Every year, the kendo community in Aomori conducts two tachikiri events. Tachikiri is often rendered in English as “stand all the way training.” Even has a long time practitioner of kendo, the first time I got to witness tachikiri keiko, I would have been tempted to describe it as “loser stays in” kendo training. Essentially what goes on in a tachikiri event is an individual is selected to take on multiple opponents in succession. The exact protocol for the event differs from location to location in Japan. In Aomori there is a younger person’s tachikiri in which two opponents take on thirty six opponents, and on a second occasion during the year, a senior tachikiri in which an older motodachi takes on twenty-four opponents. In this article, I will describe the protocols for these events and share the lessons I learned as an observer and participant (kakarite) in this unusual, lesser-known form of kendo training.
“Motomereba Mugendai” (求めれば無限大) is my favorite Kendo book. It is a small, easily readable book composed of 100 short essays on Kendo training and leadership topics. One of the things I like about it (in addition to the uncomplicated, straightforward word choice and sentence structure) is the way the author has divided the book in to chapters based on the themes of the essays. The first two chapters are devoted to the practitioner’s personal technical and spiritual development. The third chapter is focused on advice for the kenshi as an instructor. The last chapter is for parents, both those with children already practicing Kendo, and those considering encouraging their children to start.
Some of the advice is highly Japan-centric (such as one vignette in which the author posits that people with dyed hair shouldn’t be put in leadership positions). But anyone doing Kendo should enjoy this book. I re-read a page or two every few days. The book is beneficial to me because I am wrestling with my own challenges as a student and junior instructor, and hope soon to be a Kendo parent as well. I don’t believe that a translation exists yet, so I have included some of my own translations of my favorite passages below.
From chapter 1, which is entitled “When you start practicing Kendo, so that your efforts will yield results”
Essay 5: If you want to become strong, develop two rivals
One’s approach to keiko is very different depending one whether or not one has a rival. This is particularly true if there is a person to whom one does not want to lose. When your rival is from your own dojo, and is always in sight, you never let you can’t get lax. When your rival is in another dojo, since you can’t see what he is up to, you can’t get lax because you are always concerned that he or she might be working harder than you. So it makes sense to have a rival both inside and outside of your dojo.