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The essence of Kendo (for you)

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  • The essence of Kendo (for you)

    Hi, I just joined this forum, and started Kendo about a month ago.

    Now I live in Osaka, Japan teaching English at a public Junior High School. Like most JHS and HS in Japan, there is a Kendo-bu (Kendo club) which the Kyotou-sensei (vice-pricipal) encouraged me to join. Usually most teachers teach a club activity, but I was allowed to join them just like a student. I enjoy the humility of it because during the day, I am their English (ALT) teacher. And after school, those same students teach me Kendo. It's a great oppurtunity and I really enjoy it (plus, it's free)

    At most club activities, and especially with Kendo, the club is pretty much run by the students, with the teacher occasionally coming at the end of class and observing, and giving a few words. So of course everything is in Japanese, and at times it's hard for me to catch certain things.

    I guess, that I feel that I am missing out on a major part of Kendo, the spiritual, or mind part of Kendo. There are times when the students explain what kendo is too me, but I can usually only catch the main idea, and miss out on some of the smaller details.

    So, I am asking you guy to help fill in the gaps for me. What would you consider the most important aspects of kendo are? In general, and personally?

  • #2
    Hey, welcome to the forums, and I'm green with envy, you get to study kendo in Japan. Never mind the cost, just the opportunity is great.

    For me, the biggest things I find appeal to me is the need for patience. Too many people thing that they have to move up in rank within a certain time frame or they're not making any progress. I have been studying kendo for just over 14 months now, no grade, no rank, haven't even test for promotion. It's just not that important, but what is important is that I learn to do kendo properly. I am honored to have one of the very best senseis in the U.S. teaching me, and he has told me that I am doing well, I am progressing, and to keep working hard at my kendo. Sometimes I feel like I've disappointed him, but then, thinking about it, I feel that if I didn't try my hardest, then it's my own fault, and I should be disappointed with myself.

    I like the idea of going into a dojo, finding people who share an interest, and are willing to help me learn. In turn, when I have the opportunity to help someone with their kendo, I do my best to make sure that what I am telling them is in accordance with what my sensei has told me. I learn something every time I go to class, even if we do the same things we did the week before, I still find something I didn't catch the first time.

    Kendo builds your spirit, increases your self-confidence, and helps with assertiveness. It's hard to be meek when you're packing a 3.9 shaku shinai and know how to use it. That doesn't mean I would go out of my way to hit someone, it means that when I'm on the dojo floor, I do not allow myself to be beaten without even trying to defend myself. That same assertiveness carries over to your regular life, and you find that you will stand up for yourself more easily.

    There is no room in kendo for a bully. I didn't start studying kendo to learn how to beat up people, I started it to learn an art, to gain some much-needed exercise, to give me something I can focus on in my life, and to meet some really great people who have the same love of this art as I do.

    If you can get an English copy of "Kendo - The Definitive Guide" by Hiroshi Ozawa-sensei (7th dan, kyoshi), or "This Is Kendo" by Junzo Sasamori and Gordon Warner, they give some insight into the spirit and mind of kendo.

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    • #3
      Thanks. I know in the beginning with anything new there is always some frustrations. I think I'm pretty athletic, and have good control of my body, and can pick up any new sport pretty quickly, so it's frustrating when you can't get you body to do the things you want it to. Especially in Kendo, when I am having to concentrate on so many things at once. I guess it just takes time to get to a point where you don't think about it anymore.

      It's also interesting because my teachers (my students) are all around 14 - 15 years old. But have been doing Kendo for about 5 - 6 years, and there are really excited and passionate about Kendo. It's nice to see such passion in a young person. Of course they are still kids so they run around and jump on each other and hide eachother's tsuba etc.., But when it's time to practice they get pretty serious.

      For me, the humiltiy of being in a room with twenty 12-15 year old boys and girls that could wipe the floor with me in kendo is a great character builder, and experience.

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      • #4
        oh and as for those books, I will try to look for them out here in one of the major book stores.

        On another note, as for being envious about living in Japan, I don't know your current situation, but it's something anybody can do. I mean if you have graduated from University, you can get a teaching job in Japan. either at a big conversation school, or public JHs or HS.

        When I told my friends back in Texas (where I'm from) and San Francisco (were I live before I left for Japan) most of my friends were like "wow....I could never do that.." I always asked "Why?" and they could never come up with a good answer, just things that sounded more like excuses. Some people already have mental wall in there head about things they think they can't do, when in fact they can, they just don't try.

        If living in Japan is something you are really interested in doing, it is completly possible. Life is too short for you not to do the things you want to do. Especially recently out in Japan with 107 people killed in a train de-railment, and one of my students being killed in a car accedent, I am reminded that life can be taken away from you at anytime, quite abruptly. So I don't waste anytime not doing the things I want to do.

