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Traditional purists and modern competitors.

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  • Traditional purists and modern competitors.

    Im hoping some experienced people can enlighten this thread a little bit, but i'd like to hear everyones thoughts in general.

    Im hitting a moral fork in my training where im looking at the paths people can take in kendo. This was instigated by a rather cool nanadan last year, and I guess he got me questioning myself, as these sensei often do. In short, he made me ask myself why am I doing kendo, and almost a year later im still wondering.
    I didnt want to duplicate the "what are your training goals" thread, but I am trying to understand the line between modern shiai and purist kendo. I have been told many many times that, "to see some of the worst form in kendo, you need only look to some of the police taikai in Japan", but paradoxically these individuals are often considered the cream of the kendo crop. We also have the popular sayings as well, like "the sword is the mind" and "the immovable mind", but mentally speaking, modern shiai is very busy, and mentally resembles western sports in terms of sports psycology.
    My conversation ended with this sensei on an interesting note, he said "in a real duel, the person about to be cut (meaning dispatched) would certianly make an effort to move out of the way". Man this has made me think! I am certainly questioning the purists approach to kendo. This is not to be mistaken with the basic drills and forms we learn, but how much pure form is enough before it becomes ingnorance??

    (I was lucky to meet this sensie, and enjoyed having supper with him.)
    Last edited by Nishi; 18th September 2004, 07:04 AM.

  • #2
    Personally i think a mix of both has helped me along with what little experience i have. Shiai can be used as a good training tool to iimprove your kendo since it lets you compare your self to others in your division and have a goal to to improve towards beside rank. But at hte same time it can develop bad habits very quickly like if a kendoaka (like me...) does something bad in the sense of "purist kendo" and wins the match, it often reconditions the kendoaka into repeating that same thing in keiko. Its really common in the lower ranks, like doing alot of shoving and poorly swung hits. Anyways just my 2 cents.

    Comment


    • #3
      I think you need to rephrase that in the form of a question, David.

      Comment


      • #4
        I would argue that the "line between modern shiai and purist kendo" is a false dichotomy. It implies that one only has the option of pursuing either shiai kendo or some idealized form of "pure" kendo. I would certainly agree that one shouldn't strive for a form of kendo intended soley to score points. But shiai certainly serves a purpose. It allows oneself to gauge one's progress, and also to motivate oneself to train harder.

        It's a legitimate thing to ask oneself, "What am I training for?" But at some point, you have to make an existential leap of faith that what you're doing is worthwhile, or that you enjoy it, regardless of its "purpose." The reality is that kendoka are NOT training to fight in real duels with real katana. They are training to be good at kendo. Personally, I try to avoid what some people would call "tricky" kendo. But some of the kendoka I admire most (with very nice "straight" styles) also are VERY good at shiai.

        Whether shiai kendo itself is bad kendo is a separate issue. If enough sensei agreed that shiai kendo is a legitimate problem, then it could be remedied to a great extent by the IKF. They could redefine what actually constitutes a "point." Judging defines what is acceptable in modern kendo. If they wanted to make kendo more like fighting with a katana, all they need to do is modify the definition of yukodatotsu.

        Comment


        • #5
          Kendo, in the meaning is the way of the sword, we have all at first looked into the history of kendo and why it is here today. But the thing we must remeber is that even though it is a "sport" now, it was a way of survival in Japan. If we treat kendo as a sport then the meaning of kendo is lost, believe that you will be cut and that you can die, then you will feel the spirit of kendo. Every time I walk into the dojo my life is in danger so mushin is very present in my practice, I keep this frame of mind not because I am wacked out but this is the way it would have felt in the early 15th century with Japanese fencers, they had no protection and would lose they're lives in practice.
          Last edited by fe-taru tora; 18th September 2004, 08:04 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Disclaimer:
            I do not consider kendo a sport. For me it is Budo. As horrible as I am at it, I try to remember that and I hope that will be (some day?) reflected in my kendo....

            I think to a great extent the whole "kendo now is a sport, it is going downhill, eh, in the old days we did not do all this cheap stuff" is overreaction.
            BUT:
            It is easy to fall prey to the mindset though; if you cannot score using a proper "flesh-and-bone-tearing" proper full waza, you try the quick flicking waza to counterract the opponents use of those same fast waza.
            Anyway, there is room for even those in kendo, they are part of the environment and its modern evolution. I will however repeat and agree what was said earlier on; changing the definition of yukodatotsu would probably greatly change what people work towards. I would not mind that, even if it would make kendo more challenging for me than it currently is.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Nishi
              Im hoping some experienced people can enlighten this thread a little bit, but i'd like to hear everyones thoughts in general.

