The Duty of the Teki in Kata-geiko
By Stephen Delaney
When compared to more modern forms of budō, the duty of the uke or teki in koryū bujutsu is a different kettle of fish for many reasons. The terminologies are usually the first major noticable difference; Usually the term uke is commonly translated as “one who recieves” or aite (Lit. Partner) is used in various koryū ryūha and other modern forms of budō. In swordsmanship related disciplines, the term for the antagonist in kata-geiko (kata training) is uchidachi or uketachi (Striking sword and receiving sword respectively) It’s almost a “sanitized” way of referring to the person who is opposing you and trying to do you harm.
The differences in connotation and application of mindset for the terms above are quite significant; Teki (Lit. Enemy) is a term used to almost condition the trainee to dehumanize the image of their training partner. When compared with other terms such as uke or aite, the connotation of meaning is less severe in mindset. Some reasons for the differences are cultural or historical, others are educational. More often than not, the teki in koryū is the instructor or a senior, whereas the ware is the student. In kenjutsu kata, the teki dictates the maai (distance), hyōshi (timing) & chōshi (rhythm) of the kata depending upon the skill level of the ware.
If the ware (Lit. One’s self – The defender) in keiko is a complete greenhorn, the teki will approach relatively slowly (in comparison with real timing), indicating the timing and the rhythm of the attack to come and will give the shidachi hints so as to act accordingly. The teki is in essence, a kind of target silhouette, allowing the shidachi to learn the correct attributes of the technique in question, such as taisabaki (body skills), hasuji (blade alignment for cutting) or atemi (percussion/striking).
When the ware is a bit more experienced, the teki will step it up a level and make the hyōshi, chōshi and the attack more intense, testing the ware’s abilities, reflexes and understanding in relation to the kata until it is done with full intensity, speed and intention. Injuries can happen, heads can get split open and fingers can be broken. It’s part of training and understanding the need to become better.
At this level, kata-geiko is to be done with a sense of distrust and suspicion; The teki is a more alive and thinking enemy, rather than an automaton target for the ware to train on. The teki’s intention is to “kill” the ware. For a training partner acting as teki to behave in an unnatural, almost robotic manner is a great disservice to the trainee in the role of ware. The teki’s actions should become more ruthless; When the ware’s zanshin at the end of a technique wanes or becomes slovenly, the teki should attack by surprise to keep the ware’s senses sharp and his/her actions precise, helping to maintain a state of overall awareness.
Similarly for jūjutsu kata, the teki as above, dictates the maai, hyōshi and chōshi of the kata for ware. The ware learns the intricacies of the techniques required of the kata, such as atemi waza, kansetsu waza, shime waza and nage waza. Since the teki is the senior in the tradition, he/she is fully aware of the techniques in question and knows when to tap out or go with the flow of a joint lock or throw. The ware learns to execute the technique within the standards of his level with the assistance and guidance of the teki.
As the ware matures in skill and ability, the intensity of the teki’s attack again increases. If there is a weakness in the ware’s technique, the teki will counter it to illustrate where the weakness is, be it balance in striking, position in a throw, control of the body in a choke or the application of a joint lock.
If the ware’s entry into a throw is slow or sloppy, the teki will foil it. If the joint lock or choke applied is weak or not aligned correctly, the teki will escape from it. If the ware’s taisabaki is slow, he’s going to get a bloody nose or a small hole in him from a tantō. If the ware is late in counter-cutting after parrying in kumitachi, he’s going to get a serious clatter from a bokutō or fukuro-jinai. Essentially, the senior acting as teki is tempering and testing the ware’s skills and abilities until there are no structural weaknesses in basic technique and application.
When all kata are done in this way, the ware learns to accurately and effectively execute any technique learned. Randori/shiai are next, since the mistakes in kata can be extrapolated on and made to foster an instinct of aliveness in the ware.
Glossary of terms
Aite – (相手) The term for an antagonist in various ryūha. Lit. “partner”
Chōshi – (調子) The rhythm and manner in which a kata is done.
Hasuji – (刃筋) The term for correct blade alignment in kenjutsu and iai. Lit. “blade line”
Hyōshi – (拍子) The timing used in a kata.
Kata-geiko – (形稽古) Training in kata (In koryū, this is usually paired)
Maai – (間合い) The combative distance between the teki and ware.
Shidachi – (仕太刀) The defender in a kenjutsu kata
Teki – (敵) The enemy
Tori – (取り) One who takes – The defender in the kata
Uchidachi – (打太刀) The antagonist in a kenjutsu kata
Uke – (受け) One who recieves – The antagonist in the kata
Ware – (我) One’s self/Defender
Copyright © 2015 S. Delaney. All rights reserved.