Kendo, my way of saying "if someone throws a punch, take it and move on."

by SteveDave
(Akwesasne, Ontario)

I'm a 15 year-old Native American who’s been training in the Japanese sword style since 2005. When I first started I had actually asked my cousin who is a few years older than me and had already been training for a few years.

When I had first asked him to teach me the way of the sword he said "Go pick up a stick and learn from some movies," I had then told him "You're no fool and neither am I. You know well that one can only learn after he has already learned the basics from someone with more knowledge than them."

After a quick three minute match he said he had seen enough and said he'd train me for one month then I must start learning on my own. In that one month he taught me the basic stances, how to hold a sword, how to block, parry, counter, and he taught me three basic downward slashes. Once he was done with me he said to pick up the book "the book of five rings," which he studies.

Since the day he stopped training me, I’ve studied from the books of "The book of five rings," by Miyamoto Musashi, "Bushido," by Inazo Nitobe and "IAI the art of drawing the sword," by Darrell Max Craig. I’m also a fan of many anime and manga to learn more about the sword and some ideals artists have of them.

To sustain good training I spar on a fluent basis with a 22 year old friend of mine who
took fencing back in his college days, to date he still trains in fencing on a frequent basis. He surpasses me in grace and technique but I have much more endurance and sheer stubbornness so our matches have a habit of dragging out a little bit.

I've indulged myself in many studies and I've had many things go wrong in my life but training in the way always helped me avoid digging myself into a rut.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for sharing your story. Training alone is very hard thing to do and you have been doing it for a long time. It sounds like you are not practicing kendo but more like kobujutsu, though.

The old kendoists said, “Avoid a fight/dangerous situation”. It is more important for us to obtain an ability to predict danger so we can avoid ugly situations. So you do not even have to take a punch. ;)

If you can train alone for 4 years, you must have a strong will and discipline. If you can find a good kendo instructor, you will be a great kendoist.

I must say this though. The movements you learn from anime, manga and other resources can be very dangerous. There are many reasons why we do not do these techniques in kendo now.

We train very hard not to get hurt but still get hurt. That is why you need a good instructor and you need to know how to train.

As I said above, you are very determined so find good resources and most importantly good teachers.

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Jun 17, 2009
Need of an Instructor
by: John M.

I sense your enthusiasm about Japanese sword arts and wish to offer some points about instruction and self-training.
First, your training is only good to the extent of the instruction you receive and the quality and level of instruction. In Japanese arts we need a 'sensei' (derived meaning something like 'some who comes before me'. So it is essential that you obtain training from an instructor with the proper qualifications.

For kendo for example, a guide to a proper dojo is whether the school is a member of the national kendo federation, in your case the Canadian Kendo Federation (CKF) or in the US, the All US Kendo Federation (AUSKF) - check out their WebPages (it is common for Kendo dojos to also have instruction in Iaido - impossible to learn except from an actual Iaido sensei). (Actually where you are located, Akwesasne, Ontario, there are dojos within a 50 mile radius, either on the Canadian side or US side).

Secondly, learning from books can be helpful but it is a secondary learning tool at best. For example understanding some of the more philosophical concepts in Japanese budo requires again contact with a living source.

I won't comment on anime and manga except saying it's common in my dojo to have students come who are immersed in this genre. They are very enthusiastic for sure, which is good but invariably lack almost complete knowledge of technique, manners, budo concepts, etc. (This is instructive, right - ask yourself why).

One additional point I can mention is that to practice with a real and accomplished sensei is also to enter into a special relationship that will guide your progress in all it aspects.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for a good advice. There are many resources out there such as books, videos and free online resources. Manga is one of them for sure. I cannot deny the fact that manga/anime really have been contributing to kendo and iaido.

There are manga I used to read such as Musashi no Ken, Ron and Vagabond. I learned a lot from Musashi no Ken since it did not contain many unrealistic stuff. There was some unrealistic stuff like a primary school student executes one handed men :)

Many senseis apply techniques from old kenjutsu schools. But they have studied kendo and kenjutsu thoroughly for a long time. They know what to do. We should be 6th dan or above to apply such techniques in our daily kendo training. Of course, we should also know when and whom to apply such techniques to.

Keep up the good work and go and see the dojo mentioned above. All the best.

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