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Remember the basics (基本 お 忘れる な: Kihon o waserure na) – Part 2

Part 2 for Nidan & Sandan

In addition to all the points reviewed in the previous post, Nidan and Sandan level kendo should demonstrate a heightened sense of concentration and intensity while maintaining excellent control of the body (posture & movement), maai (distance) and understanding of the opponent.
What does this mean in practice? We start to feel the kensen (tip of the sword/shinai) becoming ever more live. Our body knows when to relax and tighten at the correct timing (becoming more energy efficient). And we start to understand the importance of initiating or proactively setting up an opportunity.
In other words, every attack is created with intention and never randomly or reactively. With these overarching goals in mind, let us look at the summary of Kendo Bu’s key points for Shinsa (BKA Coaching Programme, n.d.).


For Nidan


  • – Kirikaeshi follows a continuous flowing rhythm, with both sides of cutting and receiving correctly
  • – As motodachi, you control maai, which allows the kakari-te to cut in the correct distance and demonstrate kirikaeshi movements mutually


  • – Movements are balanced with fluid and coordinated footwork (be careful, if you fall during the geiko, you will fail)
  • – The application of ki-ken-tai-itchi (the unified action of the spirit, sword, and body, as one) is shown, but it is not expected to be fully developed at this level
  • – Effective use and acceleration of the wrists (sae) and hands (te-no-uchi) which transfer power to the kensen leads to a sharp impact upon landing at the intended targets (e.g. with the characteristic “pop” sound on the men)
  • – Attacks are continued from tai-atari using hiki-waza instead of always breaking away to issoku-itto-no-maai
  • – Do not try to block, but concentrate more on the correct performance of shikake-waza
  • – Effective nidan waza is executed fluently (e.g. successive combination of kotemen, mendo, etc.)

There is at least one good attack with strong spirit in each shinsa geiko and one good nidan attack.

For Sandan

All of the above, plus:

  • – Strikes are always delivered with the correct datotsu-bu and –bui (on target using the mono-uchi, the correct part of the shinai); i.e. zero tolerance for inaccuracy
  • – Every attack is built from toi-maai and incorporate strong seme and mental pressure that pushes the opponent to the brink of mistake or misjudged attacks
  • – Firm control of the centre
  • – The kensen is used to unsettle the opponent’s centre and composure, which leads to an effective opening and datotsu (strike/thrust)
  • – Attacks are attempted at various maai depending on your opponent’s speed, reaction time, kamae (fighting against jodan or nito for example), and launching distance, etc.
  • – After an attack, the cut-through distance is just enough to ensure safe turning around and stepping forward to toi-maai
  • – The application of ki-ken-tai-itchi is advanced and effective
  • – Ni– and sandan waza is applied with correct footwork (e.g. successive, multiple attacks with total commitment and spirit and oji-waza are expected)
  • – Never block and stop there, but only use blocking as a part of an oji-waza
  • – Effective zanshin is shown; literally, remaining mind, but in practice, it is the readiness and alertness of body and mind in an uninterrupted and sustained concentration

There are at least two effective attacks with strong spirit in each shinsa geiko.

16 Feb 2022 – Sung Kyu Kim

Remember the basics (基本 お 忘れる な: Kihon o waserure na) – Part 1

Part 1 for Ikkyu & Shodan.

As some of us are preparing for the upcoming grading, it is a good time to refresh and remember the essential points of Kendo that we must all strive to perfect. The basics (Kihon and correct etiquette) are the foundation upon which our Kendo skills and spirit become grounded and rooted. Therefore, a good kendo-ka should demonstrate the following key points both on and off dojo, and especially in examination.

(Adapted from Kendo Bu Key Points for Shinsa: BKA Coaching programme, n.d.)

Image from

For Ikkyu

Correct etiquette on and off court

  • – Be tidily dressed. Clothing should be clean and correctly folded
  • Tenugui should not be flapping or sticking out of place
  • – The feet should be clean and the toenails trimmed
  • Rei with the left arm extended (teito)
  • – After rei, assume taito placing the thumb onto the tsuba
  • – Reach the correct sonkyo position in three steps
  • – The men himo should be tied and untied properly (with himo hanging in even length)
  • – The men should be removed in a controlled manner, and tenugui is placed neatly inside of the men

Practical aspects

  • – Step forward when standing from sonkyo and carefully take the advantageous distance that is conducive to making an attack
  • – Have a correctly raised left heel, both when in kamae and moving
  • – Have a straight and parallel left foot when holding kamae and preparing to attack
  • – Ensure that the left foot is the motive force behind every attack (as opposed to the shinai or upper body leading the attack)
  • – Hold the shinai correctly, as well as maintain the correct position of the elbows and wrists (e.g. the left hand is on the end of the tsuka and the right hand near/touching the tsuba domo)
  • – Cut with control and cut straight on target
  • – Be careful of the position of the right arm and relax the grip and shoulders (symptoms include “axing down” and hitting the men gane)
  • – Eagerly initiate attacks, and oji waza is not necessary at Ikkyu level

For Shodan

Correct etiquette on and off court

  • – The keikogi is tidy at the back and correctly tied with the yoko musubi
  • – Do himo are correctly tied at the back with the yoko musubi
  • – Men himo are the correct length, are evenly tied and are not trapping the ears
  • Kote himo are correctly tied

Practical aspects

  • – Correct chudan no kamae and issoku itto no maai (the kensen is kept in the centre and directed at the opponent’s tsuki)
  • – Techniques are developed from toi maai and executed from issoku itto no maai

Correct cutting

  • – The left hand must come above eye level when raising the shinai for men cuts
  • – The left hand is in the centre and at the right height for each cut (e.g. slightly below the height of the target and below the right hand for do cuts)
  • – The elbows are extended on kote and do cuts

Good kiai, posture and ki ken tai ichi

  • – Powerful kiai should be used for building energy and confidence both prior to and at the making of a strike or thrust
  • – Stand straight and in correct form, presenting a dignified demeanour
  • – Keep calm and in control, project confidence and fearlessness
  • – Smooth and efficient changes in direction indicate good balance and timing (e.g. when starting to cut in kirikaeshi from tai-atari and backwards)

Show effective zanshin

  • – When turning after a men attack, keep constant eye contact with the opponent
  • – Always turn towards the opponent and ready to attack at any moment
  • – Direct the kensen at the opponent after a men or do cut and always step forward to complete the turn
  • – After a kote attack, close to tsubazeriai with the hands in the centre

In shinsa (examination), there is at least one good attack with strong spirit in each shinsa keiko.

6 Feb 2022 – Sung Kyu Kim