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  • prospective student with a few questions

    Hello everyone! My name is Eric and recently I have been looking into starting Kendo and have a few questions for you. My knowledge currently comes from a few youtube videos and some lurking here so try to explain things in layman's terms

    1. Is there a concrete ranking system in kendo, and if so how is it set up/ what must you do to advance?
    ( I did shotokan karate for a number of years, where to advance you would have to know X amount of katas, break Y amount of boards and show off a few belt specific techniques)

    2. How long does it take ( I know this varies considerably from dojo to dojo but bear with me) before you have learned enough to have a bout?

    3. I live in Santa Monica, and the closest Kendo dojo seems to be West la Kendo, Does anyone here have experience with them, and if so, what did you think?

    4. Coming from karate, will some of the footwork seem familiar to me or am I out of luck?

    5. In a few of the videos I saw, a kendo practitioner(need proper Japanese term) was wielding two kendo shinai (sp?) Is this a common or effective technique? Is it for "masters" only? (cause we all know the only thing cooler than 1 fo-samurai sword is two fo-samurai swords)

    6. I have also been considering fencing ( time constraints limit me to picking one or the other, because ideally I would be able to try both) is anyone here currently practicing both or has enough knowledge of fencing to break down why one might choose one over the other? ( keep in mind I'm not asking who would win in a fight, that's pointless, I want to know which one you feel is more fun and why)

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    1. Yes and no. Each country's kendo board determines grading requirements and sylabus. Traditionally, ranking is done from 6th Kyu to 8th Dan. However, ranks between countries are very difficult to compare (for instance, Japan tends to grade to at least shodan extremely quickly compared to other parts of the world)

    2. It honestly does vary wildly between dojos. I had my first round of jigeiko roughly 2 months in. This is generally considered extremely quick by traditionalists. The other extreme is around a year roughly.

    3. No experience here. As long as a kendo dojo is affiliated with your state and thus country's kendo board, you're most likely in very good hands

    4. You're more than likely out of luck, though shotokan has some wacky footwork from the little I've seen, so I may be wrong.

    5. This style is called Nito (meaning two sword). The other "common" variation is Jodan, a more offense based posture. Neither are common, and neither are any more effective than the standard posture. More traditional sensei frown on practising these really at all, however it's an almost universal unwritten law that you don't start learning a different stance until the upper dan levels.

    6. I've practised some fencing before. If I had to liken the two, I'd suggest kendo is like foil fencing. There's a lot of complicated rules and the emphasis on "combat" is definitely removed. Fencing tends to be more static and very stop and go. A point is normally scored a few seconds after the first attack, whereas kendo there's a lot more moving around and a hit doesn't necessarily mean a point. I'd not suggest who would like kendo over fencing and vice versa, I'd just suggest trying both out and seeing which one you'd like to stick to.

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Eric,
      Welcome to kendo and kendo world. I'll answer below:


      1. Is there a concrete ranking system in kendo, and if so how is it set up/ what must you do to advance?
      ( I did shotokan karate for a number of years, where to advance you would have to know X amount of katas, break Y amount of boards and show off a few belt specific techniques)

      Yes there is a concrete ranking system. See http://www.auskf.info/docs/index.htm for information about promotion in the U.S.

      2. How long does it take ( I know this varies considerably from dojo to dojo but bear with me) before you have learned enough to have a bout?

      Depends on you and your instructor. From what you have written, it's going to depend on how easily you can throw away what you know about shotokan and concentrate on learning something new (kendo). Google 'shoshin'.

      3. I live in Santa Monica, and the closest Kendo dojo seems to be West la Kendo, Does anyone here have experience with them, and if so, what did you think?

      I don't have direct knowledge of West LA dojo, but they are AUSKF affiliated and the head instructor Suyama sensei has kyoshi 7-dan so it's not likely to be terrible, and likely to be quite good. The prior instructor, until his death was Nakabara sensei of whom I do have direct knowledge.

      4. Coming from karate, will some of the footwork seem familiar to me or am I out of luck?

      Loose everything you know again google shoshin.

