Kiai: Here is something that you can work on before you even begin practice. During keiko, you will hear some people who have developed their own Kiai, and other people who say "O-RI-A" as their Kiai. As a brand new beginner, you may feel awkward and your Kiai may result in little sound. It may sound and feel weird or awkward to Kiai but if you can produce a loud, strong Kiai, everything else will come. If you do not have a loud, strong Kiai then your Kendo will lack in spirit. The key is to try.
As you probably do not have your own Kiai yet, it is recommended to try to say 'O-Ri-A'. This is used to develop your mouth for a good Kiai.
Maai: On the simplest level, Maai is distance. There are 3 types:
1. Issoku itto-no-maai: This is the one step cutting distance. When you cut, you must cut at this distance.
2. Touma: this is a distance where it will take you more than one step to cut.
3. Chikama: Chikama is shorter than Issoku itto-no-maai. Many people like to cut from here, but it is too close! Being in this position is dangerous.
Swing big: When you cut, cut big. Lift your Shinai with both of your hands over your head. Your left hand should be about a fist away from your forehead. Make a circle with your arms. If you do so, then the tip of your shinai should not dip low.
In order to be able to cut small, you must be able to cut big. You will see that many others will not be swinging big, with both hands above their head. Instead they may be working on something more advanced for themselves or are simply being lazy.
Cut with Ki Ken Tai no Ichi: When you cut you cut with your spirit, sword, and body as one. Basically, when you cut men, you must Kiai "Men", hit men, and fumikomi (stomp) at the same time. Your fumikomi will take time to develop, but make sure that your kiai and cut happen simultaneously.
Go through & Zanshin: When you go through, keep your form and go straight, run over your opponent if you must. Go through far enough such that your opponent is not able to cut you just by turning around. Then, turn towards them - if you went off to the left, you could have to turn right; if you went off to the right, you would have to turn left. Then step foward into chudan. Do not turn and move backwards or turn while going sideways!
Types of Cuts
Shomen: When you cut, make an arch as if you're fishing. You are trying to hit on top of the men. There should be a snap or a pop to the cut. Your right arm should be straight and at shoulder height and your hand should be in front of your solar plexus. Both hands should be in the middle of your body.
Yokomen: Side men cuts to the temple. You must twist both hands to make the cut.
Kote: This is a cut to the forearm. We practice cutting a person's right kote. A left kote under certain circumstances.
Do: The Do cuts through the ribs and belly to the coccyx. We generally practice cutting a person's right do. When you cut and go through, your tip must remain up.
Hiki: Hiki cuts are cuts while going backwards. You must cut, go backwards to a safe distance and then step forward into chudan.