I've seen quite a bit of Kendo now and I always wonder why they do anticipating attacks. I mean they start their sword off in a position where they must draw back, but how is this good? As the open could then potentially attack them with a readied attack from their stance, like a stance. I've also seen a lot of HEMA, in which they do not anticipate at all, or rarely at least.

  • 2
    I'm not a Kendo expert, but I think the bulk of the practice deals precisely with that issue - how to counter an opponents strike. I do train against a Kendoka occasionally, and she is blindingly fast. There are several opening positions, including Haso kamae in which the sword is not presented to the opponent, and one of the assumptions of the standard opening position is that if your opponent lifts his blade you will thrust to his throat. I'll leave it for a ranked Kendoka to provide an accurate answer.
    – MCW
    Jan 3, 2016 at 16:59
  • "start their sword off in a position where they must draw back" - what's that got to do with "anticipating" anything? Do you mean to say they're overly "telegraphed" by the "draw back"? Keep in mind that a dynamic "draw back" is necessary in many movements in martial arts and sports to create power. This is really obvious in some motions - try hitting a golf ball if you start with the club held statically at what ought to be the top of your backswing and you'll get dramatically reduced impact. Google "plyometrics" for some of the sports science behind why a dynamic draw back helps.
    – Tony D
    Jan 4, 2016 at 23:37
  • kendo it is like modern fencing it is actually a quite recent sport dating from finals of XIX century while HEMA are based on XV century fencing treats (in case of long sword). It is matter of difference between martial art and sport. HEMA teknicks are for killing kendo for competition there is a big difference.
    – kifli
    Jan 5, 2016 at 12:36
  • That's not true what you said about not drawing back for martial arts like boxing or mma, even hema. You can see that they start km any stance where there hands are ready to punch from that position and they do not have to draw back, although they're a couple exceptions like upper cuts. This is what I'm talking about.
    – Charlie
    Jan 6, 2016 at 21:24
  • This is simply what I mean
    – Charlie
    Jan 6, 2016 at 21:27

1 Answer 1


The position you're referring to is the most common used starting position ("kamae") for kendokas.

It is absolutely not passive, as all attacks can be done from this position. Standing in the starting position, the whole body is prepared for lunging forward by a push of the left leg. It's not very visible, because of all the clothing and gear the participants are wearing. You might have seen them been standing like this for minutes, just shouting and doing small movements. This is one of the most intense situations for kendokas, as they're just waiting for the right moment to lunge into an attack.

As mentioned in the comments, the tip of the shinai is pointing at the opponents throat. Moving strait forward will make the shinai hit the throat, and the attacking kendoka will get a point, if the attack is correctly executed. As for other attacks, it's not necessary with large draw backs. Often (e.g. in competitions) a kendoka will stretch his arms keeping the shinai in the center (while moving towards the opponent), and within the split of a second do a small cut to a valid point area. Bigger cuts with obvious draw backs happens fast and are used in combination with body movements (barely visible and very visible) to execute a successful attack.

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