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Hino Kata on Zoom

Charles teaching a bojutsu Zoom class

Ever since I discovered the possibilities of Zoom keiko, at the start of the pandemic, I wanted to find a way to teach bojutsu on Zoom.

Why teach on Zoom?

Bojutsu is, these days, something of a niche interest within the already niche world of shintaido. Yet, for me, bojutsu was the practice which first attracted me to shintaido. The love of sticks, and learning how to use them, proved irresistible.

Yet learning bojutsu is really hard. Very few classes exist and attracting students is always a challenge. Those who are interested tend to be separated by hundreds of miles. For this very reason, online practice seemed to hint at intriguing possibilities.

The obvious problems

In 2020, as the whole world got to grips with video communication and learning, the prospect of teaching bojutsu this way seemed impossible. People quickly pointed out to me that nobody has the space to wield a 6ft staff indoors, and that trying to do so was potentially dangerous. For a long time I accepted this obvious truth and contented myself with teaching less challenging aspects of shintaido instead.

However the idea lingered.

First experiments and the “Rules”

This course, started at the end of 2022, represents my first experiments with teaching bojutsu online. I began by outlining a series of rules which I ask students to sign up to. In essence, these rules outline how the course works.

  1. Classes take place just once a month. Students should attend as many classes as possible, preferably with a bo (long staff) from an outdoor location. If indoors is the only option they should instead use either a jo (short staff) or any other stick they can safely wield in the space available.
  2. Students should undertake to practice at least once a week, between classes, to assimilate the contents of the previous class. This practice should take place outdoors using a bo.
  3. To facilitate this practice I will make a short, summary video of each class. These 5-minute videos are recorded immediately at the end of each session and act as a reminder for the homework that month.
  4. The class is coordinated via a WhatsApp group so that students can ask questions about the homework.

Hino Kata

Hino Kata, 火の方 (kata of fire) is usually considered the simplest of the shintaido bojutsu kata. For this reason this is what we focussed on first. Learning it over Zoom took quite a long time, but of course we practiced many other kihon arrangements on the way.

Here are the summary videos from this first series of bojutsu Zoom keiko. If anybody tries to learn the kata using them I’d love to hear your feedback about the process!

Keiko 1: 5th December 2022

In this inaugural online bojutsu class we looked at basic moves such as mochikae (changing hands), kamae (ready position) and sui-hei uchi (alternate backhand and forehand strikes).

Keiko 2: 23rd Janauary 2023

In the second keiko we looked at jodan uchi-komi (upper level, forward strike). We did this in two stances: keeba-dachi (no stepping) and fudo-dachi (with stepping). We focussed on a step-by-step approach and used a ribbon to notice how the same end of the staff always ends up in front.

Keiko 3: 6th March 2023

We looked at tsuki (stab) and kohan (circle receiving for tsuki). We looked at the way these movements coordinate with the movement of the whole body, relying on your koshi (hips, or centre).

Keiko 4: 10th April 2024

In this keiko we simply practiced the yoi and kamae positions

Keiko 5: 1st May 2023

Today we looked at the warm-up sequence and then practiced a series of kihon sequences beginning with yoi and kamae.

Keiko 6: 5th June 2023

Today we looked at more warm-up sequences (which should by now be getting familiar) and then practiced gedan barai as a kihon sequence.

Keiko 7: 3rd July 2023

Today we studied the difference between honte-uchi (forehand strike) and gyakute-uchi (backhand, lit: “wrong hand” strike) and then looked at the opening four movements of Hino kata.

Keiko 8: 9th September 2023

Today we revised a series of kihon and then looked at the first 7 moves of Hino kata.

Keiko 9: 2nd October 2023

Today we practiced the whole sequence of Hino kata.

Keiko 10: 6th November 2023

Today we focussed on consolidating Hino kata, practicing it on both sides and at a variety of different speeds.

Keiko 11: 4th December 2023

In this final keiko of the Hino kata series we looked at three styles of practicing a kata.

  1. by numbers: one movement at a time
  2. fluid: looking at the spaces between each movement, and
  3. signature style: when the movements begin to blur into one another.

Please enjoy your bojutsu practice!