What am I doing wrong when striking with shinai

I'm not too sure what I am doing wrong but it does not seem to be working. I do realize it is very difficult to get the Cutting Technique while using the shinai.

I have been told to use more left hand and use the right hand to tense up at the end while keeping my right arm parallel to the ground.


Ryan, South Africa

Answer: It is hard to tell you what you are doing wrong with the information you’ve given me here. But I will try to give you some info that would be helpful for you.

First of all, you never fell “right” about your suburi. It is an ongoing lesson. So do not feel bad about your suburi at your early phase of kendo.

I just replied to a question about suburi, How do I know if my suburi is becoming right handed?. This may be helpful.

Now it is true that you “tense up” your right hand when you strike. But it is quite often misinterpreted as tensing up the right “arm”. Our tenouchi or grip must have a lot to do with this motion.

When you hit a ball with a baseball bat, the grip must be relax until you actually hit a ball. If you have never hit a ball with a baseball bat, what about a tennis racket? Think of something you are familiar with.

Another example is a jab in boxing. If you want to throw a quick and effective jab, you have to be relaxed until the moment your fist hit the target. When our fist is tightened at the moment of the impact, only your hand is tightened, not the entire arm and shoulder. (I hope this is how a boxer throw a jab…)

At the impact of our strike, we should tightened our tenouchi, whose direct translation is “the inside of the hand”. This sounds easy but it takes thousands and thousands of suburi and strikes to get this right. If you are a subscriber of Kendo-Guide.Com Newsletter, you can watch a video of late Murayama Keisuke sensei (8th dan) talking about tenouchi.

You have to learn how to relax at the beginning. Some can do it right away but when they start hitting targets, they all get tensed up and forget about what they learned. This is a normal cycle of learning.

It usually takes 3-5 years to get the hang of how to control a sword, I think. I am sure that your instructor will keep telling you what you should be doing. That would be enough at the beginning. If you have more questions, you are most welcome to post your questions here :)

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Mar 09, 2009
Thanks For Reply
by: Ryan

Thank you for your Response.

I definitely agree with what you said about right hand must "Tense Up".

My sensei has pointed out to me I'm using to much Muscle and am not Relaxed.
He is a very good sensei and am very proud to be taught by him.

But I can also feel my left hand is still very weak so I need to make it stronger.


Kendo-Guide.Com: You?re very welcome. Good to be a help. Please read a comment about Chiba sensei, too. Kendo is a never ending journey, isn?t it?

Mar 09, 2009
Striking with Shinai
by: John M.

Again, an interesting question, which I interpret as an issue of right hand and tenouchi.

I came across an interesting comment by a famous sensei in Japan, Chiba sensei, Hanshi 8th dan. He said something to the effect that 'let the shinai do it's thing (I'm paraphrasing), don't interfere with it, i.e., don't tense up, don't try to use strength'. Also he pointed out that the right hand should come in play i.e., tenouchi, only after the shinai makes contact with the target, not before. Isn't that interesting.

I agree with Masahiro - it takes time to 'learn' out to do this, and yes maybe several years, but that's part of kendo. Mastering these movements over time is part of developing your Kendo spirit. It never ends, I believe.

Kendo-Guide.Com:Thanks for the comment. What Chiba sensei says explains how we should do suburi, even though it is takes a long journey to get there. Many sensei says the same thing in different ways. So it is very interesting to hear what other senseis say. Thanks for sharing it!

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