Kirikaeshi is a regular part of sword practice.

Within our School it is means of practicing set counters for set strikes in rapid succession, in a controlled manner.

Recently, when teaching an advanced sword class, I introduced an exercise that takes this practice back to its bare essence. This was not yet another case of me just making things up as I go along, in order to stave off boredom whilst teaching. It was taught to me many decades ago by my teacher.

At the very moment of full commitment by uchitachi, shitachi reverses the attacker’s ki with an appropriate, but not predetermined counter of their own. No contact is made, but the effect on uchitachi can be devastating, if executed correctly.

While easy enough to demonstrate, this was difficult to explain to the students. Despite intellectually understanding what was required, (evidenced by their own realization when it all went wrong), they kept focusing on trying to physically counter the attacker’s strike.

No amount of simplification of the exercise made any difference, it remained, for them, a purely physical situation. That is not to say, they did not do some very nice and effective counters, it just was not the point of what we were doing.

Reflecting on this later, I had to question whether or not this kind of practice can actually be taught, or whether it is one of those things that you gradually learn to do unbeknownst to yourself, over years of constant training.

The exercise then becomes not a training practice, but more of a litmus test to indicate a student’s current level of understanding and development.

Not a great revelation, but yet another confirmation that the only real way to progress is correct and constant training.


Kai Cho

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