“Why can’t I slide on the floor like you?”
“Why do we have to use weird steps?”
Before we get into details, let’s relax a bit. When you are stiff, you cannot move as you want. So whatever I tell you here is for you to achieve your goals. My advices are suggestions and you need to find what works for you.
The answer is simple. We want to keep our body stable and ready to strike anytime we need to.
In your striking position, say you’re taking chūdan, what is the quickest and fastest way to strike your opponent?
Since you have your right foot forward already, you just need to take a step forwards onto the right foot and strike. This makes sense, right?
When you see an opportunity to strike, you don't want to lose it. We need to execute a strike immediately.
*I don't get into an argument of how the stance was created historically here on this page.
This is the key. All the training is for you to strike when you need to, not when you want to. That is why you’re told not to move your feet once you are in your striking distance. And when you move, you always move from the front foot. Why? You need to be ready to execute a strike.
To be ready to strike, you must have a good stance. If you take chūdan, you need to have a good chūdan. What is a good chūdan? The chūdan that will let you execute whenever you need to.
I’m talking about the basic idea of our stance and footwork. We have various other footwork, ayumi-ashi, hiraki-ashi and tsugi-ashi. Nothing wrong with using these footwork, but you need to know when and how to use them.
Longer version of the video with exercises is available at Kendo for Adults
You are an adult. Don’t need to be “fast”. If you can, that is great. But you cannot be as fast as teenagers right away. But you’ll be able to learn move smoothly fairly quickly than moving fast.
We have many kendo sensei older than 75 years old and we cannot strike them. We cannot even touch them. Do you think they are lighting fast? No. Do you think they are more athletic than you? No. Do you think they will beat you in sprint? Hopefully NOT!
Then why cannot we strike them? Why can they strike us? It’s not speed. One of the reasons is that they have no unnecessary movements in their kendo.
So focus and study how you can move smoothly. Smooth movements don’t need to use your physical strength. You don’t need to wait until your physical strength improves to work on your smooth movements. You can work on it right now. I still recommend you to work out but not to overpower younger people, but to enjoy kendo longer.
This is necessary to move smoothly.
What do you think that means? When you are in your stance, you are in the state of inertia of rest. You are not moving. Simply the gravity is pulling you down to the floor.
Do you feel you are pulling or pushing backwards when a car start moving forwards? The same thing happens in kendo when you push your body forwards. Your feet are moving forwards but your upper body is staying where it is.
Inertia of Rest
Inertia of Motion
Then when the car stops all of the sudden, your body moves forwards. How much your body moves forwards depends on speed of the car at the moment it stops. But it definitely moves forwards. This is the inertia of motion. Your body is moving at the same speed as the car so even when the car stops your body is still moving forwards.
You might say that you don’t feel like you are going backwards when you start moving forwards in okuri-ashi. It is because you are the one who are performing it. Surely your upper body looks like it is going backwards because of the inertia of rest. And your body has to fight against the force that pulls your upper body backwards. You are wasting energy and time by fighting against the natural law.
To move smoothly, use the centre of gravity. Let the nature pull you forwards, rather than you pushing yourself forwards. That is the easiest way to move.
To sense how it works, you can start leaning forwards. You are now falling forwards.
But you cannot lean forwards in kendo because it tells your opponent that you are coming. Then how do you do that?
Use your knees. You have one foot forwards so bend that knee. You can feel the shift of your weight. Mind you, you do it very subtle; otherwise your opponent will know that you are coming.