        Sorry, if I kinda went of on a tangent. But if you have any questions about trying to live or teach (easiest way to get to japan) in Japan, just let me know. Be glad to help.

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        • #5
          Teaching in Japan would fascinate me greatly, but id have to actually get out of High-School and Uni for that.

          Did you learn Japanese while you were at Uni? If so is that a pre-requisite of teaching in Japan?

          Just wondering.

          If you want to get some good knoweldge on Kendo Kata (and in english ^^) try:

          Kendo Kata: Essence and Application by Inoue Yoshihiko Hanshi-Hachi Dan.

          Inoue Sensei is and excellent teacher, he taught us for a few days in Auckland last year, and will be presenting himself again in a few weeks. Basically the book describes what Kata in his wise and valid opinion the essence of Kata. As well as teaching the kata itself.

          A good read.

          Enjoy. U can get in from KW Publications http://www.kendo-world.com/kw_publications/index.php

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          • #6
            Benegizer, Is this the JET programme? If so would you like to share your story how you got in?

            Thanks,
            aspiring JET

            Comment


            • #7
              Hi there, and welcome.

              The 'essence of kendo' as you put it, in my opinion, isn't really that much easier to grasp in english. A few points that are fundamental to me:

              ki-ken-tai-itchi
              zanshin
              correct distance
              keep centre
              relax

              and ones that are not so all encompassing:

              back straight
              bring your left foot in quickly after the fumikomi
              don't cut unless there's an opening, and if there isn't, make one
              relax everything before and after the point where the shinai connects

              On going to japan, I have the same mentality in that I can go, and just recently I've started getting peoples opinions on different options. I disagree that its the cakewalk you're implying. Sorry to take this off-topic, but I'd like to discuss this with you.

              I'm just finishing my second year in Computer Science with (depending on my grades) one or two years to go before I finish. I'm going for JLPT level 3 this year, but my level is slightly above it already. I want to spend at least a year in japan after I graduate. For the culture, the kendo, the girls, etc etc. But mainly for the kendo, thats my priority, and after that having a generally good japan experience.

              I used to think that I could just get a ticket to japan, drink sake, do kendo and backpack around for a while and come back. Then I sat down and thought... hmm... I'm going to need a plan. Currently I haven't decided on or ruled anything out.

              First I looked at JET, from asking around opinions are mixed. As an ALT the work is not something that interests me, however some people report having had a good time, plus accomodation is provided and the pay is apparently reasonable. The CIR position looks really good, but you can't apply for both, and if my japanese doesn't cut it, its a bit of a risk. The reason JET isn't my first option is that some people have ended up in deep inaka or on an island with a small village kendo club, if that. It would be interesting to hear your opinion as an ALT on the logistics (i.e. money, accomodation, selection process, how you ended up in Osaka, did you get a car, things like that.)

              For those that are interested, I've been looking into IBU as well. Gonzo makes it sound amazing in his thread on it, however I asked sensei about it and he was pretty neutral. He told me that area was beautiful, that the facilities were great etc etc but that for my kendo I'd be better off trying to get into one of the uni's in tokyo and practicing there. I'm still looking into it.

              Anyway, sorry to hijack your thread

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              • #8
                I would be happy to share my experiences about Japan, and how I got here.

                I know for most people teaching is not something they are particularly interested in, but it's the easiest way to get into Japan with a working VISA. Heck, before I came here I was doing grip/lighting for film and television (graduated from art college)

                I actually went through NOVA (one of Japan's biggest Ekaiwa (English Conversation) schools. Many people hate NOVA (it's more of a business, interested in making money, that a true "school") but like I said it's a comfortable means to get into Japan. They set-up housing for you, and help with getting a bank account, and cell phone, etc... I think JET would do about the same. When I first got here I got sent to Fuji city in Shizouka pref. (Yes, Fuji city is near Mt. Fuji) NOVA usaully tries to put you where you want to go, but it doesn't always work out. But once you are in Japan, you can easily put in a transfer request to anywhere you want to go. I lived in Fuji for about 9 months before I transfered to Osaka. I then continued working for NOVA for about another year and a half, before changing jobs and working in public JHS.

                I didn't speak any Japanese before I came, but studied hard on my own after I got here (and living in a small rural town, where nobody spoke English helped) and now I think I can speak pretty good.

                I think the best approach is to just do the research on the internet and find the easiest way for you to get here. Once you are here you can look for a different or better job. Even when you quit, you can still keep your working VISA, so there is no worry about getting kicked out of the country if you don't have a job. Or you could just come on a tourist visa (3 months) and search like crazy to find a job in that time, but you'll also be looking for everything else on your own too (pad, phone, etc..) Coming with a big co. like NOVA makes the transition really painless. You just show up, they meet you at the airport, and take you to your apt. and introduce you to your roomates (if you have any) and then your roomates will help you with pretty much anything else you need. Then a few days of training, and your off.

