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Those first difficult steps in bogu...

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  • Those first difficult steps in bogu...

    I've been lurking around these forums for a while now and have absorbed a lot of useful information, and I feel it's finally time I made my first post.

    As a beginner to Kendo (about six months in) and a total beginner to bogu (just had my first few sessions), I thought I'd add my thoughts on the experience to any other newbies just getting to the 'bogu hump'. From what I've both read and heard, a quite high percentage of newbies, after training for several months with that 'golden moment' of getting into armour as a much-anticipated 'next step' up ahead, finally get the go ahead to get into said armour, freak out, and then drop out. This is a universal problem in Kendo, from what I understand, and obviously something that plagues many dojos. Why is this?

    From my first few sessions in bogu, I can understand a little of this, as I'm sure many others can, if they can remember their first experiences too.

    My initial impressions: Almost everything I learnt in the preceding months went flying out of the window the moment I got into armour, or more accurately, the moment I got into Men and Kote. Holding the Shinai with Kote on feels different and very awkward, and lifting your arms is restricted by the men. Having no peripheral vison, having your hearing impaired and feeling as though you are looking through the grill of an electric fire all contibute to a feeling of claustrophobia, as does the increase in heat. Feeling clumsy is also very much par for the course - when you get in closer to your classmates (such as when you are watching a demonstration of a certain technique), you might find yourself turning and hitting someone with your shinai accidentally. You might find yourself having trouble tying do himo or have great difficulty adapting to putting on your tenugui and Men. Being self conscious and a little anxious might come to the fore. All of these feelings are natural.

    Now, in the words of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: DON'T PANIC!

    Stick with it. After a few sessions you'll become more comfortable with it all, you''ll find all the techniques start to come together again and you'll start to focus on your Kendo again, and not the armour itself. Remember, Kendo is not easy, no matter how much the the higher grades may make it seem like it is, and the transition into armour is just a single challenge on a very long journey. If you find yourself freaking out a little (or a lot!) once you're in bogu, remember it gets easier very quickly, and you will adapt to it.

    I think if the folks who drop out shortly after getting into armour tried to bear this in mind, the drop out rate would be considerably lower.

    As a lowly noob I may be missing the mark entirely here, but if my experience and thoughts on this help even one person stick with it, then I'll consider this a worthwhile first post!

  • #2
    Along with the physical factors that make bogu training more difficult, this is the point when kendo becomes in a sense adversarial. It's no longer performing techniques to one's own rhythm. Now you have to deal with someone upsetting your mojo (in the case of jigeiko in particular). Each of us have different attitudes towards competition but conflict avoidance tends to be a large component of many people's mentality. If they can't get over that then they will be especially susceptible to dropping out.

    Then there are those who are inherently competitive... maybe too much so and get dismayed that they actually suck so badly (no gratification).

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    • #3
      Might I also add: if the men isn't broken in correctly, it pushes down on your arms... suddenly, everything you do becomes wrong.

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      • #4
        Like other dojos, we've had many more members drop out within months of practicing in bogu than those that stay longer term. Dropouts never get beyond the physical aspect, instead giving up well before any inkling of the non-physical dimensions of kendo dawns on them. Its a shame because the mental/spirit dimension that imbues kendo never has a chance to blossom in their practice. They miss that distinguishing crux of kendo that, when coupled to the physical act, advances one along the path. Intangibles are never revealed easily or quickly but requires years and decades of dedicated practice to mature. Without sincere perseverance, though, their path is cut short in its infancy and they never realize kendo.

        I hope your path is a long one.

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        • #5
          There are so many reasons behind the "bogu hump" that I really don't think it's possible to generalize except in one regard. Those who quit after wearing bogu have decided kendo is not for them. Period. Often, they will leave a 600+ dollar set of brand new bogu at the dojo, and never even come back to pick it up. Kendo is flat out not for everyone. I'm glad you're sticking with it.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by b8amack View Post
            There are so many reasons behind the "bogu hump" that I really don't think it's possible to generalize except in one regard. Those who quit after wearing bogu have decided kendo is not for them. Period. Often, they will leave a 600+ dollar set of brand new bogu at the dojo, and never even come back to pick it up. .
            Indeed. The thoughts you guys have added are food for thought for certain. Some of these things have occurred to me, some haven't. The 'bogu hump' is a complicated beast, for certain. After spending several hundred pounds on my bogu, I have no intention of giving it up willingly. As a new dojo, we have no loan armour at the moment (actually, we do have ONE set now, donated when one guy replaced his decade-old gear from a previous period of Kendo in his life), so if you want it, the only way to get it is to buy it, so it's not a decision to be taken lightly. Of the folks who started the beginners' course all those months ago, all of us saw it through to the end, and only two have dropped out since, so we're doing okay.

            Originally posted by b8amack View Post
            Kendo is flat out not for everyone. I'm glad you're sticking with it.
            It was twenty years between me first seeing Kendo on TV and thinking 'I'd like to try that', and a dojo opening up close enough to me to be able to attend (there was one about thirty miles away, but travelling would have meant very late nights, and with my early starts I don't think I'd have lasted long). Now I've finally got to try it, despite finding it's physically a lot harder than I thought it would be, I'm loving it. People have said 'what practical use is it'?, but my answer is along the lines of 'what practical use is football/horse riding/saxophone playing, etc. etc'? It has little practical value as self-defence, that much is obvious, but in other terms it's spot on. The self discipline required cannot but help self-improvement, it calms the mind (it's so bloody difficult it's hard to think of external stressors when you're doing Kendo - it's a wonderful mind-clearer!), and of course it helps keep you fit!

