Ladder drills

This is an abbreviated/casual version of a chapter that was originally in my just-published Kendo Coaching Tips and Drills book, but which I removed in the final version as it didn’t really fit in the way that I wanted it to (and also because I am terrible at making attractive visual charts… which is why you only get a scanned version here!). Some small footage of my ladder drills can be seen in the Kendo Coaching vid at the very end.

Basically, the brunt of a good kendo training regime is built solely on the repetitive business of practising basics: kirikaeshi, uchikomi, more kirikaeshi, more uchikomi etc etc… with the odd shiai thrown in for fun. At least, this is how it is for me, and what I (and all orthodox kendo teachers) make their students do. Theres a bit more to it than that of-course, but as the years pass by, you start to see how simple the kendo pedagogy actually is. I’m older and somewhat experienced, so am ready and accept the repetition, but younger people sometimes don’t. To make things more interesting, one of the things I like to throw in the mix every so often is some pattern ladder training. (of course, this training isn’t just limited to younger people!)

Theres nothing really new or innovative here, but let me indulge myself and tell you why I think ladder training can be a useful adjunct to a normal regime, and what I do to make the practise slightly more kendo-centric. First of all, what I do to make it more kendo-y is:

  1. The students start in their normal kendo ashigamae;
  2. I require students to stamp (fumikomi) when they come to the end of the ladder. You can add a kiai here as well;
  3. Heavy emphasis on the working of the achilles/lower leg in regards to fumikiri action (bending of knees and keeping the heels up);
  4. The end-point of the drill set – single leg drills – is my goal and its all built around achieving a strong left leg push-of (fumikiri). I don’t necessarily tell the students that this is my aim though.

Benefits of ladder training (in general + my extras) include:

  • A great warm up – you can find your heart rate increasing rapidly;
  • Helps stability – keeping the body ‘grounded’ whilst moving quickly;
  • The ability to empirically measure [improvement] – time students on different drills and record;
  • Left-right balance practise – the kendo kamae favours one side of the body to the other, this is bad. You can easily invert drill training;
  • Strengthening of the fumikiri action – one-leg exercises are great for helping strengthen fumikiri;
  • Concentration on the fumikiri action – removing everything else other than your leg actions, concentration on a single action becomes easier;
  • Its fun!

Theres probably more I could add here, but that will do for now.

To see/download the actual patterns that I use, please click the image below. Note that the numbers with a circle around them denote the RIGHT foot. Note that I sometimes change the legs around, as well as replace a single person running a ladder to two people: one walking on their hands and the other holding their legs, wheel-barrow style.

This file is for your reference only, feel free to do with it what you will.

I hope this was useful. If you have any ideas how to improve on this, please comment here or on facebook. Cheers!

By George

George is the founder and chief editor of
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4 replies on “Ladder drills”

Hi George

My copy just arrived today!

Looking forward to reading this and using some of your drills at an up-coming seminar in Belfast.



If you are looking for great ladder drills, you should check out King Sports Training. Their workouts really help improve speed, as well as agility and strength. I have been using them for awhile and they have made a big difference.

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