Lexicon: keiko

For many of our new members, all the Japanese terms used in class can be confusing. From my own experience I know it’s taken me months to get to know most of the common terms. Of course students can find help in the glossary compiled by our teachers, but at times a bit of extra explanation may be helpful.

We’ll start off this series of lexicon posts with the types of keiko.

The word keiko itself means “practice”, “study” or “training” and consists of two kanji, 稽 (kei, to think/consider) 古 (ko, old). One could say that everything we do in the dojo is keiko.

  • Jigeiko (地稽古) Often called “free practice”, jigeiko allows you to practice any technique you would like. The kanji 地 has many different meanings, though in this case “real life” or “true nature” would be the closest meanings to apply. In jigeiko one does not think in terms of “winning”, it’s not a true fight. Instead, both kendoka work together to get the most out of the day’s practice.
  • Sogo renshu (総合練習) At Renshinjuku, sogo renshu is a type of jigeiko that is often suggested to students. Sogo (総合) stands for “integration”, or “putting together”. By practicing the techniques studied earlier in class you may attempt to integrate them into your own kendo.
  • Shiai geiko (試合稽古) A shiai (試合) is a match, a competition. Thus this type of geiko is meant to closely match shiai conditions: instead of practicing techniques, students attempt to win while at the same time not losing. This sets it apart from all other types of keiko, where you never worry about losing. In shiai geiko all normal competition rules apply.
  • Uchikomi geiko (打ち込み稽古) An exercise performed in pairs, motodachi will show openings for kakarite to attack. The goal is to improve both your technique, your footwork, sense of maai and your zanshin. Two readings of the kanji 打ち込み seem relevant: “put your heart into” and “invasion/drive into”. Regarded separately the uchi is conjugated of utsu (打つ, to strike/hit) and komi is conjugated of komu (込む, to go into). In a recent class, Heeren-sensei and Kiwa-sempaidemonstrated the use of seme techniques in uchikomi geiko.
  • Kakari geiko (懸かり稽古) While the kanji 懸かり have multiple readings, in this case “attack” would seem appropriate. Also, the verb kakaru (懸かる) can also be read as “to deal with”, which is apt as in kakari geiko it is your goal to break through your trainer’s defense. Sensei will not show openings, instead sensei will only allow strikes that are correct to connect and will fend off everything else. You must go all-out, while ensuring that your technique is correct. If your technique is sloppy, you will not be allowed to hit your partner.
  • Mitori geiko (見取り稽古) Believe it or not, but simply watching class from the sidelines has its own name. Do not be deceived! There is a difference between watching and observing, because by truly paying attention to your fellow students you can learn a lot! Also, the verb mitoru (見取る) means “to understand”.
  • Kata geiko (型稽古) The kanji 型 stands for a mold, e.g. something used to re-create in a standardized shape or form. In kata practice, we learn certain essentials of kendo by reproducing predetermined choreography. Each kata focuses on one or more important things to learn.
  • Mawari geiko (回り稽古) Mawari is literally “rotation” or “circulation”. Exercises performed with two people, for a set amount of time or strikes after which one rotates towards the next partner. This occurs in our dojo, when all students line up in two rows across from each other. After each short practice the lines move one position and you meet another partner.
  • Enjin geiko (円陣稽古) Everyone forms a circle (enjin) around one kendoka in the center. Either the center kendoka fights everybody in turn (often occurs on special occasions), or with every quick fight the winner stays in the center while the loser is sent away.
  • Moushiai geiko (申し合い稽古) A type of enjin geiko, where the winner picks the next person to practice with.

With many thanks to Zicarlo for advising on the additional meaning of various kanji.

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