Many years ago in the early days of British kendo, a friend told me that his success in shiai was the result of his secret weapon, kote-men-dou. The idea was that this pre-planned renzoku waza sequence would invariably fool his opponents into lifting their arms to protect men and they would leave their dou open. At that time many of us were of a level where the technique actually worked, but with time and experience, far fewer people would fall for it today.
To be frank, I am not a believer in planning, at least not in a kendo context. “Fail to plan; plan to fail” may be a valuable adage in business administration, but in kendo the aim is to strike instinctively. So although we should of course build up our ability to make continuous attacks through kote-men, and kote-men-dou drills, these are not set-pieces. To my mind there are only four techniques in kendo – men, dou, kote and tsuki. There are of course infinite possibilities as to how these waza are applied, depending on distance, timing and opportunity. Whether you strike men as an oji-waza or shikake technique, the objective is still to hit your opponent on the head.
Renzoku waza are not pre-ordained sequences, they are more a matter of you attacking a target without success, but because you are moving forward in full spirit, you have the ability to continue immediately to attack another target because your first strike broke your opponent’s composure, causing one or more of the four kendo sicknesses, kyo-ku-gi-waku, (surprise, fear, doubt and hesitation). Of course, if your adversary continues to keep a level mind, then there is no point in launching a second attack.
Renzoku waza depend on good footwork and posture. You should be in the habit of bringing your left foot up in hikitsuke as soon as you make fumikomi with the right and be ready to push off again from the left as soon as you have an opportunity. Breathing needs to be correct: you must keep breath in your tanden throughout the sequence. This is one area where regular correct kirikaeshi practice helps prepare you.
It might be argued that you do not see renzoku waza often in high level, 8th dan tachiai. This is not because high grades can’t do renzoku waza, in fact some senior teachers such as Yamanaka sensei are experts. It is more a matter of their opponent keeping a strong kamae so that there is no opportunity to launch a second or third attack.