              Im hitting a moral fork in my training where im looking at the paths people can take in kendo. This was instigated by a rather cool nanadan last year, and I guess he got me questioning myself, as these sensei often do. In short, he made me ask myself why am I doing kendo, and almost a year later im still wondering.
              I didnt want to duplicate the "what are your training goals" thread, but I am trying to understand the line between modern shiai and purist kendo. I have been told many many times that, "to see some of the worst form in kendo, you need only look to some of the police taikai in Japan", but paradoxically these individuals are often considered the cream of the kendo crop. We also have the popular sayings as well, like "the sword is the mind" and "the immovable mind", but mentally speaking, modern shiai is very busy, and mentally resembles western sports in terms of sports psycology.
              My conversation ended with this sensei on an interesting note, he said "in a real duel, the person about to be cut (meaning dispatched) would certianly make an effort to move out of the way". Man this has made me think! I am certainly questioning the purists approach to kendo. This is not to be mistaken with the basic drills and forms we learn, but how much pure form is enough before it becomes ingnorance??

              (I was lucky to meet this sensie, and enjoyed having supper with him.)
              This is a very interesting topic indeed. I think that the purist kendo and shiai are one in the same with a few distint differences (basically making it almost a paradox). Purist kendo is not so much the apparent, but rather the unseen. That is to say purist kendo says, Beauty and honor in victory AND death. What you see in modern shiai is fast tricky and often times, horrible kendo (not beauty and filled with honor) and contradicts that school of thought. However, whatyou mention above about if you are about to die, you wil certainly try to get out of the way [whatever means necessary] is what convultes modern kendo and sets the two apart. There is no answer or solution. The fact remains that you should try to do the kendo you practice at your dojo (usually purist kendo) in shiai to the best you can. Human nature will not allow you lose even if it means bobbing your head out of the way, doing a half-assd men etc. The interesting part is modern kendo and purist kendo coexist. This also segways into why shinsa kendo is different from shiai kendo. This thread has certainly got me thinking....

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill
                I think you need to rephrase that in the form of a question, David.
                It was more of a thought that reflects a complicated contradiction in my training at this point. I guess im at the point where I watch some taikai and see certain kenshi (not bad, but at different stages) snap up points on physical skill with no real technique, and of course theres that Sensei most of us admire who dosnt move at all, then cuts with the ultimate grace...whats the path to this purist kendo, does it really exist. I have to admit that I did realise the post wasnt in a "how do you do a .<enter waza here>.." form, I guess the core of the question could be 'why keep purist form and ideals' .

                Halcyon
                Actually I see this as a positive fork in my kendo. As we are not training to fight real duels its safe to say we are training in several related ideas. Its those contradicting ideas im sorting through. I wish IKF would just bring taikai rules into line with shiai standards.

                fe-taru tora
                I like the reply.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'd rather thought that "Nishi's" inquiry would have generated scads more traffic then it has thus far. That said, the "quality" of the opinions that have been offered speaks for itself.

                  For me, it is, and has always been, important to strike an emotional and mental balance between the modern day "sport" of kendo and its martial origins. Any activity that has "evolved" from a once deadly serious buisness into a sport, or game, is bound to cause some confusion, especially for a student hailing from the west (ern hemisphere).

                  Modern western fencing evolved from the tradition of dueling but is now practiced in a way that would be very unfamiliar to duelists of old, the goal being to score on your opponent before they score on you, and that the idea of taking a hit is just fine as long as your got there first. The same sorts of comparisons can be made of judo, tae kwon do, archery and other martial traditions which are now practiced as sports, olypic and otherwise.

                  In the west, one usually will not find kendo on ones local high school's physical education offerings. We are more geared, socially, toward baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer as our "sports". So, for me, the martial art traditions of the japanese sword are "what brung me here" and what keep me here. But that, of course, is a personal preference.

                  Though we share common traditions, history and practice, I believe that kendo should still be a unique and different expereince for each of us. That seems quite natural to me and is what will keep it "fresh" for all of us. So I believe that we should all ask ourselves the "why do I train" question over and over again. It is as integral to the growth process, as a kendo practitioner, as is your sword.

                  But in the final analysis, it is only a means to an end. A vehicle to grow and presumably become a better martial artist, sportsman, brother, friend, colleague, husband, wife, etc., etc., and on and on. on the other hnad, if scoring points is what turns someones crank, more power to 'em.

                  Let it be for you what you wish it to be.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Funnily enough, this kind of debate seems to be more heated in foreign countries.

                    In Japan, its accepted that you'll do different kinds of kendo at different stages in your life, and you shouldn't try to do the un-moving, one-strike-one point kind of old man's kendo until you go through the other stages, including the full-on 'battle' of shiai.

                    As the nanadan was maybe thinking, if anything, cop's kendo is the closest thing to the medieval samurai 'workplace'. These guys aren't competing to preserve some perceived 'correct kendo', they're doing it to survive (and for pride). Sure they're not going to get killed, but the outcome can determine how much money they make for their families, and these days, whether they even have a job! Surely that focuses your mind more effectively than the 'if this was a real sword...' mind-set?

