Instead of the regularly scheduled, Poetry Breakdowns this week, here’s an update on how I am with kendo. Poetry Breakdown will be back to its regularly scheduled time next week.
As of today, it has been officially 7 months since I’ve first started kendo and I’ve improved so much. I feel so much more comfortable with this sport. I can kiai rather loudly and I can sort of do small strikes. I also know how to tie my uniform neatly and correctly so that it doesn’t become undone when I’m in the middle of practice. But the most exciting thing that has happened in the last two months is being able to put on the full armor. Even though the armor isn’t fitted to me and even though it took a while to adjust to the weight, it was worth it. When my team members first struck me, I finally felt like I was one of them. I was glad that they hit me without holding back and I actually got bruises. I can finally line up with everyone else and put on my men and kote.
I also had my first fights. My first fight was with someone who had actually done kendo before, so naturally, I lost within seconds. I didn’t even initiate at all or kiai much. I stood there and tried my best to defend myself and watched, terrified as he struck me countless times. It was only then, that I realized that I didn’t know how to fight. I did my strikes well, but when it came to putting it all together, I froze. My instinct was the flight half instead of the fight. Even if I fought against beginners, I still held back a little part of myself partially because I wasn’t sure what to do, but I also didn’t want to hurt my teammates even though they were also suited in armor. It was only when I fought my senpai did I show a little more aggressiveness just because I was a tad more comfortable.
Fast forward to two weeks later and we were in a car with the team on our way to a university to test for ranks and for a tournament the next day. I was extremely nervous for the testing since it had only been not too long since I first started kendo and I knew that there were many people who were better than me. I was also aware that when I get nervous, I forget everything and I also get nauseous so that kiai-ing would prove to be difficult. On Saturday was a seminar where sensei’s basically gave you hints and tips in doing better at kendo. There was also an hour where we could spar with a sensei and the sensei I trained with basically told me to extend more and that helped with my form a lot. Afterwards was the testing. The room was reset and a panel of judges were sat in front of where you and your partner would follow commands and demonstrate the best kendo. I managed to kiai through my nauseousness and I did my very best. I had befriended my partner, so we helped each other out. In the end, I ended up getting 4 kyu which isn’t bad at all. The way the ranking works is kind of to think of the kyu rankings as negative numbers and the dan rankings as positive numbers. For example, 9 kyu is lower than 2 kyu, but 1 dan is higher than 2 kyu. The highest ever is 8 dan which takes years to achieve and there aren’t that many kendoka with that ranking.
The very next day was the tournament in a gym that was big enough to have four matches go on at once. I was scheduled for three matches- individual (above 19), women’s division and team matches. After a greeting from the judges, we headed off to our designated courts and waited until it was our division and match to compete. I was very nervous as usual, but pep talks from my teammates helped me out. I was also reassured with my ranking and the fact that I had stuck with the training. My first match in the women’s division was against a girl from Cornell and she defeated me with two strikes to my kote within a minute. I wasn’t even out of breath, but I was amazed at how quick she was. My kote was completely open because I wasn’t standing square enough. My second match came quickly and I lasted much longer-about three minutes. I initiated more and my opponent won because she had a point on me and we ran out of time. Plus, I was knackered when we finished. We broke for lunch and we watched two of our higher ranked members fight. They did great and one day, I would like to fight as well and maybe better than them. I know it’s going to take lots of practice and determination. The team matches came along and before, we were a two person team, but we recruited one more person in the last minute. I was even more nervous because I was going first followed by the person we recruited and someone from my team. Even though we lost our team match, it was a good fight since we tried our best. Plus, the person we recruited won his match.
This new year was full of new kendo adventures including getting to know the members even more especially during the span of this weekend. We were constantly with each other, talking, joking and sharing with each other. We would encourage each other and relieve each other’s stress. We would remind each other of what was really important- trying our best. I’m proud to be part of the team even though in the beginning of the school year, I had no friends and I also had no idea what kendo was. Now, I’m happy to call them my friends and I really do enjoy kendo.
Thank you for following me on my journey to kendo and there’s so much more to explore!