Teramoto vs Takanabe in 2007 All Japan C'ships. Go here for the video of this men-uchi.
Photo by Tyler Rothmar

A lot of people new to kendo see more experienced kendoka and all they see is speed. "If I can move as fast as that then I'll be as good as them."

True, being able to move quickly is part of it, and that does come with practice. But there are many other aspects to what experienced kendoka do, more important than simple speed, that allow them to be effective.

How does one get faster? The most basic way is to be able to perform the techniques of kendo in a relaxed manner. This means not being tense in your muscles as you swing, or as you step. The tricky part is that in order to not be tense, you have to stop trying so hard to go fast.

Another way to become relaxed in your movements is to train them. A LOT. Do suburi until you can hardly lift the shinai, then you will know what it means to really relax. Go to a lot of different trainings and train hard: uchikomigeiko, kakarigeiko, again until you can hardly keep going.

Being able to perform the basics of kendo with a unified body also helps speed up your movements. Co-ordination is helped by using kiai, which both prepares the body and helps launch it.

気剣体一致 Ki-ken-tai-itchi: the kiai, the cutting action and the footwork together as one.

The real secret to how great kendoka are able to cut with such apparently blinding speed in this: perceiving the right opportunity or kikai. When your opponent finds an opening in your kamae, it may seem fast to you but to them it may be like they've got all the time in the world.

This comes only with much practice and experience, although most people with only a few years kendo experience will have had the occasional experience of what this is like. Though some people seem to be able to do it more easily than others, everyone can improve their ability in 'seeing' the openings.

Here is a simple diagram that shows some of the different moments of opportunity in kendo, and two different ways to refer to them.

(c) Ben Sheppard

Speed Game Test
And finally, here's a little online game for you to test and train your reflexes


Don't worry if your first few results are bad. If you practice you will get faster: relfexes are not set at birth (like height or other physical attributes) but respond to training. Apparently the absolute fastest anyone can be is 0.2 of a second...


Unknown said…
This is very helpful. Thank you
Leiv Harstad said…
Nice diagram.

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