      5. In a few of the videos I saw, a kendo practitioner(need proper Japanese term) was wielding two kendo shinai (sp?) Is this a common or effective technique? Is it for "masters" only? (cause we all know the only thing cooler than 1 fo-samurai sword is two fo-samurai swords)

      Forget this for now. Masters is not the right word but it's certainly not for beginners. For me.. after 30+ years.. it's still hard enough for me to coordinate a single sword. But then I've been accused, rightly of being dense.

      6. I have also been considering fencing ( time constraints limit me to picking one or the other, because ideally I would be able to try both) is anyone here currently practicing both or has enough knowledge of fencing to break down why one might choose one over the other? ( keep in mind I'm not asking who would win in a fight, that's pointless, I want to know which one you feel is more fun and why)

      One of the top kendoists in the history of U.S. kendo was olympic level in fencing too (T. Mori). I've not fenced so I'm not going to say anything more about that..other than which is more fun is probably in the eye of the practitioner.

      Thanks in advance!

      Best of luck,
      Ron

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by erowe11 View Post
        Hello everyone! My name is Eric and recently I have been looking into starting Kendo and have a few questions for you. My knowledge currently comes from a few youtube videos and some lurking here so try to explain things in layman's terms

        1. Is there a concrete ranking system in kendo, and if so how is it set up/ what must you do to advance?
        ( I did shotokan karate for a number of years, where to advance you would have to know X amount of katas, break Y amount of boards and show off a few belt specific techniques)

        2. How long does it take ( I know this varies considerably from dojo to dojo but bear with me) before you have learned enough to have a bout?

        4. Coming from karate, will some of the footwork seem familiar to me or am I out of luck?

        Thanks in advance!
        1. http://www.kendo-usa.org/rank.htm
        Info on what's required from 1 kyu to hachidan
        In the Netherlands we grade from 1 kyu, in the USA from 6th kyu if I read correctly on this forum.
        Promotional Examination

        To attain rank in Kendo there is a promotional examination. For ranks of 6 Kyu to 2 Kyu the process differs from federation to federation. It may be awarded at the dojo level depending on the regional federation. Other federations formally test for these grades before a promotional board and some have age restrictions for children. For 1 Kyu and above there is a examination before a promotional board.
        What is important to know is that in kendo we don't use belt colours or something like that to refer to our grade/rank.

        2. It depends on your dojo but also depends on the student him/herself. We had a large beginners group, we had two people with experience in iaido and they were in bogu in about 3 / 4 months, it took the rest about 5 / 6 months. Once you're in bogu (the protective gear) you're able to do bouts (jigeiko)

        4. We had two guy who did shotokan karate and they said it was very different, the basic stance (the foot that's in the back faces straight forward). Best to find out yourself and get yourself to a dojo and start practising

        Good luck

        Comment


        • #5
          Not only should I use F5 a little more, I also need to have some patience so I don't double post......
          Last edited by ArcticBlizzard; 9th February 2010, 08:52 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            This FAQ should answer some of your questions. We've had karate guys and fencing guys in our club, they both have advantages and disadvantages over a complete newb. The biggest problem will be avoiding saying, even internally, "but we did it X way in my old dojo". The second biggest problem will be changing your stance. If you're a counter-puncher, we have to fix that, too.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by erowe11 View Post
              Hello everyone! My name is Eric and recently I have been looking into starting Kendo and have a few questions for you. My knowledge currently comes from a few youtube videos and some lurking here so try to explain things in layman's terms
              I'll add a few things to the others' comments.

              First, I've been researching the dojos in your area because I'm moving to Santa Monica in a few weeks, actually. There are, to understate it, a LOT of good kendo dojos in the area. Maybe more than anywhere in the world outside Japan(?), I would guess more than anywhere in the U.S. (someone correct me if I'm wrong). Your best bet in my opinion is to look around, see which one has a schedule that works for you, is relatively close by, and has a beginner's class. I can't stress that enough, and maybe other people will disagree with me, but in my experience it is much much easier to get into Kendo if you start with a group of beginners at a dojo at a particular time that they are geared up for beginners than to just try to jump in even if the dojo will take you. You'll be totally lost at first unless you have someone taking a lot of time with you individually.

