Tips for Beginners and Common Issues

Here’s some tips for the beginners at the dojo where I practice – based on commonly observed issues.  They may be useful for others new to kendo, too.  References are included for further information.

Main Tips

  1. Practice and acquire each new skill methodically and correctly.
    1. This is probably the most important tip – as bad habits tend to become progressively more entrenched and difficult to correct later [Kenshi247 BadHabits].*  Remember that:
      1. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin.

      2. “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi.
  2. Relax the upper body e.g. the shoulders, elbows, arms and grip  [KendoInfo_Relax].
    1. Some tend to be overly-tight in these areas.
  3. Make the left hand and arm the fulcrum instead of the right [KendoNotes LeftHand].
    1. Many tend to over-use the right  hand and arm – and under-use the left.
  4. Master the grip with the “V” (Tiger mouth) shape [KendoInfo_Tenouchi].
    1. Some tend to grip the shinai with a clenched fist.
    2. Maintain power only in the last two to three digits of each hand [KendoNotes Grip].  The thumbs and index fingers remain relaxed even at the instant of impact [Chikamoto Lecture, at 2:24min] [KendoNotes Grip].
  5. Take care of the hands and feet.
    1. Beginners often develop blisters initially in the palm of the hands and soles of the feet.  These typically arise from the new experience of gripping a bamboo sword and moving with bare-feet.
    2. Be mindful of them. It may help to tape them up – as covered under “Self Care” in [KendoNotes Beginner Resources].

* I, and probably many in kendo, can relate to this comment and cited article.  For example, I have struggled with the unconscious tendency to tighten my shoulders in matches for many years [KendoNotes TightShoulders].

Additional Tips

  1. Aim to apply maximum upper body power only at the instant of impact for strikes.  Be relaxed there before and immediately after the strike.
    1. Some beginners tend to apply all their upper body strength from the start of a swing with a shinai until (or even after) the instant of impact.
  2. In suri-ashi (shuffle), make sure that:
    1. the front soles of the feet (and not the heels) slide along the floor and
    2.  “the feet do not lose contact with the floor [Norwalk_Ashi].”
    3.  Some tend to use the heels or lift one or both feet above the floor.
  3. In fumikomi (the forward thrust or lunge), make sure to kick the rear leg (typically the left leg) forward immediately towards the front leg as soon as the front foot lands.
    1. Some tend to let the rear leg linger or kick the rear leg backwards and upwards.

References

[Chikamoto_Lecture]  “Datotsu Points According to Chikamoto Sensei,” Aichi Prefecture Tokuren Police Kendo – Must See, Extra Edition, Let’s Kendo,  超必見!!【近本巧先生による打突の心得】愛知県警剣道特練 番外編, 剣道総合サイト LET’S KENDO, May 29, 2017 (11:47 mins, in Japanese)

[KendoInfo_Relax] Geoff Salmon, “Apply tension and relax,” KendoInfo.net, Sept 30, 2013.

[KendoNotes_Beginner Resources] “Resources for Beginners,” KendoNotes.com, July 24, 2017.

[KendoNotes_LeftHand] “Relative Grip Strength – Why Emphasize the Left Hand? (Part 1)”, KendoNotes.com, Nov 1, 2017.

[KendoNotes Grip] “Relative Grip Strengths – in Brief (Part 2),” KendoNotes.com, Nov 1, 2017.

[KendoNotes_TightShoulders] “Ways to Relax Tight Shoulders (肩に力を抜いて!)”, KendoNotes.com, May 10, 2017.

[Kenshi247_BadHabits] George McCall, “Practise may ingrain bad habits,” Kenshi247.net, Dec 18, 2009.

[Norwalk_Ashi] “Basic Concepts (Kihon) – Ashi-Sabaki (Footwork),” Norwalk Kendo Dojo.

 

Copyright 2017 KendoNotes.com

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