Day 5 - Kendo - Sensei Adrian Rowe - 3rd Dan
Kendo, is the art of Japanese fencing. "Ken" or tsurugi is from the character meaning sword. The character for "Do" or michi includes the meaning way or path which translates as "The way of the sword". A path in life which is followed through the training of kendo.
Kendo, the Way of the Sword is the art of Japanese Samurai Swordsmanship. It is rooted in the traditions of Budo, the Martial Way. It is both exhilarating and demanding to learn.
Modern Kendo bears but faint resemblance to Kenjutsu and to its feudal origins of sword wielding samurai warriors which are today depicted in movies and television. Kendo, literally translated, "the way of the sword," cannot be traced to a single founder or given an exact founding date. The story of the rise of modern Kendo begins with the samurai and extends over the culture of several centuries.
Kendo began to take its modern appearance during the late 18th century with the introduction of protective equipment: the men, kote and do and the use of the bamboo sword, the shinai. The use of the shinai and protective armor made possible the full delivery of blows without injury. This forced the establishment of new regulations and practice formats which set the foundation of modern Kendo.
Kendo equipment consists of the swords, uniform and armor. There are two types of wooden swords used. First, the bokken or bokuto, a solid wood sword made of oak or another suitable hardwood. The bokken is used for basics and forms practice (kata). Second, the shinai, is made up of four bamboo staves and leather. The shinai is used for full contact sparring practice. The uniform or dogi consists of woven cotton top called a keikogi and pleated skirt-like trousers called a hakama. The armor or bogu consists of four pieces: the helmet (men), the body protector (do), the gloves (kote), and the hip and groin protector (tare). Modern Kendo armor design is fashioned after the Oyoroi of the Samurai.
A Kendo practice is composed of many types of training. Each type has a different purpose for developing the Kendo student.
1. Kiri-Kaeshi: successively striking the left and right men, practice centering, distance, and proper cutting while building spirit and stamina.
2. Waza-Geiko: technique practice in which the student learns to use the many techniques of Kendo with a receiving partner.
3. Kakari-Geiko: short, intense, attack practice which teaches continuous alertness, the ability to attack no matter what has come before, as well as building spirit and stamina.
4. Ji-Geiko: sparring practice where the kendoist has a chance to try all that he or she has learned with a resisting partner.
5. Gokaku-Geiko: sparring practice between two kendoist of similar skill level.
6. Hikitate-Geiko: sparring practice where a senior kendoist guides a junior kendoist through practice.
7. Shiai-Geiko: competition matches which are judged on the basis of a person scoring valid cuts against an opponent.
Almost all martial arts have a set of kata. Kendo is no exception. Kata are pre-set sequences of motions which illustrate very deeply one or more aspects of the art. Repetitive practice of kata internalizes the lessons of the kata.
Kendo kata are practiced with a solid wooden sword called a bokken. There are ten kendo kata specified by the All Japan Kendo Federation. Each kata studies a single set of concepts in a very pure setting allowing the practitioner to delve deeply into these concepts.
Kendo kata are practiced between two people, the Uchitachi and the Shidachi. In kendo kata, the Uchitachi attacks the Shidachi who in turn demonstrates a proper response to the attack. Seven of these kata are illustrations of the technique of the long sword against the long sword. The last three kata illustrate the short sword defending against attacks by the long sword.
Prior to the invention of the shinai and bogu, kata were the only way that kendoists could safely practice. Originally, the role of Uchitachi was taken by the teacher and the role of Shidachi by the student. This tradition carries over into modern Kendo kata in that the Uchitachi always sets the pace and distance at which the actions are performed.
Sensei Adrian Rowe 3rd Dan
Sensei Rowe has a dojo in Williton, West Somerset which has been established over 25 years, he teaches the following disciplines:
Judo - Gentleness
Kendo - The way of the Sword
Iaido - Swordmanship including drawing the sword
Jodo - The way of the stick
Sensei Rowe has a quite unique teaching style that was appreciated by all, may be a little lighter hearted than some of the previous days but no less dedicated to his martial art.
Left: This is a picture from Sensei Rowe's dojo and not our course.
It gives you an idea of the armour that is worn by the kendoka. Unfortunately I was wearing a men on my head and Kote on my hands and not able to take any photos. However this did not stop Maj Sheldon from trying to answer his mobile phone, much to the confussion of the caller. Sensei kindly explained to the caller that he was the Major's Kendo Sensei and he was a bit busy at that time and could they call back later, I am sure this only added to the callers confusion...
I enjoyed being struck "Men" (to the head) hundreds of times during the day. The natural thing to do is to lower your head when you see a stick coming towards it. This is not a good idea, the men is reinforced at the front but offers little protection at the rear. If you keep your head high and back straight you will take the force on the front of the helmet, no problems. If you duck you will soon have a headache. This only has to happen a few times before you get in the habit of keeping your head up.
There are four targets (if I was paying full attention)
Men - Head
Kote - Wrist
Do - Body
I believe the 4th target is the throat, hope thats right Sensei?
I found striking Men or Kote fairly easy but Do was a lot more difficult. To strike Do the Shinai has to come off the centre line and down at an angle, this calls for a far more controlled movement that I never came anywhere close to mastering.
The stance to me appears to be similar to the Aikido short stance but squarer to the centre line, the front foot andances and the rear foot catches up. I found this to be a very unnatural movement.
Despite some patient one to one instruction from Major David Worsley, who is a first Dan in Kendo (and 6th Dan Aikido) I still did not achieve any form of profeciency.
Below is a video of a Japaneese Kendo Competition
Kendo championship final
This is how the experts fight
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