hand easily.
Be patient, train properly, persevere and if you apply them, I am confident that you will reach the high level of 知見 Chiken: expertise and experience.*
*我慢 GAMAN means: patience, perseverance, self-control, endurance
**please note this is “Chiken” and NOT “Chicken”… 🙂