Cheers!

Thanks to everyone who grabbed a copy of Kendo Coaching Tips and Tricks since its release on Saturday 8th of October. Its been a resounding success!! In the first two days alone it sold more copies than I had imagined, and printed copies have been shipped out to at least the following countries:

USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico, Brazil, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Greece, Italy, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia… all in all about 60 different locations!!!!

I don’t have information about where digital copies end up, but I’m pretty sure it will include a few countries not on the list above.

Since its only just been released I’m sure (hoping!) that copies will continue to be shifted for the foreseeable future. In the meantime I will start to put together some articles for kenshi247 and to work on my other book projects.

Again, cheers… kampai!!!!

Its finally out!!

Its finally out!!! It only took 4 years!!!

The idea for my latest book – Kendo Coaching Tips and Drills – first came to me in August 2008. I had just returned from a short trip to Fukuoka University of Education, where I joined a bunch of British university students at a gasshuku. It was very hot and the training was hard. A large part of the trip for me was getting the chance to see and learn from my old coach and friend Honda Sotaro sensei. I stayed with him and chatted about kendo and teaching.

Watching the students struggle with the keiko I realised how unfamiliar it was for them to train in Japan… everything seemed to be new. Perhaps I took my lucky kendo situation for granted, I thought, having been in Japan for 5 years by that time. So started to think about how kendo was being taught to me and, if I ever returned to the UK, how I could possibly transmit my experience to people over there. I sat down with a pencil and some paper and began taking notes.

Little did I know that my kendo situation – and with it my entire kendo career – was about to change massively. My job was due to change in September but I didn’t conceive that I would end up in charge of a large sized high school kendo club. At first I was a bit tentative: how much of the club could I really control? Can I do what I want? Can I change things? As it worked out, I was to have almost full control of the club. What that gave me access to was a physical dojo, a lot of keiko, many chances to see other schools practise, and time to try experiment a bit. This situation continues to this day.

At the same time I also started Eikenkai, so I could try out different things with adults of varying experience levels, including visitors from outside of Japan. It was all coming together.

So in the last 4 years I’ve developed my own ‘style’ of teaching. I’m happy to report that its nothing out of the ordinary… I’m very orthodox!!! This book, I hope, aims to put some of my experience down on paper. I sincerely hope that it ends up being a positive contribution to the kendo community at large. Fingers crossed….. !

To read more about the book, to buy, or to preview, click the image below. Cheers!

Tough kendo man

I can’t remember the first time I saw any pictures of kendo or any kendo on the TV (James Bond maybe?), but I do remember the first article I read that mentioned kendo… at least I remembered the content and which magazine it was in, but not the writer. This summer I returned to the U.K. for a holiday to see my family and friends, and was surprised to find the magazine hidden at the bottom of the box in a cupboard in my grandmothers bedroom. I was also surprised to see that the writer was none other than Dave Lowry*. Before discussing whats presented in the column, please check out an excerpt here.


Kendo-ka, the toughest individuals?

During an after-training ‘bull’ sessions years ago, my judo teammates were discussing the toughest individuals they had even encountered. One told of a Japanese judo champion who had thrown opponents so hard that, even using proper break-falls, they were knocked unconscious by the force of hitting the mat. Another recounted the abilities of a Chinese martial artist he’d met who could employ vicious foot sweeps that literally somersaulted his opponents. One guy said the toughest people he’d ever met were Special Forces personnel in Vietnam, while another insisted it was the British SAS teams.

Later, I asked my two karate teachers (editor: Japanese I assume?) about this, and unhesitatingly, they both gave the same answer. The toughest individuals they had ever encountered, they said, were elderly kendoka (sword practitioners). “A kendo man who’s in his mid-60’s and has been training for about 50 years,” one teacher told me, “can take an incredible amount of abuse.”

I have often reflected on my teachers’ words. Interesting, isn’t it, that their concept of toughness was not in how much one can dish out, but how much one can take.

[ the rest of the column goes on to talk specifically about karate ]


Although I probably disagree that kendo practitioners are tougher than SAS and Special Forces bit (see *), I do believe that some of my sensei have gone through a lot of ‘abuse’ – both physical and mental – in their (for some of them) 50+ years of training, and that they are very tough individuals.

Over beers or sitting in the dojo post-keiko I’ve heard stories of being sick in men’s, collapsing during keiko, broken arms (!), refusal of water, being forced to do kirikaeshi for hours a day everyday for a year, etc. etc. and written or video-d accounts of older sensei now passed away often tell tale of even more severe training regimes… some of which would not be tolerated by society nowadays. Theres also the fact that as you get older and gradually begin coaching/teaching, you are expected to allow yourself to be cut and tsuki-ed a lot. Compound this with the long active life-span of a serious kendo practitioner (I commonly see people in their 70s practising kendo, and the oldest person I’ve actually sparred was over 90. Theres even a ‘old-peoples kendo competition’ held every year in the Nippon Budokan, with an ‘over 100 years old’ section! I don’t think that this happens in other budo, at least to the degree that it does in kendo) and you can see what the people in the article above were perhaps getting at.

When I am teaching my students or go and visit another dojo and hear people complain that its too hot/cold and that the keiko is too hard/long, or when people moan when struck in an unarmoured place or that someone hit them too hard etc. etc., I often wonder how they would have managed practising kendo back in the day.

Serious long-term kendo practise should cultivate tough people with strong minds and bodies. If after a few years of practise you still complain when someone accidentally hits you in the wrong place, or you don’t want to go to the dojo because you are tired or its hot or whatever, then perhaps its time to reassess whether kendo is in-fact for you. Personally I believe that although I can’t go through the sometimes severe experiences that my sensei went through, I can at least position myself to do the hardest practises that I possibly can. I want to be a ‘tough kendo man’ at the end of the day!!


Sources

Traditions: The Art of Taking It, Dave Lowry. Fighting Arts International No.72, 1992

* Lowry is a popular martial arts writer whose work I gulped up as an immature martial artists. Even at that time, however, I realised that his writing was heavily over-romanticised… as it is a bit here. (That said, I hope that Mr Lowry doesn’t mind me using this excerpt… I probably have all his books he published until the mid-90s, so he’s already made his money on me!!)

2012 – UK trip

As followers of kenshi247 know, I just spent the last 3 weeks on holiday in the U.K. Mainly it was to see family and friends, and to do a bit of relaxing. The whole trip went something like this:

Osaka->London->Inverness->Orkney->Inverness->Edinburgh->London->Osaka…

In amongst all this I managed to fit some keiko in, as well as run a small kendo seminar:

1. Visited my old stomping ground of Edinburgh Kendo Club, run by Steve Bishop sensei;
2. Ran an Eikenkai-style kendo seminar in Edinburgh Scotland;
3. Visited Hizen dojo for the first time in maybe 10-12 years;
4. Popped in for a bash plus a few post-keiko beers at Tora dojo.

It was great to see old friends and to make new ones. Once the jet-lag clears and I get back to work again, I’ll start work on finishing my lastest publication before getting back to writing articles for kenshi247… your patience is appreciated!!

Cheers!