What should my mentality be in shiai?

I've been on quite a losing streak lately in shiai and my frustration is only building up. I know I have the adequate speed and form, but I just can't seem to focus 100% and do what I want to do when I fight. The problem seems to be with my mind.

What helps you focus? What do you usually do if you become frustrated with your performance and lose your spirit? Should I play to win, have fun, or learn?

Answer: Thank you for your question.  Your question represents many others, including me :)

If you are concentrating on hitting, then if you don’t really get a point, it is normal for anyone to get frustrated. The reason is simple. You are not getting a result you want.

Once late Murayama sensei told us, “if you participate in shiai, you should win”. Even though winning in shiai is not the main purpose of our daily training, once we participate in shiai, we should win.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?


Instead of trying to beat your opponent, try to COMMUNICATE with your opponent. What does it mean?

You should concentrate on what your OPPONENT is thinking not what YOU want to do.  

Just like in normal conversation you have with your friends. If your friend keeps talking to you without listening to you and talk over you if you try to share your opinion, what does it make you feel like?

You are thinking what you want to strike and how you want to win. It is normal. But this is only YOUR thoughts. We do have an opponent and he/she has their thoughts, right? We have to think about their thoughts and change our methods.

Why do I know this? Because I recently was in your position. I was very frustrated because I was just concentrating on myself; how I wanted to strike, what I wanted to get a point by and so forth.

Then I read an article from a kendō magazine. It says that we have to communicate with our opponent. We have to think what he/she wants to do.

Once I started doing that, my frustration level went down.

It sounds like I can read my opponents’ mind but it is not how it works.  Our opponents do not lose either. So they are thinking hard just like we do. So try to think what your opponent wants to do and decide what you want to do next. 

Hope this helps.

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May 24, 2011
Thinking or reacting
by: Olga

How not to be too late to react if you are thinking about your opponent's thoughts? I mean some opponents do not really give much time for thinking, they continuously attack.

Kendo-Guide.Com: That is a good question. With that kinds of opponents, let them strike until they get tired :)

There are three things that you can do to improve thinking-performing coordination.

  1. You have to get used to the kend? movements

  2. You should work on one thing at a time

  3. Instead of "keep thinking about your opponent's thoughts", make a snap judgment.

Everyone who is reading this must be using a computer so let's say you can definitely type, right?

Just "typing" does not need a special skill. You only need one or two fingers to tap keyboards. My 2 year old daughter does it.

If you want to type faster, you need to use all the fingers and memorize where the keys are. You need a log of practice to do so. But once your fingers memorize where each key is, you can certainly type fast WIHTOUT watching keyboard with using all the fingers.


You are certainly thinking what you want to write, but you are not thinking "where are the keys" to tap.

You have to reach to that level in kend? too. You should not think about "how to react". Your BODY should react.

2. You should work on one thing at a time.
Any movements must become our second nature but until then we must concentrate on one thing at a time.

For example, if you are not reacting well to your opponent's attack, you can concentrate on learning "sen no waza". As soon as you sense your opponent coming to attack you, you attack him/her by striking. I am not getting into the technical side of this but this is an idea of what you can concentrate during shiai or jigeiko.

3. Instead of "keep thinking about your opponent's thoughts", make a snap judgment.

Since you already know what you are going to do, you make a snap judgment about what your opponent is going to do to you.

For example, let's say I am going to strike men when I sense that my opponent will come to my men or I am going to strike kote-men when I sense that my opponent will come to my kote.

Then I am thinking in my head, "what are you going to do, what are you going to do?". Of course, I am moving my shinai and going in and out of issoku itt? no ma. I may even try to move my shinai lower or higher than my opponent's. Doing all kinds of stuff to put pressure on my opponent hoping I am putting pressure on my opponent!

Then I sensed or decided that my opponent is actually coming for my men and waiting for that opportunity. Now I make my move. Either I can provoke him/her to strike men or I just go for his/her men. This must be studied by you.

Keep working on your kend? like this over and over until your body memorises the moves. Then things become much easier and smoother.

Hope this helps.

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