Your fight doesn’t start after sitting in sonkyo and stand up to take chūdan. Your fight starts even before you bow to your opponent.
Let’s say you are going to your exam tomorrow. Then you know you are going to fight. Your fight has already started. It started on the day you decided to go for your promotion exam. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should be nervous until the exam.
You must think all the actions you take will influence your kendo on your target date, i.e. your exam date. This means you prepare yourself so you can perform your kendo as best as possible.
Then right before your exam, you must be focused. At the standing bow, your focus is fully on your opponent and calm yourself down. Your opponent is also a partner for you to show your best kendo. Your energy and your opponent’s energy need to harmonize as well. That is what we call, “aiki”. It is the same word of “aiki-dō”.
I know this sounds weird. Kendo is derived from kenjutsu, the technique of the sword. In a real combat with kenjutsu, you would be there to survive. That includes hurting and killing your opponent. So when you face to your opponent, it is quite normal for you to think, “I’m gonna kill you”. I think this works to trigger adrenaline rush.
But once drew out the sword, we should be in the “zone” where only our opponent and we can share. We are so focused to each other and we use all the techniques we know. We are to create our own world through kendo. This is only those who are fighting can do.
This can be only achieved with mutual respect. Fight doesn’t necessarily link to “defeating your opponent”. It is a result. We need something before we get a result.
We need to give our best performance. To do so, we need to prepare ourselves so we can fight our opponent (in an exam or a match) with our best kendo.