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  • Female Kendo

    Last February when I took my nidan test in Hong Kong, I had two goals. One was to pass the test (of course!). The other goal was to practice as much as possible with other women, preferably high-ranking ladies. I wanted to see how different other ladies play kendo as I was (and still am) the highest-ranking female in the dojo and I wanted to serve as a good role model for the few remaining lady kendoka in the club. I had no real-life experience to know if ladies should play differently or not. My teachers are all Japanese men and they do not distinguish between male and female students. They have never told me to do something differently because of my gender. So I was surprised when the head senpai told me one day that my style of kendo was decidedly male. And I asked myself,"Was I supposed to do otherwise?"

    I had a chance to practice with Eda Chen sensei (6th dan Renshi) when I was in Hong Kong. She had this very beautiful, elegant kendo and she is somebody I would like to emulate. She told me some things that I found extremely interesting regarding how women should play.

    When I did a hiki-men after I botched a men strike, she stopped me and said that I should not focus on hiki-strikes at all (or at least minimize their use). Ladies, she said, should try to conserve their energy and focus on solid, forward strikes. Focus on good timing and you may never have to find yourself wasting energy on hiki-strikes that rarely get an ippon. In addition, attacking repeatedly with multiple strikes is as *bad* as doing a hiki since it uses up too much energy.

    This was a total revelation and I totally agreed with her subconsciously though I didn't realize it yet at the time. The dilemma is that it is very difficult to follow her advice in our dojo. I practice with men (very rarely with other ladies) and most of the time I would have no choice but to match them force by force. I find that her brand of beautiful kendo may be a little difficult to achieve under the circumstances (but believe me, I TRY!). I am afraid that my kendo at this stage may be perceived as weak due to "dead time" - non-striking moments when I am trying to figure out the best timing (this is usually the time when I GET HIT because I waited too long - timing is difficult to master). So to compensate, I sometimes make a strike even when I know the timing is bad so as not to appear as if I'm just standing there.

    It makes me wonder if this style is only applicable if you practice with women? Because as I see it now, without proper and regular instruction from a higher-ranking female sensei, my kendo would probably end up in the opposite direction - something that would win me matches but not quite as beautiful as I would like it to be.

    Any thoughts?

  • #2
    There is no "womans style" but there are many individual styles. I suggest you aim to develop your own without regard to gender.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Kenshi View Post
      There is no "womans style" but there are many individual styles. I suggest you aim to develop your own without regard to gender.
      Hmm. Well I certainly find that many women play differently than men, and that they play a different game again with each other. So I'll leave this question open to other women on the forum as to whether they think this is the case. Thee and me have too much chromosome diversity for this conversation.

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      • #4
        Regardless of gender, every so often you meet a sensei who for whatever reason has that certain something that speaks to YOU. If you liked her kendo there is no reason why you shouldn't strive to incorporate some of her teaching into yours. Although we're all supposed to do what our own teachers tell us, everyone adds bits and pieces to their own kendo/iaido along the way.

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        • #5
          well... from a boy-who-often-has-to-fight-girls perspective, i actually think a girl who can fight on an equal level to a bloke is super kickass. ideal even. in my book, she is a lot better than other girls who can only fight 'girlie'/'softer' style.

          so i personally don't see why you should change your style or focus at all.

          IF anything, if youre striving to polish your kendo, make it more elegant, less hiki and more forward, more one cut one ippon strikes.... well, that makes a lot of sense. but then again, don't we all strive for that, men or women alike...? at least i do too.


          p.s. nice nick... manslayer? now i want to jigeiko you just to see how much of "manslayer" you are hehehe

          cheers.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Kenshi View Post
            There is no "womans style" but there are many individual styles. I suggest you aim to develop your own without regard to gender.
            True. But if the majority of female individuals are shorter and less muscular than the majority of male individuals, doesn't it follow logically that these women's kendo styles would share common traits?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by slidercrank View Post
              True. But if the majority of female individuals are shorter and less muscular than the majority of male individuals, doesn't it follow logically that these women's kendo styles would share common traits?
              Of-course. But if youve a guy in your dojo called John and hes only 5ft tall and a featherweight, do you teach him "girl kendo" ???

              I think kendo types are more to do with body-types and personality. So you certainly have categories of kendo, and males or females will generally fit into 1 or the other... but its not defined "skinny short girl kendo" and "big muscular man kendo" ... right?

              And kihon is kihon, it has almost no regard for body shape, type, nor personality.

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              • #8
                Manslayer, I find it interesting that you feel what Chen sensei said to you is a woman's slant on kendo because although I am male (and most of the kenshi I keiko with are as well) several sensei I have practiced with over the years have basically said the same thing about kendo in general.. not just directed at female players. Timing and opportunity are critical and I don't see the need to attack without opportunity. It does tire you out and unless this is the goal (such as in kakarigeiko) it is wasted energy. Obviously you don't want to just wait and then be hit... you have to develop the ability to anticipate and see your aite's movement to take advantage of the suki that opens up as they begin their motion. At first this will probably mean being 'late' and getting hit more often, but eventually you will start to develop the senses that allow you to time your attack and take advantage of the openings that are presented to you. Seme and tame will help you to force openings and then be able to take advantage of them. Have you tried to discuss this with your sensei?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Id love to train with some high-ranking women, I dont get to do it very often, if at all. I was told a while ago when I visited a dojo that had some women that it was obvious that I had only trained with men. So I think it is different. Jigeiko against those girls was difficult and odd - I found it very hard. They seemed to be sneakier to make up for the lack of brute strength - they are happy to go for men/kote/do or any combination, I can guarentee most guys against me will go for men due to my height.

                  Id like to have graceful kendo, but at the same time Id be happy to have kendo that is "like a bloke". Im still working on basics, so its an issue I think Ill deal with much later on.

