Kendo | December 10, 2014

tsuba different angle bokken and shinai

I  joined this sports club two months ago called, Kendo which is basically Japanese fencing. I came across it in a student involvement fair in September and my friend was actually the one who was interested. I put my name and email down just to be polite. I just didn’t think that I, the quiet and clumsy, would be able to do such a sport.

When it came to the first orientation practice, I went, but my friend did not since she was busy or something. There were like 40 other people there and I saw the advanced members dressed up in the traditional Japanese style uniform and I saw them practicing a little and I knew that this was something new and cool I wanted to do.

I, along with 40 other people had no idea how to do this kendo thing. They split us into two groups since they didn’t have enough shinai, a bamboo sword. One group worked on footwork and the other group worked on using the shinai.

The footwork was kind of odd. Well, everything was to me since it was a completely new beast. The footwork was basically the act of dragging your right foot around with the left foot leading. The right toes have to be aligned with the left heel and both feet must be parallel. I suppose this certain footwork is for optimal agility. We practiced learning how to shuffle forwards, backwards, left and right. The “Coach” drilled us and sooner than later, we were shuffling around pretty quickly.

Then, we switched groups and I finally got a hold on the shinai. When the foot group was practicing, I saw them shouting and air whacking which seemed much cooler than shuffling around like a penguin with a stuck leg. The shinai looks kind of like an inverted deflated umbrella with a string and a straight handle and it was pretty tall- it came to about the center of my chest.

Of course there was a certain way to hold the shinai. There were three ways to hold it. The first way, was used for when you’re actually doing something with the shinai up and the left hand at the base of the shaft and the right hand on the upper middle. The string also has to be facing up since that represented the faux back of the blade. The second way to hold it was when we weren’t busy whacking others and that was with the shinai casually resting downwards in the left hand. Always the left hand. The third way is also used when we aren’t busy hitting others and it’s just with the shinai slanted off to the side, but with the same hand positions as the first way.

We learned our first strike called men and it is basically striking the forehead and then we had to bring it back down to the neck and maintain correct distances between your hands and where you’re striking as well as how far you hold the shinai from your body. It was a lot to think about.

At the end of the very first practice, I left with a new thought process about this sport. It was pretty cool and I want to continue with it. I realized that it was definitely something that requires a lot of focus as well as building up confidence, but that’s what I wanted to get out of this sport. I also wanted to hit people as evil as that sounded.

Fast forward two months and I’ve gone to every single practice except for one since I had gone home. There were some practices where I learned at least 3 new techniques and there were some practices where I just reviewed what I had learned the past practices. I’ve also come to know the instructors better and I can call them my friends. I suppose they’re my only friends at school and I only see them twice a week, but that’s alright with me. Over the course of 2 months, I have learned all the basic strikes and gained enough confidence to shout loudly.

The thing with martial arts is that you have to shout. Shouting is what gives you spirit and energy. Plus, in kendo, it adds up to earning a point. After a couple weeks of coaxing a usually quiet girl to shout, I managed to give the loudest shout and now I really like shouting. It relieves a lot of stress. You have to be careful when you’re shouting. You don’t really want to shout with your throat or else you’ll loose your voice and your throat will hurt. Instead, you have to shout with your stomach and throw your voice with all the air. But that leaves you with a really powerful and intimidating shout.

Anyways, it’s the end of the semester and we had our last practice of the semester. I got my uniform so that I looked more like I knew what I was doing. I earned it all and I’m proud of myself not only for joining something I never thought I could do, not only for being able to hold a shinai and walk correctly, but also for gaining my confidence.

Of course, there will be more on my Journey to Kendo and I’ll definitely be telling you all more about it. Especially when I get my armor and spar with my own instructor as well as my first matches next semester.

I suppose in this 900 word post that the moral of the story is to don’t underestimate yourself.

 

I hope you have a great day!

Alice

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