In this week’s session, our coach introduced a new drill to our beginners: hayasuburi (速素振り). Hayasuburi is a rapid, rhythmic exercise performed individually, in which you cut stepping forward and raise your arms stepping backward (an example video).
There were three key reasons for introducing such an advanced exercise in only our second session. Our coach wanted to emphasise that for the standard kendo footwork:
- Both feet must move on every step.
Both of your feet must be beneath your body to allow you to move effectively for anything in kendo. Thus it’s important to make sure that after each step, both feet are back in their original positions relative to each other, i.e. don’t lunge.
- Feet should stay close to the ground when stepping.
Keeping your toes almost on the ground as you step helps you to focus on travelling forwards and not upwards. If you bring the foot up too high as you step, you’d be using more energy without gaining more distance, and you’d also be increasing your chances of injuring your feet, ankles and knees!
- Neither heel should touch the floor.
It’ll feel unnatural, but you should tilt your balance slightly forwards and be on the balls of your feet at all times when training. Hayasuburi is a good opportunity to practice this as you won’t be able to keep up with the pace of the cuts if you roll backwards onto your heels every time you step.
Hayasuburi is difficult to do correctly but our beginners made an admirable attempt. Given the pace of the exercise, it’s easy to forget that cutting speed is not the most important part of hayasuburi. Only by doing the correct footwork will hayasuburi help your kendo progress.