If a passing genie or fairy godmother ever offers, one of the many things that I could usefully invest a wish in, is the instruction to “make me taller”. At 1.73 cm or 5’7” I am not particularly short, but I regularly have to stretch to hit the men of taller kenshi. To compensate I consciously try to maintain good posture throughout each kendo session; making myself as tall as I can with the limited height resources at my command.
Not all of my tall kendo friends are as keen to get the most out of their precious feet and inches. I regularly see people waste their height advantage by making their kendo smaller than it should be.
There are numerous ways to do this. You can over -bend your knees. You can neglect to engage your hips, so that your backside sticks out, or you can forget to bring your left foot up in hikitsuke as soon as you move your right foot forward. Either way, you are unlikely to finish the attack with correct posture and timing or to be in a position where you can make the cut with strong sae and tenouchi.
Regardless of how tall you are, it is vital to maintain an effective posture for kendo. You should have the feeling of being pulled up to your full height. The left foot should form a 15 degree angle with the floor. The left leg should be straight with a feeling of tension behind the knee and the right knee should be slightly bent. Buttocks should have a feeling of tension and hips should be pushed forward. Confusing as it may sound at first; this should be done in a way that feels relaxed and natural. Most importantly, the left foot should be pulled up to its correct position whenever you move the right foot, whatever the reason.
The result of following these rules is that your posture will now allow you to move forward instantly, as soon as you see an opportunity. You will also be in the correct position when you finish each cut so that you can make effective tenouchi and zanshin. Of course these suggestions do not only apply to tall people, it is just more obvious when they ignore them.
I believe that many tall people consciously or unconsciously stoop to become smaller. Often this is done from the best of intentions, so as not to overshadow their shorter friends. In kendo however it is essential to use your full height to maximise your posture and ability to move forwards. So tall kenshi, now is the time to be “loud and proud” about your height advantage. National Tall Pride Day here we come.