At the beginning of each New Year most of us think about our goals for the coming year’s kendo. These are normally ambitious and take the form of committing to pass the next dan examination or winning certain competitions, or making it into the National Team. Certainly these are all worthy ambitions and if you think you can achieve them, go flat-out to make it happen.
What we often ignore however, are the components we need to make our kendo strong enough to reach these heights. It is worth taking time to reflect on your kendo strengths and weaknesses and to isolate the elements that if worked on, would make the biggest difference to your future improvement. Naturally these vary enormously depending on your experience level and your physical condition, but here are some that you could work on that may make a big difference to your rate of progress:-
- Footwork – Ensure that you always bring your left foot up in hikitsuke, so that you are always ready to move the instant that you see an opening. Think about keeping your left heel off the ground so that the foot makes a 15 degree angle against the floor and you will have the power to launch at will.
- Posture and balance- Hold yourself perfectly upright, but with the feeling of leaning half a degree forward. Use your hips and back to power the strike and keep your arms and shoulders relaxed. Keep your posture after you hit and make strong zanshin.
- Review your kamae – Check that your targets are not visible and make sure that your hands and arms can move quickly and freely when you see an opportunity.
- Think about tenouchi – Hold the shinai lightly with ring and little fingers and squeeze gently only after you have made contact with your opponents bogu.
- Make opportunities – Break your partners centre with strong seme or subtly invite him to attack to create the chance for ojiwaza.
- Commit – When you attack make sure that you do so wholeheartedly with a feeling of sutemi. Do not hedge your bets by thinking of stopping or going around him. Once you fire the bullet, there should be no way of stopping it.
- Be dignified – Win or lose show kigurai, but do so with humility.
Whether we are thinking about these points for the first time or are experienced kendoka who have thought about them time and time again, we should constantly review the basics and make sure that we do not let bad habits creep in.
If you have a master plan for achieving kendo greatness in 2013, please include some of these basics in your preparation. On the other hand if your aim is just to make the most of your keiko then perfecting any of these points would be a worthy ambition on its own.
Whatever your plans have a happy and successful 2013.