The effect keiko has on the character of its practitioners

As it is said that ‘the eyes can speak as well as the mouth,’ it must follow that the language of the eyes is delicate and subtle. French philosopher Georges-Luis Leclerc de Buffon stated that ‘words’ express the character of man; an insightful remark. The sword is also considered to reveal the character of the person wielding it and as such, each person has their own individual kendo style. Courageous people, cowardly people, honest people; everyone’s character is reflected in their swordplay. The character of instructors will be passed onto their students as well. It is important to learn under a good teacher of virtuous character, for even the simple act of exchanging blows with a shinai can influence students in many ways. Among the lessons of kendo, there is a teaching that ‘if the soul is just, the sword is also just.’ This teaching is deeply connected to the path of discipline and is a kind of warning against unjust thought and skills.

The above quote* is from a book entitled “ken no michi” by Horigome Keizo hanshi. Horigome hanshi was born in 1921 in Miyazaki prefecture and graduated from Busen. After a career as a high school teacher he moved on to become a police kendo teacher, winning the hachidan senbatsu taikai in 1977, and eventually being awarded kyudan.

Although the paragraph presented here is really short, I believe that it is jam-packed with insight and – to an extent – warnings.

* The translation here I found by chance in a recently published book entitled “Kendo is my philosophy” by Miyazaki Masatake (this book isn’t a pure kendo book by any means, but those interested in it can get it here).

悠久 剣の道を尋ねて (剣道時代ブックレット) [単行本]。堀篭 敬蔵。
Kendo is my philosophy. Miyazaki Masatake. Published 2010.

By George

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4 replies on “The effect keiko has on the character of its practitioners”

Through years of kendo I have realized that practice – expecially ji-geiko and shiai-geiko – is the revealer of the character of a person.
With time and experience you can feel if the person you are practicing with has a straight heart and an honest attitude. You can feel it. That’s why with some individuals I feel uneasy at training or doing ji-geiko. Because sometimes I perceive that their only interest is to show me that they are better than me; they are uncaring of others, and won’t even let you train properly to reach their goals: not opening the targets correctly or avoiding to be hit during waza-geiko.

So, from my low-level point of view, “if the soul is just, the sword is also just” is a great truth and lesson to everybody living kendo as a means to personal progression.

Just received the book and have skimmed the section on Narasaki sensei, who is a very interesting yet problematic figure in kendo. Just started school holidays so hoping to spend some time reading through it this week. b

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