                  Geez, Im spending too much time in these forums lately....

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Most of the best women kendoka I have practiced with have trained at dojos where they had a lot of other women to practice with. Maybe it has something to do with being able to do one's "own kendo" without having to deal with male kendoka who sometimes rely too much on brute strength.

                    I think it's less of an issue when you have lots of high-ranking sensei or sempai of either sex to practice with. It's actually the lower-ranking guys who tend to rely more on brute strength/speed rather than finesse.

                    I don't know if there's a "woman's kendo" per se, but I do think women need to have other women to practice with.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Kenshi View Post
                      Of-course. But if youve a guy in your dojo called John and hes only 5ft tall and a featherweight, do you teach him "girl kendo" ???

                      I think kendo types are more to do with body-types and personality. So you certainly have categories of kendo, and males or females will generally fit into 1 or the other... but its not defined "skinny short girl kendo" and "big muscular man kendo" ... right?

                      And kihon is kihon, it has almost no regard for body shape, type, nor personality.
                      I agree with everything you say. And your comment re the 5-ft featherweight guy is also something I was going to write into my post, but forgot. Yes, I do think the 5-ft featherweight guy's kendo will evolve into something similar to the "girl kendo," except obviously no one would say it that way.

                      I think if we toss the gender labels, we are all saying the same thing.

                      One person likes to label a certain style of kendo "girl kendo," and another would rather label it "precise kendo." But we are all describeing the same style.

                      Lastly, I think when people are describing styles of kendo, they refer to jikeiko / shiai; for suburi, kihon, etc, I think everyone understands there is no difference between men / women / tall / short, etc. Manslayer's post illustrates this; her narration of scenarios focused only on sparring.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        this is a very interesting thread!

                        in fact is just what I wanted to discuss. Im gonna talk about what manslayer said, and then, my personal experience.

                        girl's kendo is endeed different then guys kendo, I had the chance o practice with Fuji sensei (woman, 6th dan) and she had a very different kendo, as you say, she wasnt much about hiki or using strenght like guys, but she had mastered distance and timing. to practice ji-geyko with her was great and she is the only person I know so far that used her shorter height and lower strenght actually as an advantage. she could kick the ass of guys buch stronger and faster than her.

                        now the personal part:

                        when I practiced with her a couple of years ago, I found her kendo great and all that, but at the moment I really didnt realized how important and what a revelation could it be a couple of years years after. and at the thime I didnt have enough kendo in me to understand it by the time I thought that strenght and speed was more important than timing.

                        this year I moved to live to another city and big city = big dojos. here there are some younger people an me (like 20-21, Im 24) that really dedicate themselves to the "fast" kendo most of them are chilean that learned kendo in japan. they have a very "sporty" way of kendo that I find great, very fast and strong, much more than me. they are the kind of people that can do kakarigeyko for million years and do not get tired at all. when I started practicing with them I thought that keeping it up was "the way to go" to practice keiko against them, I thought that with time Ill be able to adapt, and endeed I got much stronger and faster and I learned a lot of kendo with them, but not enough fast and strong to match them. then I went to nationals tournament a couple of months ago, and my first shiai was against the strongest and fastest of this guys, and he kicked my ass. I personally never got to win a medal in a tournament, but I always get to pass the first rounds, Ive never got dispatched in the first round, not even in my first tournament. and what the hell! some of this guys are much stronger and faster than me and Ive been doing kendo for at least 1 or 2 more years than them! so what the hell!?!?!?!

                        this made me think that I was in the wrong strategy, trying to match the fast and strong guys in their own field is never going to work. then I watched this:

                        51th Tozai Taikai Women's highlights

                        and I remembered all that Fuji sensei told me years ago and I didnt understood at the time and now IT ALL MAKES SENSE. I found that the girs kendo is SO ELEGANT and greacefull, I think that learning about how timing and distance management is SO much important than being fast and strong that Im adding some (or as much as I can) of that to my kendo. at the beginning it was very hard becouse I got my ass kicked badly, but with time I started to understand how things goes. I think that it will be many years and many Im gonna recieve lots of hits in the head until I learn to fight like that, or to REALLY and deeply understand what timing means. I think that now in my 20s strong and hard kendo is fine I can push myself hard without having much trouble, other than sweat. but when im im my 50s or 60s I wont be able to and I wanna still be doing kendo...

                        I think that the ultimate goal of kendo isnt winning a match, but the goal of a shiai is to win it, and trough winning (and loosing) you can achieve greater and deeper understanding of it, so having an strategy to actually win matches is very important and that each one must use their habilities and strenghts to do so. as strong and fast people use their strenght and speed to win, or as Fuji sensei use her timing or whatever everyone can use as their strenghts as an advantage, I realized that the "fast and strong" kendo isnt always the best way to go and fighting with someone else's rules in someone else's battlefield is a dumb thing to do.
                        Last edited by Inner_Silence; 4th July 2008, 12:28 AM.

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                        • #13
                          That highlight video just shows good kendo..

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                          • #14
                            of course things havent changed becouse of the video, things have changed becouse Im starting to understand what we talked with Fuji sensei a couple of years ago and what she tried to make me realize.

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                            • #15
                              For sake of dispelling some of my ignorance, perhaps one of you could clear up what must be a misconception of mine: I can understand strength, but why should a woman be at any disadvantage at all in terms of using energy the way everyone has been suggesting? In my (quite limited) exposure to female kendoka, I haven't noticed any correlation between gender and speed/energy/endurance at all?

                              For that matter, why are kendo tournaments separated by gender at all when strength and size are less directly relevant determinants of success than gender neutral traits?

                              I probably sound like an idiot right now and am missing some important factor, but at least this way I'll find out what it is...

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