This is an English translation of an article by Kogoro-Sama from Web-Kendo at http://www.web-kendo.com/002001/column04.php with his kind permission to post it (Thank you Kogoro-Sama). Translated by KendoNotes.
In many sports, winning or losing is very often attributed to differences in the physique or the physical ability of a person. In kendo, however, this is not necessarily the case. Certainly, there are those in kendo who will strike often and indiscriminately as long as they have the strength. However, this approach does not necessarily guarantee that they will win. Furthermore, those dependent solely on physical strength or power will fare poorly against a strong kendo player. In fact, this approach can have the opposite desired effect and can even be counter-effective.
In kendo, other important aspects are needed (for winning). Certainly, being fast and having a larger body type can be advantageous. However, Miyamoto Musashi has written the following on this aspect in The Book of Five Rings.
In the art of war (fighting), the valuing of fast sword movement (or sword play) is not the right path. Sword movement labeled as slow or fast depends on whether one matches or does not match a rhythm (or beat). . . .
The skilled swords man is one who indeed sees slowly and does not miss the distance (with another person). The person skilled in these aspects is one who sees without fuss (with calm).
From Translation notes by Kamata Shigeo (Kodansha) from Mushashi Miyamoto, The Book of Five Rings.
This is an extremely important point. Winning is not guaranteed by having only speed or a big build. It also involves quickly grasping the rhythm (of your opponent) and the opportunity to strike the opponent. It is said that one cannot necessarily win against an opponent without knowing the opportunity to strike.
It is very important to understand the opportunity of when one should strike in kendo. It is not an exaggeration to go so far and say that winning depends on whether or not one takes the lead (先 saki) before the opponent does in kendo.
It is incorrect to wish to attack the opponent only when one feels like striking. One cannot win unless one truly understands the condition of the opponent and oneself, and one seizes that must-strike opportunity.
At my dojo, we have witnessed on multiple occasions the spectacle of a 70+ year old sensei easily dodging a young high school student and easily striking the student when the sensei saw an opening.
There is certainly something that the elder sensei could see that that the high school student could not see. Isn’t this the reason one can be active in kendo despite one’s age?
So, for these so called opportunities to strike, when do these occur? And what identifies them?
I think I will write about this point next time.*
* Editor’s comment: The opportunities to strike are described in Kogoro-Sama‘s follow-up article “How to See the Chance for an Ippon (Translation of 一本を取るチャンスの見つけ方 by こごろ一様)” and also in “Three Opportunities to Strike,” Kendo-Guide.com. The ways to “create” such opportunities are addressed in “Creating opportunities to strike,” KendoInfo.net.