Most of us are our own worst critics. Kendoka are no exception. The thing is, you don’t need another critic. Your sensei and dojo peers will do that for you. Fortunately, you have the power to change how you think about your kendo by changing your self-talk.

Have you ever said anything like:

  • My kendo sucks!
  • I always hit like that.
  • I can’t hit men.
  • My timing’s off.
  • I’ll never remember the footwork in kata number 3.

Thinking in this way focuses on the negative. It gives more strength to what you want to avoid. It is more beneficial to shift your perspective to focus on the positive parts of your kendo.

Let’s take example #1 – “My kendo sucks!”. If that’s how you continue to think, then your kendo will continue to suck. Truthfully, your kendo may need lots of improvement. Perhaps if you were to rate your kendo on a 10 point scale, it would score a 2 out of 10.

First off, let’s agree on one kendo truth. Your kendo will always need improvement. Whether your kendo is a 2/10 or an 8/10, there will be room for improvement.

Instead of focusing on what’s wrong, focus on what’s right. A 2/10 kendoka still did the following:

  • Successfully made it to the dojo
  • Came to the dojo with the intent to get better
  • Put in effort despite negativity from their own thinking or the expressions of others

It would have been easier to stay at home eating chips on the couch than going to the dojo. On your worst kendo day, just remember that at least you made it to the dojo and that you put in an effort to improve your kendo. You wouldn’t have gone to the dojo otherwise. Showing up is a success. It’s a small one, but it’s a success.

Going back to “My kendo sucks!”, a healthier way to express yourself could be “My kendo needs improvement.” or “I am working on improving my kendo.” The first statement avoids making an overly harsh judgement about the state of your kendo. The second is more positive as you are giving yourself the message that you are indeed trying to improve.

What would you rather have rattling around in your subconscious? “My kendo sucks!” or “I am working on improving my kendo.”? I hope you find option #2 more desirable.

Similarly, if your self-talk is you telling yourself something is the way it is, you are reinforcing the current state of your kendo. “I always hit like that.” “I can’t hit men.” These statements reinforce an undesirable status quo. To help yourself change your kendo, change how you say things.

“I always hit like that” can be re-framed as “I am working on improving how I strike”.

“I can’t hit men” can be re-framed as “I am working on consistently hitting men properly”.

Ideally your self-talk will reflect the state you want to achieve and not reflect a negative perspective on your current kendo. Framing your situation as temporary instead of permanent will tell your subconscious you are ready and willing to move past where you are. Statements that reflect an absolute, stuck, negatively-focused position should not be welcome in your way of thinking.

When you focus on positive change in your mind, you can focus on positive change in your kendo.

For they can conquer who believe they can. – Poet John Dryden (1631 ~ 1700)