The following is a loose translation of 45 points to consider during your kendo practise split into three levels. The book that it is from (see Source) was published in 1976, over 40 years ago. Although the book is old-ish, any kendo practitioner today could pick it up and refer to the pictures and text within without any sense of discomfort. The biggest difference is simply that some of the terminology has changed.
The book has a few sections, but the bulk of the book covers a three-level “course” of kendo practise: basic, mid-level, and advanced. Today I present an abridged translation of each chapters’ introduction, a list of the section parts, and then (the main part of the article) a translation of the “consideration points” for each level. Enjoy!
Basic level points to consider
Introduction: At this level you should be learning the basics of kendo movement. In order to acquire correct kendo, it is important to practise with accuracy in mind.
Contents: kamae, body movement, ashisabaki, maai, tsubazeriai, basic cutting and receiving, renzoku-waza, harai-waza, nuki-waza.
- Are you always maintaining a good posture?
- Are you gripping the shinai with both of your hands? (i.e. in a balanced manner)
- When you are in your kamae, are you putting too much strength in any place it isn’t required?
- Are you able to read the distance between yourself and your partner whilst moving?
- Whilst practising basics, are you able to move your body and strike together at the same time? Are you striking with the right part of the shinai?
- When you are receiving your partners basic strikes, are you receiving correctly, and is your posture good?
- Do you understand what oji-waza* actually is?
- When you practising continuous techniques, are you able to do so in a single flow without splitting the actions into separate parts?
- When practising harai-waza, do you understand the direction and timing for correct execution?
- When you do harai-waza, is your shinai point and the position of your left hand correct? And do you strike at the very instant your partners shinai is smacked away?
- When practising nuki-waza, are you pressuring them first, and then catching the right moment to strike?
- After striking using nuki-waza, is your posture correct?
- From a far distance, are you able to use different footwork to smoothly enter striking distance?
- When doing basic strikes or oji-waza, are you using your whole body in unison? And is your left foot pulled up immediately after all strikes?
* I use “oji-waza” throughout this translation but in actual fact this term is not found in the text – it uses 対人技能 which can perhaps be put into English badly as “the ability to deal with an opponent.” I was tempted to render it as “paired practise skill” but that was too opaque. Anyway, I think “oji-waza” works well. BTW, splitting kendo techniques into “shikake” and “oji” was a post-war convention used to help rationalise kendo teaching. As any experienced person knows, “oji” waza are actually “shikake” waza… so the convention doesn’t really work.
Mid-level points to consider
Introduction: At this level execution of basic techniques should be polished. Not only basic techniques, but oji waza should be understood and practised repeatedly in order to be acquired. The ability to react instinctively to the opponent should be cultivated also.
Contents: Seme, tsuki, hiki-waza, basic kirikaeshi, renzoku-waza, harai-waza, nuki-waza, kaeshi-waza, suriage-waza, uchiotoshi-waza.
- When pressuring your opponent, are you doing so with a full spirit, or is it in “shape” only? Is your shinai tip alive?
- Do you think about applying pressure from different angles/directions? When you pressure in and strike, is the former directly related to the latter?
- When tsuki-ing, are you doing so from the hips and not the arms only?
- Is your tsubazeriai correct? Do you know the correct timing to strike from tsubazeriai?
- During kirikaeshi, is you shinai moving in the correct manner and the blade path correct? Are you cutting left and right in a balanced fashion?
- When you do harai-waza, do you strike immediately without leaving any time between the smack and the strike?
- When doing oji-waza, are you able to catch the right time to strike, understand the distance, and move the body well?
- For oji-waza, do you understand the common-points between all techniques?
- For whatever technique you do, are you striking in the same way as you do when practising basics?
More advanced level points to consider
Introduction: Needles to say, by the time we get to this level we should be doing a higher quality of kendo. The ability to deal with an opponent as well as how to defend yourself becomes more important. Not only is it important to learn different techniques, but the manner (quality) in which they are executed is stressed. At this level, if you haven’t acquired the basics to a decent level you will struggle, so it is extremely important to practise whilst keeping those basics in mind.
Contents: Semekomi-waza, hiki-waza, kirikaeshi, against jodan-waza, renzoku-waza, debana-waza, suriage-waza, uchiotoshi-waza, katsugi-waza, katate-waza, jodan.
- Did you move on to advanced techniques only after acquiring basic and mid-level to a some-what decent degree?
- Are you connecting seme and striking smoothly together?
- When you are pressuring someone, are you able to select the strike area based on how your opponent reacts to said pressure?
- When doing hiki-waza, are your feet and hands working in tandem? Also, are you able to discern when the right time to execute hiki-waza is?
- Are you able to do each uchikomi and kirikaeshi at full power? Are you swinging the shinai around correctly?
- Whilst receiving uchikomi and kirikaeshi are you leading your partner? Are you receiving well?
- Against jodan, are you able to catch the right time to strike the opponents left kote?
- When doing continuous striking practise, are you able to do so at full strength? Is each individual strike accurate?
- Are you able to read the correct timing for debana waza?
- Are you able to read when the appropriate time is to execute suriage? And when you do so, do you immediately strike? Are your wrists flexible and grip effective?
- If you manage to read the opponents attack and smack their shinai away, are you utiling your body movement for greater effect?
- Are you able to use katsugi-waza? When you do so, are you striking strongly?
- When you shoulder your shinai in preparation for executing a katsugi-waza are you able to see the openings that become available in the instant your opponent reacts?
- When you perform one-handed techniques are you strongly pressuring your opponent beforehand? When you strike, is your footwork and posture correct? If your attack is unsuccessful are you able to move into a position to defend yourself?
- When you use jodan, are you strongly pressuring your opponent (spiritually or via your posture)?
- When you strike from jodan are you doing so at the right time? Is your posture ok?
- Do you constantly try to kendo in a correct manner rooted in the basics? This includes having a correct kamae, posture, grip, attack timing, seme, posture after striking, etc. Bearing this in mind, do you attempt to fix your own kendo during keiko?
- As kendo is a combative discipline, do you think about the following essential points: overwhelmingly pressuring your opponent; developing the ability to predict opponents; being composed enough to deal with the opponents actions?
- When faced with a difficult technique, do you consider it a challenge and try again and again to acquire it?
- If you are practising at a high level, are you confident that you are able to do to not only understand but execute kendo to that level?
- In order to properly acquire skill through different stages of your kendo development, have you done enough self-study and research?
- Have you moved through the development stages of kendo properly? (i.e. have you skipped over certain things or jumped ahead of yourself?)