How to stay motivated to improve

by Bill

I've now reached a point in my kendo where I feel like I've hit a brick wall, and I'm not improving.

I've been practising kendo for about one hour per week for almost a year. I'm in bogu now and have graded at 4th kyu.

Practice is difficult of course, that’s to be expected; but mostly, it is very confusing. I never really know what waza to use and when to use it.

And just when I think I've done a technique correctly, there are always three other things that I'm not doing correctly. As a result, it's becoming more and more difficult to stay motivated for practice.

I understand that kendo is a lifelong learning experience, but what can I do to keep myself motivated?

What can I do to make sense of the multitude of techniques? As a beginner, what do you suggest I focus on to advance?

I hope this post also helps other beginners who might be feeling the same way.

Thank you,


Answer: Thank you for your post. Indeed, this will help a lot of people, if I or others can give you some good answers! Certainly good question, though.

Some people are motivated because they want to complete well in tournaments. Some are motivated because they want to reach as high as possible in their kendō rank. Others get motivated to find out their weakness through kendō.

I can see one clear problem. Many beginners learn techniques too early. It is OK if they can coordinate their sword, body and arm movements but many cannot.

The question I want to ask is…

Would you take more time to learn the basics again? In other words, will you quit if you have to take more time in learning the basics and not doing sparing at

The basics is always the key. When you cannot perform the basics smoothly, you cannot perform techniques properly.

My father started kendō at the age of 55 (ref: Unknown kendoist). He worked on one technique at the time; especially men strike (just a normal straight men).

Having said that, if you want to know when and what technique should be used,

  1. Ask your teacher/sempai (senior students) : i.e. understanding the principle of the technique.  

  2. Apply the technique in sparing with someone lower than you: i.e. testing the principle

  3. Think why it worked or did not worked in sparing: i.e. analysing your technique

  4. Ask your teacher/sempai what you are doing wrong: i.e. changing your perception

  5. Apply the technique in sparing with someone lower than you: i.e. testing the technique again

  6. Apply the process 3 to 5 until you master the technique.

  7. Apply the technique on someone with higher rank than you:  i.e. testing your true capability

  8. Go back to 3 and repeat the process.

This is in “Interview with Alex Bennett” but the basics is the strongest.  

Simply you cannot easily execute a technique and achieve a valid cut; especially against younger people or experienced ones.

In such a case, we must try again and again in the same way or different ways. You can change a distance, your shinai movements (pushing down your opponent’s shinai), timing to strike, speed of your body movements and so on.

I do not know if you can get motivated by doing the learning process shown above, but if you can enjoy the process, you will improve fairly quickly.

Many of us want a quick result. I completely understand that. That is why I strongly tell you and myself (I like a quick result a lot!) to relax and enjoy the moment of learning process.  

Hope this helps.

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Oct 22, 2010
by: aaron

Sometimes when you work hard at kendo you grow and get better and then all of a sudden you are not getting points any more or it seems that you know the actions and wonder what more there is.

I call this plateauing.

You have climbed, leveled out and there is still a mountain above you and you wonder what to do next.

In some cases you see others growing around you and passing you. That is frustrating.

The only solution is to change something in your practice.

As stated you need to go back to the basics or other actions and ensure that you have them perfected.

You need to check your strategy and see if you can change it or improve it. Or you need to find another reason to practice kendo.

Those are a few of the limited answers that already have been well stated.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for your comment and sharing your experience!

When people are not seeing any improvement in kendo (not only kendo in this matter), they think they are doing something wrong. But probably they are not doing anything wrong.

As we all know, our muscles never get big like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The improvement is very slow. Sometimes we do not see it but I am sure we are slowly improving.

The most important thing is we do the right things in the right ways. Stick to the basics because it is the right thing to do. Do the basics right.

Believe in that process because it is proven to be a success.

Yes. That is what I tell myself all the time!

Oct 20, 2010
Feeling the same
by: Chris.

I do kind of feel that I'm not going anywhere with my kendo after a year of practice.

I practice about twice a week (approximately 2 hours each time), but during my 3 month summer holidays, I didn't do any kendo.

After my holidays I came back to doing kendo and I could do the few things that I was taught during the year before my holiday but I feel that I haven't improved since I've started.

I feel so pressurised all the time by my sensei to do my best and all, but it actually is destroying me inside out.

I feel so nervous around her and I start making so much mistakes and it doesn't help when she assumes that I understand Japanese when I'm probably just proficient in counting in Japanese.

I guess having friends in kendo is keeping me going in kendo...when I don't understand something, I will consult them after practice or give me useful hints and tips on doing certain things in kendo.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for your comment and sharing your experience! Having kendo mates is one of the wonderful byproducts of kendo.

Don't feel too nervous about not being able to understand your instructor. It happens a lot. As you do, talk to your mates and they'll help you.


Oct 19, 2010
Stick with it, practice hard
by: Robert

If I may, I would encourage you to see if you can practice more than 1x a week. I don't know if your schedule will allow that, but for me it made a huge difference.

Kendo is still incredibly hard, but things slowly started to click a little bit, mentally. Little lights going on can be huge in terms of staying motivated.

I have been practicing for a couple years, so I'm a beginner too and I totally understand your sentiment of kendo being confusing.

I find it at once incredibly basic, as well as incredibly complex. In a way, that's fun for me. There's always some basics to work on, always something new to learn.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for your comment and sharing your experience!

Oct 07, 2010
Re: How to stay motivated to improve
by: Chris

The most important thing to realize is that, while this may be the first time you've experienced this plateau period in your training, it most certainly won't be the last.

One thing that you can also do is have a change of venue, if you are able.  Whether it be attending another dojo in the area or part of a vacation where Kendo happens to be available, the different people, customs and locale could really stimulate your brain when you feel like you're not going anywhere. 

The worst-case scenario would be to just stick it out.  It's not the best solution, but sometimes it's the only thing available until something clicks in your mind and you start feeling some sort of progress again.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for your post and sharing your tips!

Oct 07, 2010
Staying Motivated
by: Raul

I am now at the level ikkyu.  I will take my first Dan test in December.  I can remember sometimes feeling like I had lost some motivation also.  I then decided to focus on one thing at a time. 

For example, I would decide at one session to concentrate on being successful at one movement or at haya-suburi.  Even if during sparring I could not get a point, as long as I focused on improving one thing, it was enough for me. 

Sometimes my focus will be on helping someone of lower rank.  I get great satisfaction with that as well.  I hope this helps.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for your post and sharing your experience!

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