The Fundamentals of Kendo
Ability and progress in Kendo is said to consist of some eighty per cent posture and only
twenty per cent technique. In Kendo we are not merely attempting to hit the opponent, but to
deliver a correct technique in a specified manner. From this viewpoint Kendo has much in
common with shooting, since both posture and breathing are of importance. But the situation is
more complex in Kendo; both attacker and target are very likely to be in motion. Aiming has
little to do with Kendo and we do not even watch the target as we cut. Aim develops quite
naturally if left to itself. One does not make a fully conscious effort when reaching to pick up
an object and in the same way the precise target areas may be easily struck immediately by the
novice, providing that he is not inhibited by the concept of aiming, or it being particularly
Shisei (general posture and carriage) Kendo Fundamentals
Shisei forms the foundation and platform from which all actions must spring and the
techniques will only be as stable as the base provided. The simple way to view the repertoire of
techniques is as each being the spoke of a wheel. To one side branch the purely aggressive
techniques and to the other the more passive techniques. The waiting condition should be in the
centre, where a free adoption of other techniques can be made with equal facility depending on
circumstances. Any intellectual planning or concentration on one aspect will inhibit the technique
at the crucial moment. The basic posture should therefore express the neutral and natural
condition of the human being and this applies equally; both externally and internally.
The hips and shoulders should be square, the spine and head erect with the chin tucked
slightly in. The body should be relaxed but firm, neither rigid and tense, nor loose and drooping.
Equally the mind should be calm and watchful, but not committed to any specific attitude. Any
heavy extreme is bad and it must be remembered that each negative expression includes a little
positive expression within itself and vice-versa.
The natural physique of a human being is shown by an upright spine and head whilst
excessive egoism results in hunched shoulders and rigidity without suppleness. The shoulders
should therefore fall downwards to their natural position and the body-weight dropped to the
Chushin (centre of gravity) just below the navel, and the general feeling of balance carried in this
area. Balance is of more importance in Kendo than in the other Budo arts in that the student has
no contact with his opponent to aid or assist his own balance. The student must act and move
in a completely independent fashion, automatically harmonizing with the opponent’s actions but
having little control over them.
What we term the Chushin-sen (body centre-line) is an imaginary line which we visualize
as passing through nose, navel and striking the floor exactly between the feet. Regardless of
changing foot positions or widening the stance the Chushin-sen must be kept straight to maintain
balance. This line is important as related to technique and in most cases the movement of the
sword follows this line.
Shisei can be simply regarded as the basic posture of the upper torso and head in relations
to floor and hips. In Kendo the basic Shisei should hold true, regardless of the movements or
position of arms and legs at any given moment. Naturally enough, the position of Shisei is very
similar to meditation posture and known for thousands of years in the East as the ideal and
natural positioning of torso and head. One should not be confused by different circumstances in
other Budo arts which demand variations due to the different techniques. Essentially the Shisei
is the same.