Don't worry if you can't nolly kick-flip or nose-manual all the way to the supermarket ( ) - a simple forward push on a skateboard is enough to show you the difference between leaving your back foot behind & bringing it with you, so to speak.

Try this: stand on the deck with your front (right) foot pointed straight forward, as it would be in kamae. With your back (left) foot on the ground, also pointed forward, push off. Do it a few times to gain some speed. Maybe nose grind a rail if you're feeling willy nilly.

Initially, let your pushing leg trail behind when you push. Next, try it again, except this time do as we ought to in kendo - snap your hips back into place after pushing by bringing your back leg up. You'll find that not only does your push have more snap and power to it, but you're also in a better position to push again.

Although riding a skateboard is obviously a different situation from executing a strike from kamae, there are some similarities which make this a worth trying , if only once. Because of the board's wheels, our push is translated into smooth and immediate forward locomotion, allowing us to observe more dramatically the difference between correct (strong/quick/efficient) & incorrect (weak, slow) push-off with the back leg.

Another exercise is to experiment with the angle of your pushing foot. Regardless of whether or not you bring your pushing foot back up, your push won't be as strong if your pushing foot is planted at a 45degree angle relative to your front foot.

It takes your hips offline, forcing your foot back and to the left each time you push. In order to push again, the hips have to be re-squared, and the push is weaker to begin with. Now try pushing off from a properly straight 'kamae foot'. You'll find it's much more efficient, and facilitates bringing the back leg back up quickly, because your hips stay on line.

Indeed, the skateboard has much to teach us about the way we move in kendo. No longer an angsty tool for the slow erosion of the elegant cement structures which adorn our cities, the skateboard can now spirit us along our way of the sword. eyaaaah.

The last lesson I could squeeze out of this gimmick is to do with moving from the tanden, or from the hips, that difficult and essential lesson that so many of us grapple with (I sure as heck do). A common beginners mistake in kendo is to lean forward with the upper body, bringing the right leg out as a means of catching ourselves at the last moment. More experienced kenshi know that leaning makes a strike predictable and robs it of hip power.

As opposed to standing on static ground and leaning, try leaning forward on a stationary skateboard, or rather, don't. Even a slight shift in the centre of balance will initiate a fall - the deck flies out from under you. This shows the importance of keeping your center of gravity low, in your hips, which is to say keeping control of your balance at all times.

In kendo it is possible to put yourself off balance by leaning heavily into a strike. But the skateboard leaning 'experiment' demonstrates the loss of control involved. While you may succeed in catching yourself with your right leg in kendo, you will have only limited power and control over your strike, and there will be no further forward momentum (zanshin fuel) to speak of. So, by keeping our hips under us at all times (posture), as though riding on a skateboard, we can maintain control over the strike for its entire duration, ensuring power and follow through.

So, why go on and on about some tenuous connection with skateboards, flogging a badly decaying horse and telling you stuff you already know?

Speaking personally, I find that I sometimes tend to fall into a rut, relying on sensei to pick out my mistakes and remind me of them. Bowing after practice, they might say "You're still dragging your back leg" or "Your kamae is still offline". I trot out my best 'Hai!' but the truth is I'm often blind to my mistakes as I make them, caught in a rut.

I thought up these admittedly silly exercises as a way to abstract the lessons from the kendo context, to make it starker and fresher, that I might better internalize it and re-apply it to my kendo, re-invigorating it. It's my hope that this might be of some interest to others as well - I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on it. No, I can't skate to save my life but I did go to the video store and back aboard one a good many times in my formative years, and you do find yourself wondering what the best way to push is.

Highly recommend watching the second youtube link at the beginning of this - these doodes are fleet of feet.