              So here's where to look: (1) the Southern California Kendo Federation; and (2) the Southern California Kendo Organization. They are both affiliated with proper international Kendo, my understanding and what I've been told is that historical politics caused there to be two federations in Southern California but that you can't go wrong with either. Off the top of my head, you have West LA Kendo, Westside Kendo, and Venice Kendo, all within 15 minutes of Santa Monica, and another ten dojos within a half an hour/hour depending on traffic. So check out those lists, see who has beginner's classes, call or email to confirm you can show up, and give it a shot.

              Second, I don't know much about fencing but Kendo and fencing, aside from the fact they both use sword replicants, don't seem too similar to me, but since I don't know fencing I won't comment more than that.

              Relatedly, just to add on to something others have said, when you ask about doing a "bout" and people replied "jigeiko" taking a few months, what we are talking about is that generally when you start you just learn footwork and cutting until you can do both well enough to wear armor. Then, when your sensei thinks you are ready, and that seems to vary a lot by dojo between 2-to-12 months, you will buy or borrow armor, and that's when you start sparring or doing fighting practice (in my dojo we tend to broadly just call that "keiko.").

              Third, I had a little TKD, Aikido, and Thai Kick Boxing before ever trying Kendo. I didn't find more crossover with those than I did with my tennis skills. Except for recognizing the notions of respect and having the right mentality to be able to practice fighting someone in a way that is both intense and yet friendly (because you aren't actually trying to harm the other person) I don't think they made much difference.

              Finally, Kendo is awesome. My two cents is to try it and stick with it for a couple months. If you don't like it after that, try fencing or something else.
              Last edited by jjcruiser; 9th February 2010, 11:28 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm going to throw a couple of things in here that the importance of which for some reason wasn't emphasized when I started (probably because it was assumed we all knew they were fundamental components), that proved the most challenging for most of the new students I started with: kiai, and getting hit. You're from a Karate background, so I'm sure you know what both are.

                I think that most of the people who quit the first month did so frankly because shouting incessantly was something they weren't comfortable with. Practice after practice one of the Sensei's would stop the exercises, dole out a big whack of haya suburi (50, 100, another 100, another 100) because the kiais were so weak. I was dumbfounded when after this kind of punishment, I'd notice the volume dropping off in a subsequent exercise and I'd look to my left and right to see students either mouthing the kiais or not kiaiing at all. I'd think to myself, "What the hell???? Don't they know what's going to happen?" Then we'd get another 100 haya suburi... Me? I yell myself hoarse, but then I really like that part of Kendo. Very cathartic.

                Yelling really, really loud and with commitment and passion is a core element of Kendo (from the very, VERY little I know). Do yourself a favour: if that's not something you think you can't get into, then go the fencing route. I don't mean to be a 'downer', and there are tons of people who can give you better advice than me (read: probably everyone here), but as I've just gone through this part myself and the first chunk of beginners have dropped off out of my group, this is what I notice. I think most people think that kiai in Kendo is occasional or something that's only emphasized in the beginning: it's neither.

                It may seem like a silly thing to mention and an even sillier reason to quit Kendo, but that's what I see. I was singled out last Sunday by one of the Sensei's nearing the end of an exercise (not for being any good), given a pointer or two, and then asked to hit men five times. The whole class was stopped at that point and watching (mixed class; bogu and non-bogu), and there I am doing my best to perform my technique properly and with good kiai, but at the same time I was also aware that there were 80 people or so watching me. I just put my best breath into my kiai and tried my hardest. Then the class continued. The same thing happened to another guy (nice guy, but quiet and reserved) a couple of weeks ago and he's never been back. I think he quit.

