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Training suggestions for small club w/out a Sensei?

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  • Training suggestions for small club w/out a Sensei?

    Hello, I am the president of a small college Kendo club located in a rural area. We started up about 2 1/2 years ago and both of our teachers (a 1-dan & 2-dan) have graduated. I took over last year in hopes of continuing the club and improving my kendo while Im away at school. All of us our new and inexperienced and the internet is our only teaching tool. We have limited funds and are in the middle of purchasing our first bōgu set. However, without proper guidance, weve plateaued and run out of new and interesting activities to attract new members and keep it interesting.

    I firmly believe in a building a solid foundation in the basics, but this teaching style turns away a lot of new students and were in danger of losing funding due to low membership. I believe most of the students who join are looking to learn advanced techniques quickly, get in armor, have matches, and sorry to say, beat people up with sticks. I don't think they understand what Kendo is truly about and I'm having a difficult time keeping them under control and interested at the same time.

    We generally start out each meeting by lining up and bowing, then warm-ups, air swings, rotation, waza practice, and footwork. However, weve kept this line-up for over a year now and are hardly improving. Weve tried changing it up by playing games such as red light/green light, tag, etc... while using proper footwork. And other more sport like activities such as running practice, lunges, ladder, etc...

    I was hoping to get some suggestions for activities and/or any sites I could look at that might help us improve. Were running out of ideas, and I would love to keep this club going and pass it on to the next generation.

    Thank you.

  • #2
    You at one time were looking for instruction near you and got directed to Meitokukan, which is not too far away in Schenectady. I would suggest you and your core members attend classes there and get some direction.

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    • #3
      Yes, I can visit Meitokukan during my breaks. However, my college is over 5 hours away from the capital district in a rural area of New York's southern tier, about 2 hours south of Rochester. As far as I'm aware, there aren't any instructors or close dojos in the area.

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      • #4
        If you are too far from legitimate instruction regularly, maybe get a group together to road trip out to Schenectady once a month, and then spend the intervening three weeks practicing what you learned? The only other suggestion I have is to see if your school can sponsor a visiting sensei to give a seminar to get people interested and started on the right foot?

        It sounds to me like your heart is in the right place, but this sort of sums up the problem, doesn't it?

        Originally posted by terminai View Post
        I don't think they understand what Kendo is truly about and I'm having a difficult time keeping them under control and interested at the same time.
        I think your creativity is commendable, but I wonder if your energy could be better spent doing something else. Sorry to be a downer and maybe other people have a different idea, but I'd think the problem is that most college kids can find more fun things to do than play red light green light using suriashi and I'm not sure the game would be that useful to you if you aren't getting instruction anyway.

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        • #5
          Perhaps Rochester is closer, there's a club there according to the AUSKF list. My point being, we can't really help you out, you need an instructor. If you can wrangle your members to Rochester or wherever even as much as once per month, you can probably get enough to work on yourselves.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by terminai View Post
            Yes, I can visit Meitokukan during my breaks. However, my college is over 5 hours away from the capital district in a rural area of New York's southern tier, about 2 hours south of Rochester. As far as I'm aware, there aren't any instructors or close dojos in the area.
            If that is the case, then you've got Rochester pretty close which has some kendo as Neil said, and also State College is pretty close with the PSU club who I'm sure would help you out if you wanted to visit, and you could also talk to the Cornell people in Ithaca. I'm not exactly sure where you're located, but based on the information you've given these are a couple of options.

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            • #7
              Edit window closed.

              Ahh, I just noticed "Alfred" as your location. According to Google Maps, you're an hour and a half from Rochester and two hours from Ithaca. State College might be a little too far. An hour and a half, however, I would consider close enough to warrant visits more than once a month. That is of course assuming that you have some method of transportation.

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              • #8
                Thank you to everyone who responded, I'll definitely try that out. We never really considered visiting anywhere as an option due to lack of transport, funds, and time constraints. But I'll look into it a little more, see what my members think about it, it might be possible. I guess there really isn't that much more we can do by ourselves.

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                • #9
                  Well if any of you has access to a car, chipping in for gas for a 3 hour roundtrip drive once or twice a month shouldn't be too onerous, even for college students. If nobody is dedicated enough to do that much, it's time to fold the club.

                  Once you have built a steady relationship with the club in Rochester or whatever, it may be possible to get an instructor to visit your club from time to time. The initial show of commitment has to come from you, though.

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                  • #10
                    Also try Amherst, Hooper sensei (rokudan renshi) is the instructor. I think its about two hours from you and if nothing else there is the Amherst Brewing Company for the second keiko afterwards.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                      Well if any of you has access to a car, chipping in for gas for a 3 hour roundtrip drive once or twice a month shouldn't be too onerous, even for college students. If nobody is dedicated enough to do that much, it's time to fold the club.

                      Once you have built a steady relationship with the club in Rochester or whatever, it may be possible to get an instructor to visit your club from time to time. The initial show of commitment has to come from you, though.
                      Well said Neil. It's quite common for people in Japan to ride a train for an hour or two for their weekly practices as well. Kendo (and Iaido) aren't as mainstream as TKD or some other martial arts, and to find a ranking legitimate sensei within a couple hours I would say would be worth the trip.

                      As Neil said, you have to make the commitment and then after time, perhaps some of those sensei will occasionally be willing to come to you.

                      Is your club a member of the AUSKF? That would also help open doors and possibilities of mentor sensei.

                      Good luck in your quest to better your kendo, but it does have to start with you.
                      Brad

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                      • #12
                        There are many challenging aspects to running a rural Kendo interest program with minimal guidance. I spent a few years in a similar situation, but thankfully I had a mentor instructor within about an hour drive. My best suggestion is to travel and train whenever you get the opportunity. If you are in charge so to speak, I highly encourage you to attend seminars in the regional area. There is good Kendo available to you on the East Coast, but you must travel. Visit the AUSKF webpage, do the research to find out which federations are having seminars, and the make it a point to attend. Whether or not anyone else from your club is able. Make connections with Sensei. If you are sincere, they may even express an interest in you and your club. You cannot show up just once and expect to develop a relationship that results in a Sensei coming to you to offer training. This is also part of rei-ho.


                        As Gendzwill Sensei and others have already mentioned, the initial commitment must come from you. Many good suggestions exist on this thread.

                        Another consideration is that with access to the internet we do get to see a lot of exciting and fast paced Kendo on youtube. The downside is that we might see a waza or practical technique that a highly experienced competitor uses and attempt to practice it before we are experienced enough with the kihon. Another problem is that we see very fast and precise strikes. At the very beginning level, moving too fast without proper control can lead to bad habits, so be careful what you use as a resource to guide you. The KW Youtube thread has good tips and points, and many fine resources are available these days in video and written format from several retailers. There is no substitute for working with a Sensei or attending a seminar.


                        There is no quick training method to achieve good Kendo. To be sincere in your pursuit of Kendo. That is a good goal.

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