Surprise

As a young fourth Dan in Japan, I had a two-part contest, as an experiment, against a kendo man of the same grade. He knew almost nothing of judo, or I of kendo. The first contest was a judo contest. Beginners generally come forward in tiny steps, teeth clenched and arms outstretched stiffly; one just picks them off at leisure.

This man gave a yell and launched himself straight at my knees like a torpedo, in a sort of flying tackle. I was so surprised that I could not get out of the way, though I managed to double up as we went down so that I finished up on top and at once tied him up, partially saving face.

When it came to the kendo contest I knew it would be useless trying to imitate kendo technique. As we came to meet each other, I slid my right hand to hold the tip of the sword handle and jumped in the air, holding my wrist high and swinging the bamboo sword downward in a one-handed blow to his head.

A skilled kendo man protects his head by only just as much as is necessary and he made a defence to this unusual attack. But I was already much taller than most of his opponents, and the jump gave me extra height, so my bamboo sword did manage just to touch the top of his head. It would not have been a point by kendo contest standards, but it gave him a little surprise, like the one he had given me.

We both agreed we had learnt something from the experiment.

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