                Sorry if this is getting really off topic, but in a way it's related right? Kendo is Japanese, and in talking about Japan.

                Well, I would be happy to answer any other questions about Japan, and you guys can answer mine about Kendo.

                feel free to private message me if you have anymore questions...

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                • #9
                  Ohh, and I don't work for the Jet Program, I work for a similar out-sourcing company call INTERAC.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Benegizer
                    Now I live in Osaka, Japan teaching English at a public Junior High School. Like most JHS and HS in Japan, there is a Kendo-bu (Kendo club) which the Kyotou-sensei (vice-pricipal) encouraged me to join.
                    Practicing with JHS students is great! I too, train with them, although I'm no longer an ALT and am now in a position where I help teach the students.

                    Might I ask the name of the school you're at? I may have heard of it.

                    At most club activities, and especially with Kendo, the club is pretty much run by the students, with the teacher occasionally coming at the end of class and observing, and giving a few words. So of course everything is in Japanese, and at times it's hard for me to catch certain things.
                    Think of it as motivation to up your Japanese skills! In such cases, often, much of what the teacher has to say concerns "administrative" stuff, such as changes in the schedule due to some school event, or specifying the meet-up time to head to some upcoming competition and such. This is especially the case if the teacher responsible for the kendo club isn't a kendo practitioner him- or herself.

                    Speaking of competitions, I heartily encourage you to go cheer your kids on when they have one. It's a very good way to build a stronger relationship with them and the club's teacher, and it's also excellent mitori-geiko.

                    I guess, that I feel that I am missing out on a major part of Kendo, the spiritual, or mind part of Kendo. There are times when the students explain what kendo is too me, but I can usually only catch the main idea, and miss out on some of the smaller details.
                    In my experience, the mental/spiritual part of kendo is something that most JHS kids don't understand very well either, so you'll be wanting to supplement your training with them with reading and discussion with advanced practitioners. Then again, the mental/spiritual aspect is something that, IMHO, takes a lifetime to explore and might never be fully grasped.

                    So, I am asking you guy to help fill in the gaps for me. What would you consider the most important aspects of kendo are? In general, and personally?
                    If I could answer that succinctly, I wouldn't be doing kendo! A lot of the attractiveness, for me, is that there's always another layer of depth to discover, always something more to learn, always some aspect to improve upon.

                    Mabye I could sum it up by saying that, for me, the essence of kendo is that it forces you to always keep on growing.

                    Next, for the person who was asking about the JET Programme:

                    That's how I originally came to Japan, and I'm still here, almost seven years later (after my ALT days were up, I switched to a small local English conversation school, and for the last year, have been on a cultural visa). My own experience, and that of most people I knew on the programme when I was part of it, was positive, but since you don't get to choose exactly where you go, there is the risk of ending up deep in the countryside in the middle of nowhere; my advice there would be to do some research on areas that are less well known, but still at least town-sized, and list that as a preference in the appropriate part of the form. You'll then have a pretty good chance of getting something that matches your tastes, even if the specific location isn't the one you listed.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hey, thanks for the insight Philippe. Actually I live in Osaka, and work in NARA at "Sango Chu Gakko" near OJI station on the JR line.

                      Yeah, definatly, when the students go to compete I really want to go to support them, and see my first shiai.

                      Where do you live? How long have you been doing kendo in Japan?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks for the advice guys

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Benegizer
                          Hey, thanks for the insight Philippe. Actually I live in Osaka, and work in NARA at "Sango Chu Gakko" near OJI station on the JR line.
                          Sango? Doesn't ring a bell, I'm afraid. We were a a three-day event in Hiroshima over Golden Week, and there were seven teams from Nara, but that wasn't one of them.

                          Yeah, definatly, when the students go to compete I really want to go to support them, and see my first shiai.
                          It's a lot of fun, although for me, it also recently become slightly stressful as I've started judging as well.

                          Keep an eye out for the Kashiba team.

                          Where do you live? How long have you been doing kendo in Japan?
                          I'm down in a little city (well, that's the official designation, anyway) called Anan in Tokushima prefecture, and have been here for almost seven years, six of those spent doing kendo.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Don't laugh, but...

                            Originally posted by Benegizer
                            So, I am asking you guy to help fill in the gaps for me. What would you consider the most important aspects of kendo are? In general, and personally?
                            The essence is,
                            Do the simple thing in a simple way.

                            MAD GOD

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              In the beginning, perseverance.

                              Later, humility.

                              Always, gratitude.

                              b

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