            There are of course times when I get home from a day's work and I just don't feel like Kendo. I get myself motivated, and off I go, and I'm always glad I went. I may be physically a wreck and sweating like a chicken in Kentucky, but I always feel I've achieved something! I have little natural talent for Kendo - I'm not a natural athelete, my coordination isn't great, and my general fitness certainly isn't as good as I'd like it to be, but every time I go, a little more of the puzzle drops into place, and that's what keeps me going. I only need to see our new group of absolute beginners to see how far I've come. They're struggling with all the same stuff I did, and I can see how much I've improved.

            I love it.
            Last edited by Laughing Gravy; 25th March 2012, 06:44 PM.

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            • #7
              I have just started in Bogu after spending 11 months training without. I have enjoyed learning the basics around a discipline I know it will take me many years just to get the basics right.

              In our club I see people start training and when they realise that they cannot get into bogu for some months, they seem to leave which is a shame. I wonder if they assume they will be wearing bogu after a couple of weeks?

              I have studied karate for 30 years and so I understood that I would be working on basic moves etc from day one.

              I just wish I'd started Kendo twenty years ago!!

              Colin

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              • #8
                I may be physically a wreck and sweating like a chicken in Kentucky, but I always feel I've achieved something! I have little natural talent for Kendo - I'm not a natural athelete, my coordination isn't great, and my general fitness certainly isn't as good as I'd like it to be, but every time I go, a little more of the puzzle drops into place, and that's what keeps me going.
                Are you me?

                I feel horribly inept at kendo, with a crap constitution and horrible coordination, but I still enjoy the heck out of it!

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                • #9
                  Those first difficult steps in bogu... are very easy and enjoyable.

                  Getting into bogu is so fun.

                  It is not saying farewell to steps and suburi, they are still there
                  to do but waza, uchikomi and other stuff seem so more real when you
                  can hit somebody.

                  At last you can enjoy the reward, the real fun, the cream on top -
                  free sparring (or whacking other guys and the best ever is that
                  they hit you back!). So enjoyable.

                  And still at the horizon there are even greater possibilities -
                  tournaments and the thrills of defeats and victories.

                  Some are not meant for that. Those who are afraid to hit or be hit
                  may play iaido or dancing, or whatever.

                  Ones afflicted with claustrophobia may play jodo or that european
                  'football' stuff.

                  But those worthy, with the mark of the Brotherhood, may find honour
                  and glory at the arena. Err. I mean shaijo...

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                  • #10
                    Yeah alot of these feelings i got when getting into bogu the first time, when sweat got into my eye i get blind and panick!
                    lol Happened in one class, it feels good taking it off you can like feel the heat your body is absorbing wouldn't say you overheat but its an oven in there! I actually thought i was going to make it at the end of practice, after 4 -12 times in bogu during class the skills are engraving into my mind! but i still have a long way before i go for grading...

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                    • #11
                      In a twist to my tale, I now have tennis elbow, and have been advised to leave the Kendo alone for a while. I've got some exercises to try and help, and with luck I'll be back to Kendo proper in another couple of weeks. In the meantime, it's pretty frustrating, but Kendo isn't going anywhere!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Laughing Gravy View Post
                        In a twist to my tale, I now have tennis elbow, and have been advised to leave the Kendo alone for a while. I've got some exercises to try and help, and with luck I'll be back to Kendo proper in another couple of weeks. In the meantime, it's pretty frustrating, but Kendo isn't going anywhere!
                        I've managed almost six years before I picked up the same injury, I'm sure I wont be the first to say this to you but don't let the injury stop you going to Kendo! Sit on the sidelines and watch, think of all you have been taught since you started and just watch... be quietly critical of everything you see and try to pinpoint everyone's little faults and think to yourself what you would do to stop doing the same. Don't think because you're not charging around you're not learning, I guarantee you'll sit and think a bit more after watching. Good luck with the elbow, i know how annoying it can be.

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                        • #13
                          I had an ankle injury and spent three weeks watching and taking notes and learnt a lot.
                          Colin

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                          • #14
                            I've been going to Kendo and obseving maybe one in three sessions. Those two hours can seem very long sometimes when you're not participating. Only now, after getting some better drugs from my doctor do I feel I can give it a try again, and will be attending my first class proper since the injury next week (It's been a long time off, believe me). The drugs are doubtless not fixing the problem, but at least it doesn't hurt, and I've been doing some exercises that should help.

                            Stting on my hands for all this time has made me appreciate just how much I need my Kendo in my life - absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Laughing Gravy View Post
                              In a twist to my tale, I now have tennis elbow, and have been advised to leave the Kendo alone for a while. I've got some exercises to try and help, and with luck I'll be back to Kendo proper in another couple of weeks. In the meantime, it's pretty frustrating, but Kendo isn't going anywhere!
                              I got that. Too many smashes to the funny bone while I was in jodan (and not enough me wearing elbow protection). Couple of weeks my ass.

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