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Small things

Sometimes I come across people in the dojo that have a certain sense of ‘something.’ This is nothing to do with physical ability per se, but more to do with their manner, how they naturally move, and the way that they approach keiko. Often, its hard to say what exactly makes them look (feel?) good, but for the sake of this small article I will try and verbalise – from my perspective – what some of these things may be.

This list is of course completely arbitrary, and I don’t go into full explanations exactly…. allowing you to construct your own interpretations. Feel free to add to or discuss points raised here in the comments (on the site or facebook).


1. A respectful demeanor in the dojo

This generally means not being loud, noisy, or attempting to be the center of attention, but arriving and preparing for keiko quietly and without fuss.

2. Awareness of their place in the dojo

This ‘place’ is physical position and role, as well who you are in relation to others. People with the sense I speak of above know that anything below kyoshi is still ‘student’ and – even if they are hanshi, they never put on airs.

3. Appropriate instruction

Teaching happens infrequently and without overly verbose instruction. Although kendo has a certain mainstream ‘style’ nowadays, its traditionally a no-no to instruct people that aren’t your students.

4. Learning from the person in front of you

If you are in a sensei’s line, waiting to do keiko with him/her, are you actually watching their kendo or are you looking at other sensei on the left and right?

5. Wearing the dogi/bogu correctly

Some people simple look right wearing their dogi and bogu. This has nothing to do with the value of it or how fashionable it is, but the way it fits their body.

6. Attention paid to receiving

Stress on becoming a good motodachi is something that sets some kenshi apart from run-of-the-mill people.

7. Meaningful rei (Sonkyo)

Performing bows and going into sonkyo sincerely are important parts of the kendo tradition. Any contraction (or removal) of them is to negate an important part of kendo’s culture, and is the start of kendo’s relegation to mere ‘stick fighting.’

8. The shinai as a symbolic sword

The shinai is not actually a sword, but it does (or is meant to) symbolise one. The people I mention above often (not always) pay attention to some/a combination of the following items:

a. placement of the left thumb when in taito;
b. an emphasis on the importance of shotachi;
c. show awareness of the use of hasuji and shinogi during various waza.

9. Humility

There is no shame in being struck and admission of it is not a weakness. Instead, we should be happy for our opponent. Kendo – if it can teach us only a single thing – then hopefully it will be humility.

10. Mutual respect and gratitude

Theres nothing better than having a fierce keiko with someone and coming away smiling. Why would we want it any other way?


There’s a lot more I could potentially add to this list (I have some in mind right now), but I will leave it there.

Kendo is physically and mentally hard but most people, given time, can get over the initially awkwardness and get somewhat proficient. However (and this happens more often that we’d like to admit), no matter how skilled some become, their kendo still lacks ‘something.’ So you hit me, now what? In the dojo they may be strong, but outside it their skill counts for little. What a waste of effort for nothing.

The 10 items that I listed above are what I have recognised in others, its not about what I do. I admit that I do try to act in this manner, but I’m very much a work-in-progress. I hope something in this article has some resonance with you! Cheers.

18 Comments

  1. Dear George,
    Thank you for this small reminder. Because kendo is a way of life, all these things transfer to everyday living. I have yet to become consistent or master them of course but, I remind myself that they are truly important. The role of motodachi in particular is something I have given a lot of thought to lately in the dojo as well as outside. I became aware of its affect just recently in a conversation I was having with someone and realized how important it is to be a good motodachi in my daily life. It’s funny to me that I never thought of it that way before. I suppose that means I’m developing? Anyway, thanks for what you do.

  2. I don’t really do anything really Patrick, save ramble!!!!
    Glad you found it of interest.

  3. George, thank you so much for verbalizing this! In particular points #3, 7 & 10 are common things that I have commonly witnessed as not being observed lately, by people who “should know better”! However, I try to remember my place and just get on with my own kendo anyway, especially getting used to point #9 in a general sense.

    I used to wonder what my senpai meant when on occasion he said “don’t be afraid to be hit”, internally I would think “but I’m not afraid, it doesn’t hurt anyway”… after some years now I think I finally get it. Anyone can block, deflect and osae all through jigeiko; but it doesn’t help you to improve your own kendo or your partner’s IMO.

    Unrelated, but I had sunscribed to the RSS feeds (or at least I thought so) from kenshi247 but don’t seem to be alerted to new articles. Could you consider using a widget like Salmon sensei’s where I can simply enter my email address for all new articles?

  4. Hey, thanks for commenting as usual!!

    Is the RSS feed not working????
    All articles are also posted to facebook and twitter as well ….

  5. I’m not sure, it seems my only options are to add to my iGoogle page (which I don’t even know how to access), or Google reader (which I don’t use). I am subscribed/friend etc on FB, but the new post alerts don’t seem to come up often in my own homepage, or rather get buried in other stuff. Whereas, I subscribed via my email address to Geoff Salmon’s and Wayne Muromoto’s blogs and every new article comes straight into my inbox, and therefore straight into my hands. Here, I manually come and check but I realise this is down to my lack of knowedge of cyber things and the way I have set up things, I’m just no sure how to change it.

  6. You can always check the facebook page whenever you want I guess. The reader thing really should be no problem…… You can always save the page to your phones display!!!

    I’ll see about adding an email thing soon.

  7. I’ll try the reader and see how it goes. One last thing though, and I’m not sure if anyone else experiences this, is that these pages don’t size properly on my phone (Galaxy S2). It all works well through the menu until I actually go into the article, then part of the article is always off screen and irretrievable. I usually just check from a PC for this reason. Sorry to be a pain, just wanted to point it out…

  8. Yeah Andy, I know!!!!!! I’m trying to see if I can get around it. Theres an update to the theme (which should sort that out?), but I don’t want to update it unless I have time to debug afterwards… as last time it took 2 hours work !!!!!!! My long term plan is to update the theme to something a lot simpler….

  9. I’m a huge believer in all you wrote in this article.

    Kendo is so very difficult and yet there are all these “small” things that can be mastered far more easily than the physical applications of Kendo waza and such.

    Whenever I’m asked what to start with by beginners I always refer to what you’ve written here.

    Master those small things that you can first and this will build a solid foundation for your future Kendo. In essence, Kendo really does spring from what you wrote.

    Nice one.

  10. Thanks Scott, indeed him praise!!!

  11. Thanks George,

    Awesome stuff here. They are all things I strive for (and miss more often than I would like) Even though I am in the odd possition of having students, I do my best to pass these ideas on to the folks that come into kendo or are interested in what kendo is.

    Again, Thank You.

    Will

  12. Great article

    I’m translating to show to everyone in my dojo =D

    PS: What happend to number 4?? o.0

  13. Oops, wheres number 4????!?!!? And why did nobody point it out before you! hah hah ….

  14. Quick! Write it down number 4 before anyone else notice!

    Actually the first time i read it i didn’t notice either hahaha just notice now because the translation

  15. Hello George,

    This article is a very good learning material for me. Thank you very much.
    I want to ask something about “an emphasis on the importance of shotachi”.
    What is shotachi? And how does one exercise this point?
    Thank you for your time.

    Pandu

  16. shotachi ippon mean that you try to make ippon at with only one action. If you fail, there is no “try again”

  17. Slipped in a sneaky number 4 while nobody was looking… !

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