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Kendo at Promotions

by Alex McGrady


I have just returned from failing my promotional exam. While I know by my performance that I have more to work on, I was frustrated beyond belief to see some of the applicants that used the shiai style waza pass their promotion.


I watched one person in particular where instead of starting with a seme and building up for an attack as appropriate for our level (5dan) he rushed right in to strike. He used hiki-waza a time or two and when he hit kote he ducked backing out to the right side losing his posture. I understand this is his kendo and to each their own but I feel restricted in my practice trying to keep my techniques kihon. As we know it is more difficult to do it proper than to be more free with the waza.

I tried to talk with a few of the sensei who were grading and I asked about what it takes for a positive and a negative and they pretty much said, don't back away, hold seme and keep your posture. My guess is that this person somehow gained enough positives to still pass even after the negatives against him?

As Kendo continues its gradual decent into a sport, there are some of us that strive to keep the art contained within it. It feels like these are becoming two separate creatures these days. So do I mix some sport into my art to pass? Making my kendo more dynamic and entertaining seems to be what some are looking for. I would very much like to hear your wisdom, Sensei.

Answer: Thank you for your question and comment, Alex. So you were going for 6-dan? Since I was not there, it is hard for me to say about what happened in the promotion exam you took. If you have a video of your promotion exam and have a way for me to take a look at it, I can give you my feedback.

What did your sensei say about your kendo in the exam? I don't think breaking one's posture gives a positive impression and I am sure kihon based kendo will never be seen negative.

If you compare yourself with others, it is very hard to face to what is going on not only in the kendo world but also in the real world.

Kendo is very personal, I think. Once you get to a certain level, you just have to dig more deeply on your own with help from others including judging panels at a promotion exam. It doesn't really matter what kind of kendo we do, the judging panels are watching our kendo if our kendo deserves whatever the dan we are going for.

Let's say if your opponent is doing like he/she is in shiai. Maybe it is hard for you to deal with such person in a promotion exam. But you need to show that you have abilities to deal with any kind of kendo.

Sometimes we are lucky or unlucky in our promotion exam. Sometimes we can fight people we are good at dealing with and sometimes not. We need to raise our kendo level so we can deal with any types of kendo. That process will help us to live in our daily life.

I have respect to people who "discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana (sword)". And I am sure everyone else does too.

Please do feel free to have me watch your video. I am happy to do so!

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