                Most experienced players here will tell you the same thing happens when students first get into bogu. Everyone's so excited to finally 'graduate' and get their gear on. Then you find out (as others here have mentioned before me) that it's claustrophobic, and you can't hear as well, and you sweat, and it can itch, and then you figure out there's no really good way to scratch your nose with the men on (until someone tells you to keep a chopstick in your zekken for the purpose) and no way at all to get sweat out of your eyes. And then you start getting hit... A lot. It's not so bad from the experienced players - they hit hard but at least they're fairly accurate (because you're slow as hell and completely predictable); what really hurts is getting hit by other new bogu people - because they miss. You get hit in the elbow, or the forearm up past where your kote stops, or the side of the shoulder, and it HURTS. Then you play a huge Sensei or senior player who hits your men and it feels like someone just hit you in the face with a dump truck and those little cartoon birds are going round and round your head. A second later their tai-atari has you on your butt. As others have again remarked, (I think Neil said "pffft") - another 50% of the beginners are gone.

                It's inelegant and a disservice to this art to boil it down so basically, but I do think that if it had been pointed out in some fashion like this in the very beginning it would have saved 20 or so people some money and their time. It's really, really hard to practice this martial art. But (for me at least) it's worth it and I wouldn't trade a minute of any of it for anything else.

                Hope that helps you make your decision.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by erowe11 View Post
                  6. I have also been considering fencing ( time constraints limit me to picking one or the other, because ideally I would be able to try both) is anyone here currently practicing both or has enough knowledge of fencing to break down why one might choose one over the other? ( keep in mind I'm not asking who would win in a fight, that's pointless, I want to know which one you feel is more fun and why)
                  I was never the most ardent fencer, so take this for what it's worth...

                  In fencing you'll usually start having matches a heck of a lot quicker (my uni instructor was old fashioned and it took over a month; I got back into it several years later (after kendo) and new people were sparring in the second class... either is still a lot quicker than it usually is in kendo), so if you really can't stand not mixing it up, fencing may be more your style.

                  Depending on whether you do epee, foil or saber, fencing can actually hurt more than kendo (neither really hurt THAT much, and since you're coming from a karate background, this should not be an issue, but some people really seem to worry about the pain levels). I've had plenty of bruises from both, but way more from fencing.

                  If you're a person who likes to fist pump and gloat over every point you score on an opponent, then fencing is for you. If you hate the assholes who do that, then you'll be happy with kendo, where acting like a turkey after every point will erase those points, and possibly see you out of the tournament. Obviously, I'm totally unbiased on this issue.

                  As far as crossover goes, the only aspect of fencing that doing kendo really helped for me was saber; oji waza translate fairly well there. I don't know that coming out of fencing helped my kendo much, however.

                  There are other reasons why I prefer kendo to fencing, but honestly, both are a lot of fun.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by b8amack View Post
                    I don't know that coming out of fencing helped my kendo much, however.
                    My experience with ex-fencers is limited to 2 or 3 guys but they all have a way better ability than the average beginner to see and take advantage of opportunities.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      fencing

                      My girlfriend and I both came from a saber fencing background, which is more similar to kendo than the other two styles of fencing, foil and epee. It is similar in that the motion is a "cut," there are similar parries, and the targets are the same (though saber can aim for the cheeks and the top of the chest -really as long as you hit somewhere above the waist it's valid).

                      My impression is: Fencing is alright if you're fine with a fight that lasts for only an instant. There is a lot of ego in fencing that I don't see in Kendo, which I appreciate. If you want to see people complain about losing and showboat when winning, you will see it in Fencing at some point or another. Another thing I disliked was that it was so lightweight -meaning I didn't have to work as hard at fencing than I do at Kendo. I hated that. Kendo kicks the crap out of me as far as working hard.

                      I don't mean to bash fencing by saying all this; it's fine on its own, it's just that some of the people in it are too egotistical for me. You will get to bout quicker in Fencing than in Kendo though, because in Kendo you have to go through the period without wearing armor, where you develop your basics. In fencing you learn by bouting.

                      Still, I enjoy Kendo loads more. But whichever you choose, just make sure you're enjoying yourself and getting something out of the experience.

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