Kendo and Paragliding

by Tony
(Chile)

I would guess this story to be odd. I started learning Kendo about 10 months ago 3 times a week, and I have been paragliding for about 11 years very intensely, participating in competitions and flying a high performance wing.


Paragliding is a very lonely sport. You have a social life before takeoff and after landing, but up there you are alone, confrontation is low, teamwork is exceptional, and the feeling of freedom, security and ego boosting is huge and can be intoxicating.

So, how has Kendo improved my paragliding? In so many ways that I can only simplify the most evident ones.

- Find the centre. In a paraglider you hang from two sets of lines. If you are off centre (left or right) the paraglider performs worse as it sideslips and wobbles. Also when flying through turbulence you have to struggle to keep centered for safety and performance. Kendo teaches you to find and keep the centre all the time without thinking.

- Feel the distance (to the thermal). In the same way in Kendo you feel your own and your opponent's striking distance, when centering a thermal in a paraglider it increases your capacity to climb if you feel the distance to the thermal core and fly around it, like an invisible opponent. This is something you have to recenter all the time, so using the instruments and guesswork is a distraction.

- Clear your mind. Many many many paragliding accidents, mistakes and small incidents (I would say almost all) are caused by a mind that was not doing its intended job. With a clear mind you have much less noise that can interfere with a good decision that can make you fly longer, with less risk and can even save your life if you have to make a fast decision. Kendo shows you all the time how a noisy mind doesn't work properly.

- Don't fear. In paragliding you face some situations that can be scary, and this makes you take decisions that can turn difficult into risky, then into dangerous and finally into an accident. Keeping your fear in check can let you manage risk much better. In Kendo when you stop fearing pain or defeat you are much more of a threat to your opponent.

- Look at a far mountain. In paragliding, like in Kendo, you have to consider so many variables to make a correct decision that you cannot focus on one without losing another. Unfocusing from all of them will allow you to be aware of so many more things that are happening. The wing, the air, the glide, the other wings, birds, insects, trees...you'll have all variables at hand if you let them go.

- Use frustration in your favour. In paragliding your main opponent, after your mind, is gravity. You will always end up defeated (landed). In Kendo, no matter how good you start off, you will be defeated again and again for years before you start savoring victory, and you may realise that defeat teaches you much more. In paragliding, if you learn to use your mistakes in your favour, you will be happy with even the worst of flights.

- Material discipline. Folding a wing takes about the same as folding a hakama and keikogi. Maintaining your harness is about the same complexity as oiling a shinai. In paragliding one tends to try to do this as fast and less frequent as possible. Kendo teaches you that this also helps you tune your mind to the equipment that will save your life, after all your katana and armour are like your wing and harness.

I am only a beginner at Kendo, so I can't explain properly what is yet to come, but not only is Kendo changing my approach to paragliding, but it's also showing me how Kendo works deep inside so it's giving feedback to itself.

On a lighter note, I have lost the 8 kilos I was overweight thanks to Kendo, so now I can walk up the hill with much more comfort!

Sorry if this sounds cheesy.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for sharing your story. I have done paragliding once in my life in New Zealand, with an instructor, not alone. It was very amazing. It felt really good but one little mistake could cause a major accident, a really serious one. Everything you said here is very helpful for other kendoists in the world. Thank you again for your story!

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Sep 30, 2009
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Gravity friend or foe?
by: Tony

Thanks for the comments, they are well thought out.

However I didn't say gravity was a foe or enemy.  I said opponent (as well as your mind).

From your opponent you get learning, victory, defeat, transcendence, opportunity, threat...everything.  If you don't have an opponent in front of you, you are doing iaido (like a flight simulator?).

The opponent is what allows you to learn, succeed, fail and do kendo (otherwise what is it?).

From gravity you get speed, thermals, glide line, learning, landing, bombing out, crashing, falling, etc.  Regardless of being a friend or enemy depending on the situation, it can be considered your opponent :-D

Thanks for the great posts.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for your comment. I do not have much experience in paragliding so it was very interesting to read your article.

Jun 26, 2009
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Analogies are rich in gifts
by: EnergyKiteSystems.net

Appreciated.
However, consider gravity as a friend, not foe; gravity allows you to drive air into your paraglider wing, gravity allows you to glide, gives you a foundation for control and more.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Very interesting. You guys are seeing the same thing in different angles. Tony, the writer of the article, sees the landing as a defeat, thus gravity is the enemy. I think Tony wants to stay in the air as long as he can. :) I am sure that Tony as well sees gravity as a friend when he wants to glide or do other techniques that require gravity.

This is a good way of looking into ourselves and analyse how we see a thing differently from other people. We can use a sword to discipline ourselves or to hurt others. We can use our aggression as energy to go through tough time (such as kakari-geiko) or to just hurt others.

As we all have many aspects, even the air has many aspects depending on how we see it and what result we want from it. Thank you again for your post.

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