Nishimura sensei's Kendo HIIT routine

Former All Japan champion, and star of his own NHK documentary, Nishimura Hidehisa produced this workout routine for the All Japan Kendo Federation last year during the early stages of lockdown.

It's an excellent HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) routine, sometimes called Tabata Training after the coach who invented the idea. Basically it has been theorised that you get better results in terms of fitness and overall body strength from short, intense and focused workouts, than you do from extended workouts. Some say it is also beneficial for improving endurance and longevity. There is even some evidence to support that it kickstarts mitochondrial function, that you're exercising at a cellular level. That's pretty amazing.

Whatever the research says, it is very easy to feel the positive effects of interval training and it has several other benefits:


  • It doesn't take long, so you can fit it into a busy schedule  

  • You can do it by yourself 

  •  You can do it almost anywhere 

  • You don't need special equipment


  • It hurts!

How to do it

The basic form of HIIT is bursts of exercise for 20 seconds with rests of 10 seconds between. It doesn't matter how many repetitions of the drill you do (e.g. suburi, lunges, etc) just keep going until the end of the 20 seconds.

You'll need a shinai or bokuto. I would not recommend using a suburito like Nishimura sensei unless your arms and shoulders are already strong and injury free: there is a real chance of shoulder injury if you start with a heavy weapon.

You'll also need a timer that can alternate going off in 20 and 10 second intervals. (I'm sure there's an app for that).

Here I have transcribed the routine. Please also watch Nishimura sensei's video to see what each drill is. Most will be familiar. One or two might be new. 

  1. double-time sho-men
  2. clockwise okuriashi (kamaete)
  3. koshiwari suburi, a.k.a. kabutowari suburi
  4. anti-clockwise okuriashi (kamaete)
  5. left-right lunge suburi
  6.  2 step, forward-backwards quick okuriashi (kamaete)
  7.  jumping men with lunge
  8.  2 step left-right quick okuriashi (kamaete)
  9.   hayasuburi

You'll see that I have labelled some of them "kamaete", meaning that they are done in kamae. In other words these drills focus on footwork and the lower body. They also give your arms and shoulders a chance to recover during the session.

You'll notice that Nishimura sensei is out of breath early on, and he is an elite kenshi in top condition. So even though this HIIT session only takes 4 minutes and 20 seconds, it's a real workout!






  1. This is great stuff! Thanks for posting this Ben! 😃👍


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Kendo dummy

DIY easy shinai bag