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I want to pick up my kendo but I'm afraid I'm a bit out of shape.

Does anyone know a good training scheme to get into shape and be ready by September (5 - 6 months)?

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Get a teacher and trust him/her with your training. –  Trevoke Mar 19 '12 at 11:01
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Simple and true; if you want to be in shape to chop firewood, chop firewood. Runners run; Baseball players play baseball; and kendoka practice kendo. Whatever you do, your body will adapt. –  stslavik Mar 19 '12 at 16:47
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4 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Without knowing what your goals are for getting into shape, or how you intend to get back into kendo, all I can do is comment on how I approached getting back into karate. I had a lengthy layoff from karate (about 2 years) due to issues with psoriasis on the soles of my feet. What I didn't know at the time is that the intensity of the psoriasis was related to my body weight. Long story short, I got to my "sick of being like this" state and lost a lot of weight. The psoriasis cleared up, but I lost a lot of strength in the process. So I attacked getting back into karate in a couple phases:

  • General strength and conditioning
  • Relearning the techniques I knew

General Strength and Conditioning

To redeem my strength, I started a simple barbell training program. Now, that only addresses one aspect of what I lost. But I did find going up in weights on a regular schedule quite addicting.

Next up was conditioning. The problem of being able to keep my breath during the rigors of martial arts training is no small task. Barbells don't normally do that (there is a way, but off topic for this reply). I employed a couple of approaches:

  • Sprints: forwards, backwards, side to side
  • Jump rope: two legs, one leg, alternating legs
  • Katas: one right after the other (but that required the next section)

The key to conditioning for martial arts is to make the effort you spend similar to what you need for both classes and taikai. You have periods of rest and activity. If a round in a match is always 2 minutes, and you have no more than three rounds (TKD tourneys are like that), then you need to at least be able to do that.

Relearning Techniques

For the most part, my knowledge was largely in-tact. However, the different combinations and katas were quite rusty. I did find resources to help jog my memory of the sequence of my katas. Some of the katas were very simple, and I remembered without help.

However, I didn't wait too long before asking my sensei if I could rejoin class. We worked on getting back to a certain level of knowledge, and are still working on it. There is a lot to cover.

Where I am now

I'm back. I'm in better shape than I ever have been, even though I'm not a young guy anymore. I've figured out how to make the general strength and conditioning support my martial arts training, partly through trial and error, and partly through learning from others. There's still some gaps in my knowledge because I haven't used it for so long, but those gaps are being filled.

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Why prepare at all?

If you want to be in shape to chop firewood, chop firewood. Runners run; Baseball players play baseball; and kendoka practice kendo. Whatever you do, your body will adapt.

This is marginally true, but misleading. Runners and baseball players lift and work on conditioning, too. Judoka, karateka, and kendoka even have a name for it: hojo undo ("supplemental exercises"). That's because they're important. Being weak, slow, out of shape, and unable to perform basic movements will hinder your martial arts progress.

Getting better at any practice involves lots of doing that specific thing, but it also often involves developing basic physicality and maximizing one's physical attributes. To discard supplemental or preparatory training altogether is folly.

Training time in martial arts is precious. Class time, whether group or one-on-one, should be spent on activity-specific technique, drilling, and sparring. Using that time for general strength, mobility, and conditioning wastes everyone's time. Sport-specific strength and conditioning is of course necessary, but instructors must assume a basic level of physical competence.

What to do

Any general strength and conditioning program should be sufficient, unless you have a specific hindrance. In most cases this involves some degree of barbell or other resistance training, as well as conditioning such as running, with a possible emphasis on sprinting rather than marathon distances.

With resistance training, be sure to emphasize athletic work rather than bodybuilding. That is, whole-body movements using compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses, chin-ups, and Olympic lifts are superior to hypertrophy-specific routines using isolation exercises. The goal is not performance in any of these specific activities, but rather overall strength and mobility. Rippetoe and Kilgore's Starting Strength is a good reference manual, though the specific program may not be appropriate for you while doing other training.

You'll be able to dabble in kendo no matter how you prepare. But you'll do better the more physically prepared you are.

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If you are already an experienced Kendoka, getting in shape would basically be

  1. Jogging / Circuit Training
  2. Weight training
  3. Suburi

I do participate in tournaments and often during busier months, I stop training (max 3 months).

Getting stamina back is usually the main focus for me when coming back. I would get the scolding of the century if I were not keeping up with junior members.

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Have you done Kendo before? It's not immediately clear from the way your question is phrased. At any rate, I would practice the various cuts, thrusts, etc over and over until my muscles burn. That's how you learn Kendo: repetition. If you've never done it before, just go for a couple of interval runs a week. By "interval" I mean that you should jog for a minute, then sprint for 20 seconds, then jog for a minute again and repeat. That should get your stamina up. Apart from that, play some tennis or squash. Even if you just hit a few balls against a wall.

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