The Footwork of Kendo

Kendo footworkKendo footwork is designed to be of maximum effect in strikes and thrusts. Since the almost unlimited variety of techniques requires coordinated body movement, footwork can be called the life of kendo.

In kendo there is a saying: "The eyes first, the footwork next, the courage third and the strength fourth". In other words, the footwork is valued next to sight, but what is required first of all is keenness of sight and the ability to observe the opponents posture and detect any unpreparedness.

Next, it's essential for the kendoka to posses footwork skills that will enable them to approach their opponent and attack as quick as lightning. Since old times it has even been said: "In order to learn the techniques, exercise your footwork first rather than your handwork".

In general, kendo footwork is divided into the following four categories:

ayumi-ashi for use in moving forward and backwards to cover great distances quickly
okuri-ashi used in defenses, strikes and requiring fast, short range movement in any direction
hiraki-ashi used in defenses, strikes and thrusts when it is necessary to break one's body posture
tsugi-ashi used in strikes and thrusts executed at a wide interval of space

The two kinds of footwork used most widely are okuri-ashi and ayumi-ashi.

A few important points to watch:

  • Do not lift your feet too high, but move them as if sliding them across the floor.
  • Think of your hips as the centre of your body, move so that your weight travels as much as possible in horizontal lines.
  • Move without swaying your upper body, swinging the shinai, or breaking your general body position.
  • When moving to the rear, do not allow the heel of the foot in the rearward position to touch the floor.

The footwork in kendo must be mastered simultaneously with the arm·movements. They should be one action.

The feet are separated by about the length of one foot. The right foot is firmly planted with the heel slightly raised. The left foot drawn back to the rear so that the toe is just in line with the heel of the right foot and about a foot length away. In the ready position, the right foot is forward, the left foot back with the heel raised about four inches and the knee slightly bent. Hips are level, the back is straight, and shoulders are back and square. The arms are in the cocked position, with the left hand at the centre of the body and the right hand held just above and directly to the front in a relaxed position. The shinai is grasped tightly at the end by the left hand, while the right hand cradles the area near the tsuba.

okuri ashi
ayumi ashi
hiraki ashi tsugi ashi