The Kendo Adventure: Part 4 Fatal Attraction to a ‘Black-belt’! I was still quite keen to join the soccer club at my new high school, but succumbed to the pressure to go “Japanese”. Kendo club it was to be, for a whole year. I meandered tentatively through the dingy school corridors for my induction after school, and arrived when the training was already in full swing. “Training starts at 16:00!” With my first visit to see what kendo was all about a few days before, Sano-sensei suggested that I aim for the lofty heights of shodan. He reckoned with a bit of hard work, thisRead More →

Ota-sensei turned 100 years of age this year. He is a graduate of the famous Budo Specialist School (Busen) kendo club, and holds the rank of 7th Dan Hanshi. Now, only people who take the 8th Dan grade first can be awarded Hanshi. Ota-sensei is Hanshi as a vestige of the pre-war ranking system in kendo where previously the Dan grades only went up to 5, and were followed by Renshi, Kyoshi, and then the highest title of Hanshi. Ota-sensei does 200 suburi (practice swings) with his katana every day without fail, and is living testament that kendo is a true lifelong pursuit for perfection.Read More →

The Kendo Adventure Part 3 – Star Wars By Alex Bennett New Zealand boasts an abundance of parks and wide open grassy spaces utilised for sports such as soccer, rugby, cricket and so on. It is unthinkable to New Zealanders to play sport on any other surface other than grass. Japan, on the other hand, has few grassed areas. Apart from golf courses, lawns are for looking at, not frolicking on. To my utter disbelief, sports at high school level are generally played on grounds of grit and gravel. Playing soccer for the school club presented the very real prospect of being scarred for lifeRead More →

The Kendo Adventure Part 2 – Out of the Frying Pan By Alex Bennett In Part 1, I wrote of my arrival in Japan for the first time in 1987 as a Rotary exchange student. The old fella with the golden teeth who met me at Narita Airport trundled me into his Mercedes and drove to downtown Chiba where my host family was waiting. The family was made up of Mum and Dad, and three children. Dad was a rice merchant, older brother was a “ronin (master-less samurai?!) studying his gonads off to get into university”, one sister was about to go to New Zealand onRead More →