I recently received an invitation from the Belgian Kendo Federation to run a weekend seminar next June for kenshi aged over 50. I am really excited about the prospect of doing so, as over the past few years I have put quite a lot of thought into how we can get the most out of our kendo as we get older.
The seminar will be held between the 19th and 21st of June and on the final day there will be a competition for participants. My aim is to share the information that I have gleaned from various sensei on how to make keiko meaningful and enjoyable, even if our physical powers are staring to wane.
As we get older it is tempting to take our “foot of the gas” and use less energy in our kendo. Conserving energy is essential, but at the same time our intensity should not decrease. We should relax, but be able to explode when we see an opportunity. The “feather in a hurricane” analogy that I have mentioned in previous posts, is a good summary of how we should relax, but at the same time be able to concentrate energy at the crucial moment. To achieve this we need to continue to practise kiri-kaeshi and kakarigeiko, but in a very different way to our younger friends.
Kihaku and good posture need to take over from work rate. We should relax but stay in what the ZNKR defines as “high spirits”, so that we are able to use what power we have when there is a real opportunity to attack.
The other crucial element is to use your experience to make the opponent do the work. If you can invite the other person to step into your distance, you have less far to travel to make your attack. The concept of hikidasu, or “to draw in“, is the way to conserve your own energy whilst making him or her come to you.
Basics are increasingly important as you age. If your footwork is incorrect, it is tiring, and worse still, potentially damaging to aging knees. A recent study by Imafuku Ichiju looked at t the “piston” method of pushing off from the left foot used by younger kenshi and the way to swing the right foot forward as you push off from the left being more appropriate to older kendoka.
The one piece of advice for making the most of kendo as you age that I have not acted upon, came from Kawase sensei, who suggested that it is best to keep slim. Still, I have a year before the seminar to lose a few pounds.