Really Seeing the Opponent and the Opportunities to Strike – Part 2: Reflections

Along a road in St. Remy de Provence

This is a follow-up of “Part 1: ‘O’ Sensei.  Since writing that article, I have experimented with some of the tips spelled out in it and pen some reflections of the experience below.

(W)ith soft eyes, we move through a kind of transformation where we discover a reality that was always there, but which we missed.Peter Vajda [Vajda]

General observations

  • Seeing with soft eyes has been very helpful.
    • As if a veil over the eyes has been removed.  More aware of the opponent and of opportunities to strike.  Feeling very present and calm.
    • And, in one or two instances, things seemed to slow down as if the other were telegraphing his or her intention to strike and moving in slow motion.

More Detailed Observations

  • More so with weaker opponents, I could sometimes anticipate the opportunities to strike more clearly.
    • For example, I could sometimes notice subtle changes or movements in the body or the facial expression of the opponent.
      • This included the faint rising and falling of the shoulders signaling the breathing rhythm in some, a change in the facial expression or a slight movement in the head or upper torso in others.
      • This awareness would arise naturally without any intention or desire to notice.
      • In at least one instance, a clear awareness that the opponent was about to attack arose and the attack seemed to proceed in slow motion.
    • Rather than passively waiting and observing the opponent, I could help “encourage” the aforementioned changes in the opponent by, for example, stepping in slightly or moving in slowly with a seme-ashi to apply pressure (all the while being ready to strike at any moment).
  • However, with comparable or stronger opponents, “seeing” was a challenge and something I need to continue to work on.
    • I’d receive pressure or sharp movements towards me from the opponent and react sometimes.  This tended to disturb the “seeing.”
    • Moreover, I was on the receiving end on some occasions where I’d initiate an attack perhaps oblivious to the other (in “wagamama” kendo mode as explained in the Part 1 article) and get struck.
  • Again, more so with weaker opponents, my kendo seemed more efficient, effective and calm with
    • Less wasted physical movement, less wasted efforts to strike and less “wagamama kendo,”
    • A higher percentage of successful strikes and
    • A relaxed right arm, calm body and mindset.
  • Sometimes, with soft eyes, the only thing that I seemed to experience was the image of the other in my field of vision and consciousness.
    • This was a bit “trippy.”
      • Experiencing only the other and nothing else – not even a sense of myself.
        • Being present, in-the-zone and probably without thought.
    • This experience reminds me of the words of several meditation teachers who explain how most people, including myself, tend to experience “the illusion of separation.”  Perceiving myself as separate from others or the world due to thought and a self-image.
      • With soft eyes, that sense of separation and the sense of self seemed to disappear at times and all that seemed to exist was the seeing of the other.
      • This experience seems similar to that of “awareness” described by many famous swordsmen and kendo teachers as summarized in [KendoNotes_Mirror] and by meditation teachers as summarized in [KendoNotes Awareness].  It is also described at great lengths and clarity by Ken Wilber in the first several chapters of [Wilber_NoBoundary].

May we all see more clearly!

(Continue to Part 3:  In Slow Motion)


[KendoNotes_Awareness] “Awareness and Who is this ‘I’? – Quotes and Resources”,, April 14, 2019.

[KendoNotes_Mirror] “The Mirror in the Heart of Master Swordsman (and Jedi Masters),”, April 16, 2019,

[Vajda] Peter G. Vajda, “Soft Eyes – Seeing True Reality,” True North Partnering, 2012 (PDF, 3 pages).

[Wilber_NoBoundary] Ken Wilber, No Boundary – Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth, Shambhala, 2001.

Copyright 2019

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