                    In that position, are you going to bob your head out of the way when your opponent is too slow to hit you? Hell yes! Does it mean you only see kendo as a sport? Most likely not.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Maybe you have started the process of losing your reliance on outside measurement of your kendo. Doubt is good. Questioning is good. "I don't know" is good.

                      b
                      Last edited by ben; 18th September 2004, 02:39 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Nishi
                        My conversation ended with this sensei on an interesting note, he said "in a real duel, the person about to be cut (meaning dispatched) would certianly make an effort to move out of the way"
                        In a duel, someone may try to avoid being cut.
                        However, one does not try to avoid the cut of the kaishaku.

                        Sometimes, it is appropriate to let yourself be cut.

                        In kendo practice, what is the thing that is actually meant to be killed: the physical form of your opponent, or the fear that is in your mind? That is, is kendo about defeating your opponent or defeating yourself?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          So, was the shinai invented so someone could 'achieve enlightenment'???
                          Hell no!
                          It was invented in order to practice swordfighting, and this in order to learn how to kill with the sword. It was proven in duels that those who practiced with shinai beat those who didn't. This is why Kendo-style training was adopted by the samurai.
                          Unfortunately, the modern excessive-Zanshin rule has wrecked Kendo. Now, it is fine to allow your opponent to hit you as long as you block his Zanshin follow-through. If the samurai of old saw this crap rule they'd spit on it. They are all turning in their graves.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Kozushi
                            So, was the shinai invented so someone could 'achieve enlightenment'??? Hell no! It was invented in order to practice swordfighting, and this in order to learn how to kill with the sword.
                            Okay, so now that swordfighting is no longer a reality and no one is practicing kendo so as to better his skill to kill someone with a sword - do we put down our shinai and take up marksmanship with a new Glock or take krav maga?

                            I think we ought to pursue the kendo that our school head wants us to learn. And if that doesn't suit you - move on to another school or another hobby. Shiai is what it is. The judges have an idea of what is good kendo and they try to hold you to that standard. If you meet it - you win. If you think its dumb - stay home.

                            I agree with you that excessive zanshin would be meaningless in one on one combat where you just theoretically dealt your opponent a killing blow. But, if zanshin is also showing readiness and preparedness for the next encounter - there is logical sense to its inclusion in kendo. Part of studying kendo is learning and following the rules of the art. Does it also irk you that you can't hit someone from behind? And why not count cuts to the legs?

                            It seems to me that keeping historical skills alive is either something you enjoy or you don't. Analyzing what we do from the perspective of combat training strikes me as somewhat pointless.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              See ... Kozushi, are getting a concept of zanshin all wrong.
                              There is no such thing as an excessive zanshim
                              (you are talking about appealing to the judges )
                              As I mentioned in zanshin thread, zanshin is nothing but your daily life.
                              Folding hakama, straightining fellow dojo member's shoes, cleaning your desk for next day,....etc.

                              Yes kendo orginated from sword fighting.
                              But after every live or die shinken battles, there were always regret, respect and mourning toward opponent(s).
                              If you dont have that, you should be considered same as Jason or Freddie.
                              We are not mass murderers.
                              We can not practice kendo without your opponent.

                              Lets thank and respect your partner
                              Just look at kendo kata.
                              In #1, shidachi end up killing uchidachi... shidachi shows zanshin including regret, respec and mourning toward opponent.
                              In #2, from past(#1) experience, shidachi does not kill uchidachi...just imobilize uchidachi by cutting arm off.
                              In #3, from #2 experience, shidachi seize uchidachi with ki... without blood.

                              Kendo is all based on japanese philosophy "live and die gracefuly"
                              So modern kendo aka 'shiai kendo' is forgetting this basic concept.
                              You can say kendo is only budo deeply based on 'reihou', manner and etiquet.
                              You see so many ppl without this in 'shiai kendo'. For example, excessive point appeal towrad shinpan, walking back to start line with only one hand on shinai after point scored, taking time going back to start line, or high touch/excessive cheering during/between the match.
                              Even we bow each other, 'shiai' minded ppl never understand concept behind why we bow. why we sonkyo and why we sonkyo & bow again......

                              In modern kendo, we never face shinken battle, so we dont have to mourn.
                              But we still need to respect your opponent(s).
                              In kendo match, there always be a winner and loser. (even in a team match,
                              there will be daihyou-sen when necessary)
                              So if you win, respect your opponent. (what if you were the losing side?)
                              There is no such a thing as 'I kicked your ass' in Kendo.

                              Wheather traditional or modern kendo, there always should be respect and thankfulness toward your opponents, sensei, senpai and fellow dojo mates.

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