The insights into 8th dan testing for kendo in the video are very interesting. Out of 1,029 people testing only 5 passed, less than 0.5%.

Students at Greenwood Aikido will find the major testing points from one of the judges, Saburo Iwatate Sensei 8th dan kendo, to be of interest as well. When they do bouts for 8th dan it does not matter whether they win or lose. Iwatate Sensei looks at four main factors:

  1. The back foot should point straight ahead. If it turns out it’s not good. Having the left foot pointed out results in a weak and imprecise strike.
  2. Gripping the shinai (sword) too strongly and making the right elbow stick out is not good. When the elbow extends out the sword rotates, creating an improper cutting angle.
  3. It’s important to strike at the right time, possibly as the opponent comes forward or by forcing the attack as they drop back.
  4. A strong, impenetrable aura is something that’s hard to describe, but easily felt. You must neutralize the opponent with your presence. You have to be able to rise above the level of your opponent, and move the judges hearts.

The first two points are something my students should immediately recognize. Unlike most aikido teachers, Nishio Sensei taught us to keep out feet pointing forward, in the manner of a good swordsman. And the proper angle of the arm and elbow not only apply to handling the sword, but also to presenting your hand in katate-dori (wrist grabbing) practice.