I touched on the fact that Kendo footwork is very different from that of other martial arts in my last post. Thinking about it, the whole left foot / left hand idea is alien to most sports. I think this is one of the reasons why beginners find it so hard to learn Kendo.
Successful kendo attacks must have ki-ken-tai-ichi or spirit /energy, sword, and body (read hips and feet), working together and whilst this can be done with sliding footwork, most people rely on strong fumikomi, (stamping footwork) to make the point. Watching many students practice, I beleive that quite a few find this to be particularly difficult.
The most common errors are to lift the right foot too high, not to maintain a correct distance between the left and right foot, to keep one or both heels too far off the ground or even worse to keep the left heel on the ground.
Poor footwork used to be expected from westerners by some sensei, who rationalised about “tatami seikatsu” or the fact that Japanese kendoka had stronger legs based on a lifestyle of sitting and sleeping on tatami mats. This is now largely irrelevant, as most Japanese now sit on chairs and sleep on beds. My personal theory is that bad footwork stems from hard gym floors, incorrect training and instruction and also from low expectations.
If we concentrate on our footwork in training, it will of course get better. To practice we should ensure that when we move into distance, the left foot should immediately follow the right. The left heel should be about 15 degrees of the ground. There must be a slight bend in both knees, not too great in the left, otherwise we lose pressure from the left foot and of course the left foot drives us forward. Once you are in position, be careful not to move either foot until you start the attack and then just throw the right foot forward so that it lands on the ball of the foot as you hit the target. Simple!……..OK it needs a bit of practice.
On my trip to Norway, we tried practicing Kata on the beach, not good for footwork, but great fun! see above.