Being Tall in Kendo

I've heard it many times: "You are so lucky to be tall. Kendo must be so easy for you" Well, not really... actually I think it's a bit harder in some ways. Yes, I can reach very far, but you see, being tall creates a dilemma. On the one hand if I hit men without moving forward much I have no forward momentum, and as anyone who is tall will tell you, suddenly creating forward momentum from a stationary position is very very hard: I can't just suddenly move forward (thus I tend to lean forward a little before attacking, which I am unlearning right now). This means that even if I get a clean hit on the opponent I tend to have ugly zanshin, I stop after the hit and then start moving forward again, slowly. Then on the other hand I can try to create lots of forward momentum right at the start of my cut, which is great when I'm practising with an opponent who doesn't move, but simply does not work when we are both moving forward (as is generally the case). When both of us are moving forward there is no room for me to hit men (or kote) without holding my arms closer to my body (not stretched out) which is bad.

I tend to do the first thing mostly: good cutting but bad movement.

I am by no means slow at cutting, I can get some pretty good points on the 7th dan teachers at my dojo when we do jikeiko. But they say: "great, you cut me, why are you just standing there?"

And then there are the problems with do cuts. In order to cut do I have to lower my shinai under horizontal, which makes me twist my right shoulder, which hurts. There is no other way for me to cut do.

I remember that Sam once told me, awkwardly (as if he wasn't sure he should be telling me yet), that I should learn to cut kote really well, as everyone will be expecting men cuts from me. I think, in addition to this, kote is really good for me because I can reach it without putting myself in danger: there have been a few surprised teachers who stepped in to make a cut only to find that my shinai could already reach their kote. But again, there is the problem of moving forward.

Sigh. Being tall isn't that great. I think I look like a penguin sometimes. Standing tall, but waddling with no grace.

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