My first visit to Hizen Dojo. The first thing that hits me is the incredible noise – yelling, the constant clash of bamboo, the thumps of people stamping the floor and running around. It seems to be one chaotic heaving mass of blue uniforms, waving sticks and weird masks. The Sensei says that I picked a good evening as he is on the side a lot due to grading. I ask lots of questions and he is very helpful, although I have to strain to hear what he’s saying. Everyone in uniform seems to be enjoying themselves and there’s a good atmosphere – even though the T shirted beginners look a little whistful and forlorn as they go through drills with their bamboos. However, I feel very disappointed. It all looks kind of crude, people just thrashing each other. No fancy moves, no “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” type stuff. Mainly I feel disappointed at myself, that I don’t like the look of it – because by now I am solidly determined to give it a very good go no matter what – and when I decide something I’m normally unbudgeable. The next few days it occurs to me that perhaps it didn’t look like much because they are students. I hunt for video clips of professionals and immediately feel much better – now THAT’S more like it! The explosive action! Plenty of moves! I am hugely relieved and looking forward to throwing myself into it. Normal excercise bores me so much I can’t stick it, but with Kendo I know that the cultural aspects will keep me interested. This is what I’ve dreamt of for years – a sport that I can enjoy and get deeply involved in.
A new gym opens in my street. Maybe since it’s two steps up the road I might actually go? I visit, and two drop dead trendy young black guys busting with enthusiasm nearly persuade me to take up boxing. Boxing! As I go out a gaudy leaflet catches my eye, especially the word “Kenjutsu” and pics of people wielding swords. I have a life-long fascination with all things Eastern and particularly Japanese – dating from c.age 5 when I insisted that I was Japanese (or Indian – I wasn’t totally sure but I WAS sure that no way was I English) and age 6/7 when I started Judo. I went to a class and enjoyed it. The experienced people in the back were actually waving real swords around and it looked cool. But, my inner detective came out and started googling. What Ryu might they be? Which Master taught them first? I came up with nothing, just their site again and again. There seemed to be no forum on Kenjutsu but the nearest thing was a Kendo forum – Kendo World. I asked for advice there, and was skillfully deviated towards Kendo as my goal after deciding that Iaido was perhaps not the thing. Next step – go and see a class. I was deeply disappointed that the gym didn’t work out, but amazingly I found out that Kendo was also happening reasonably close by where I live. And this dojo was ultra Kosher, the teacher an above-board 6th Dan. Excellent!
This is my kendo diary – a record of what I learn along the way. If you wanted to read mainly about techniques and tournaments, a sort of dry “sempai X taught me xwaza, I did it in tournament y against z and won – hooray!” this is not the place for you. On the other hand, if you too are feeling a certain pleasant anticipation about your kendo journey (with mixed in some nervousness perhaps…) and want to see how someone else felt… for inspiration, for support, or even for “good – now I know what NOT to do!” then you are in the right place.