I call it the R-word.


It seems like a dirty word or at least an impossible feat to achieve for some kendoka. “How can I relax when someone’s swinging a shinai at my head?” I don’t know how to make someone relax. I just know that if they’re too tense, they have to somehow figure out how to relax.

It’s not just the body that needs to relax. It’s the mind. When you let yourself get mentally and physically wound up, you’re less effective. You can’t see things coming. You get stuck in your mind and not focused on what’s happening.

You also get stuck in your body. When you’re too tense, you can’t move. If you can’t move, you can’t do anything except watch your opponent cut you down.


Finding how much tension to have is a learning process. Too much tension in your arms and your strikes are slow, without enough extension and tenouchi. Too little and you can’t strike effectively. Too much tension in your legs and you can’t move around easily to create openings. Too little makes you collapse in a heap. The right amount of tension for you is somewhere in between the extremes. Discovering it can make a huge difference in your kendo.

Most of us have too much tension. Even when I think I’m relaxed, my sensei tell me I need to relax more. Paradoxically, that doesn’t help 😉

So, there you have it. Thoughts and advice for Monday. Relax.