I put here the answers to the written exams I had to do for the Shodan test. Discussions welcomed.
1. What do you understand by the term ki-ken-tai-itchi?
In the context of kendo, ki means the fighting spirit, a necessary element to overcoming one's opponent. It is most easily demonstrated by Kiai, or the shouting, to convey one's will to fight. Ken is the sword, a successful strike requires, of course, the targets to be struck accurately with the top one-third of the shinai, and the contact has to be strong and sharp. Tai is the body, without bringing the body forward with the strike, one looses his own posture and is prone to counter-techniques and from the aesthetic point of view, it is also unacceptable. The correct way of bringing the body forward is to put one's center of gravity at the lower abdomen, and keep the upper body up-right during the strike, using the left leg to propel the hip forwards. The fumigomi-ashi, which is the stomping of the right foot, should accompany the strike.
A valid strike in kendo requires these three elements together, and hence the phrase ki-ken-tai-itchi, literally meaning the unification of these three elements. This means that the striker has to make strong Kiai at the same time of an accurate strike while bringing his body forwards, with the correct posture mentioned above. These three elements together demonstrates one's skill, body balance and fluency, and further more, the commitment to a strike, which are fundamental in kendo.
2. Describe your relationship to your Sempai
In the dojo, Sempais are like the second teachers to me. They accumulated the experience of kendo over the years from various Senseis, and through practising with them, I learn these essential skills from them. I tend to pick someone in the dojo who has a much superior skill and a personality that I aspire to, and imitate his movements and postures. The personality side is equally important, in my opinion, because I do believe that one's kendo is closely connected to his personality. Therefore, it is important to learn a style of kendo that suits my personality.
I am always grateful for the constructive feedbacks given by my Sempais after the training. Then in the next training, I usually go to the same Sempai and practise with him, at the same time, making sure that I try my best to correct my previous mistakes.