One of the most common errors that I see from beginners, and in some cases from more experienced kenshi, is the habit of putting an extra step into their approach and attack. What I mean is that they start outside of striking distance; take a step towards their opponent, take another step whilst raising the shinai and another one when bringing it down. This is often compounded by using walking footwork, alternating the forward foot in in this three stage step, raise, and strike routine.
The correct action is of course to step into range maintaining chudan kamae then raise and lower the shinai in a continuous movement, simultaneously taking a second step to strike the target. This sound simple but some people find it difficult, particularly if they have become used to attacking in a one, two, three rhythm.
Raising the shinai whilst you are outside striking distance gives your opponent early warning of your intention. It also leaves you open to tsuki and dou, particularly if you spend a long time with your shinai raised. It also means that your technique, should you manage to strike the target is likely not to have correct ki-ken-tai-itchi, as it is difficult to coordinate hand and foot movement.
There are numerous ways however to correct this fault. A good start is to practice suburi, concentrating on making the up and down movement in the timing of one (ichibyoshi). You can also practise men drills stepping into your own uchima distance without lowering or lifting the point of your shinai and then raise it as you push off from the left foot and bring it sharply down on your opponent’s men as your right foot hits the floor. You should ensure that before pushing off you bring your left foot up to the correct position and that the ball of the foot has strong contact with the floor.
Once you succeed with this drill you can develop it using smaller strikes just powered by your forward movement and tenouchi. Then with your partner’s co-operation you can work creating and breaking pressure to build a basis for debana men.
If you do suffer from the “one, two, three” syndrome, it is worth correcting the habit as early in your kendo career as you can. Having good basics makes it much easier to learn advanced techniques.