I often suggest to students (and myself) to pay attention to their kendo. I also know this isn’t as easy as it sounds. I have an approach that I use to check on my own kendo that I would like to share with you.

Know all the steps of what you are attempting to do.

If you think of a simple big men, make a list of everything that goes into it. Then break down each item in the list further. Let’s try that.

  1. Stand in good kamae
  2. Stand at proper issoku-itto-no-mai
  3. Kiai loudly
  4. Swing big
  5. Strike men with good ki-ken-tai
  6. Follow through with strong zanshin

These are the basic steps, but we can break each of these down further.

“Stand in good kamae” – what does that look and feel like? Feet in proper position, weight carried primarily on the balls of your feet, right heel raised so much as to slide 1 sheet of paper underneath, left heel raised enough as to slide 3 sheets of paper underneath, knees slightly flexed, hips squared, shoulders above hips, shoulders relaxed, head held straight up, hands holding shinai properly, kensen pointed at partner’s throat.

Does that cover everything? No – because you can break down each of those items further. Something as basic as standing in proper kamae takes work, but it’s something you can check on, scrutinize, and improve if you pay enough attention.

Everything you do in kendo can be improved. Deepening your understanding of the minutia of kendo movements can help you evaluate your own performance. Having a mirror or a video camera can be really helpful as well. And of course, listen to your sensei and your sempai to implement their suggestions, all of which you’re recording in your dojo notebook.