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The mentality of doing kendo

by Mark

While I would like to pose this question with my previous one, I feel it's better to post this as a separate question so that I don't bog you down with two questions in one. I'd like to share something personal that maybe some people are in the same spot.

I'm currently doing kendo again for more than a year after a hiatus from 2007 to 2009 due to academic, medical and personal reasons. Now during my time in Vancouver, I didn't have the chance to ask the sensei if it's okay to wear bogu because I was not familiar with the protocol and my academic life became very complicated that I had to leave. Doubled with a seizure that I had to be in the hospital.

I moved back to Manila with my folks just to be close to the family and I joined a kendo club there. The sensei has allowed students to wear bogu after passing a test after doing men/kote/do strikes, which I think is a fair way to assess yourself.

It's my fourth year of doing kendo overall and I see newcomers who are able to get the hang of doing the strikes and be allowed to wear bogu. I was allowed to do bogu tests and I failed three times, for either not loud kiai, suburi not good enough or the left arm.

Although most of the issues are taken care of (They appear once in a while, but I've trained myself to avoid them), my biggest worry is that I'm a veteran kendoka and I seem to be the only person who can't wear bogu officially short of shiai exercises and contests in the club. Most of the members know about this and I'm worried that I may not be allowed to have the right to wear bogu and move on to advanced stuff about the martial art.

I'm told that I'm improving, but my left arm is the sore thumb that's preventing me from doing so. I'm getting the feeling that if I'm still the only one not wearing bogu officially short of other newcomer, I may decide to quit and assess myself and perhaps train more by myself without getting involved with the club. Seems painful that I may lose contact with my sempais and senseis... but at this point I'm starting to get frustrated that I'm making the same mistake with my left arm straight and not straight.

Answer: First off, sorry for the delay of my reply. I have been sick for almost two weeks now.

Don’t quit. Don’t compare yourself with others. If you are improving, which your teacher admitted, that counts. How much you think you should improve is an obstacle you created. If you assess yourself and decide where you should be, then you don’t need a teacher. This might sound harsh but I don’t want you to take a wrong way. Don’t judge yourself. You are improving. That is good.

Now about the left arm. I am going to answer to your strike question next but I cannot see how you can keep your left arm straight when you strike . I have a video talking about the left arm. So please watch that for detail.

Everyone teaches differently. Your teacher and I have different ways to show kendo movements. I am sure of it. But you need do what your teacher tells you to do. I cannot help you with the left arm thing because I probably do it differently.

Everyone has different theories to back up their teaching methods. Technique wise, for example, when I study kendo, I always go back to the concept of kendo, which is “to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana (sword)”; the principles of the Katana. Something like this. “With the katana we do this so with the shinai we should do this.” That is my ‘back up” when I instruct kendo.

Also my goal of instructing kendo is to share what I learned from my sensei; not only the kendo movements but also kendo teachings. Through the concept of kendo, I believe we can train ourselves to become better people. That’s is why I am still practicing kendo because I am not even close to the person I want to become.

Here is what I suggest…well, let me rephrase it. Here is what I WANT you to do. This is not for your kendo technique but this is the process that we should take to improve our human character.

1. Ask your teacher what you need to do in order for you to put your bōgu on.

2. Write them down.

3. Analyse them and write down what you should do to solve each problem.

4. Pick a problem that you can solve right away

5. Start working on it.

6. Once you solve the problem, be happy. Tell yourself that you did a good job.

7. Move onto the next problem.

If you cannot solve a problem, ask for a help. You have kendo mates around you, correct? Don’t be shy. Ask others. Get different perspectives. These are great hints for you to improve your kendo.

If you quit, that’s it. You never know how much you can improve. And of course, you don’t have to deal with the pain that you have now. But you know, kendo is to overcome the pain. Life is filled up with different types of pains.

Stop blaming yourself for not being able to do things. Calm down and find ways to solve the problems. You have “shikai” in your mind now. You need to remove them.

One by one, you can solve a problem. You can. It is you that you are improving in kendo, not kendo techniques.

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