The first kendo practice I ever joined

Shamu-san, Kawahara Dojo’s latest member and a complete beginner wrote an essay after his first practice. Here he shares his thoughts and impressions as an almost complete beginner. We all say:

– Warmly welcome to the Kendo Family!

– I’m Shyam Bhardwa and I’m blue like a smurf, Blue Man Group or Avatar. Kendo does strange things to you 🙂

So, for me, picking up Kendo was at first very nerve-wracking – It was a whole new world of sorts. Luckily, I found everyone at Kawahara dojo to be incredibly friendly and helpful, and after a small shopping splurge on some Kendo equipment, it was time for my first real practice on Saturday!

The shopping trip was quite an experience. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many shinai, gi and hakama in one place before! I walked in and was completely lost, but thankfully Stefan was there to point me in the right direction. It was great to finally try a shinai of my own, and trying on the gi felt refreshing in the heat – which was probably a good thing with summer coming up! Getting my name embroidered in teal was the last step, and everything was done quickly and efficiently for a very reasonable price. Now I was suited and booted, it was time to learn!

So, lesson one, when I arrived at the dojo, with everyone pumped and ready to go – how to put on my Hakama. I reckon I might have got a C if I was lucky – my first attempt was very difficult, but luckily Stefan and Mori sensei were kind enough to walk me through it once each, and I got there in the end. I was practicing with the children, who were full of energy, and it was a very welcoming environment to start in. We started with my footwork and movement, with both Sensei’s being quick to offer suggestions and demonstrations. After a few false starts, I started to get the hang of it, and from there on things went smoothly.

After some time practicing my footwork and shouting, it was nice to grab a drink of water and watch the kids spar. Their energy hadn’t gone anywhere, and they went flying for each other – it was amazing to watch. That about wrapped things up for my first practice, but the Sensei’s gave me some last tips to focus on taking forwards that I made sure to keep in mind.

So overall, I don’t think I could have asked for a better first practice – I learned a lot of good basics to get me started, and everyone was helpful and friendly, helping me pick things up much faster. I’m hoping I will be able to learn quickly and well in my future practices at Kawahara dojo!

Shyam Bhardwa, beginner at Kawahara Dojo

Thursday 28 Feb is the next Tough Day!

The 28th of February is a tribute to physical exercise. It starts out with strong keiko and ends with running. To practice with the Imperial Guards in Saineikan Dojo is always a challenge. One of this World’s most beautiful dojos and some of the strongest kendo players to walk on Japanese soil.

I can honestly say that for the first five or six years I could hardly sleep the night before practice with the Imperial Guards. It’s true what is said about Police kendo: “Police kendo is honest and strong. Sometimes honesty hurts.”

However, I must also say that even if kendo has a strong impact on your psyche, it is one of the kindest sports to your body. Bruising and blisters are cool 🙂 …and injuries are rare.

Kuniyoshi and Fujiwara sensei are both 8 dan and responsible for helping the Imperial Guard grow in their kendo. Amazing teachers with kind and friendly attitude together with strong teaching. It doesn’t matter how strong (or weak) you are, they will patiently be just a tad bit stronger than you, resulting in you trying a little bit harder 🙂

Some of the guests at the Imperial Palace and elsewhere misunderstand this and think they are stronger than the Imperial Guards. Please remember: Just because the Guards let you beat them in IPPON, doesn’t mean you’re stronger than them.

What happens after morning keiko?

After morning keiko comes lunch and after lunch it’s time for a long, brisk walk for 90 minutes in central Tokyo. It’s a beautiful time of year and not too hot. In the late evening it is time for a 6 km run.

Sleep will be deep and revitalizing.

Hope you also reward your body with Tough Days!

Our latest member, Otsuka san

28 years old, Otsuka san has decided to return to doing kendo. He reached 3 dan in high school and after high school, he quit kendo. Tonight was his first practice with us and we all enjoyed his strong, straight and very fine kendo. He is obviously a little rusty after his over 10 year hiatus, but will soon be able to get 4 dan.

Otsuka san and Mori sensei posing in front of the dojo flag.

He told us that he had a very strong 8 dan sensei in high school. It’s easy to see on his kendo that his teacher was great.

Kagami Biraki

Every year, we celebrate Kagami Biraki in Kawahara Dojo. Kagami Biraki is a Japanese traditional ceremony which literally translates to “Opening the Mirror” (from an abstinence) or, also, “Breaking of the Mochi.” You can read more about this important Japanese celebration on Wikipedia, here.

Every year we break open the special mochi and the children are extra happy 🙂

This year’s celebrating crew:

After Kagami Biraki asageiko but before the breaking of the mochi.

Mori sensei (5 dan) New Vice Chairman of Kawahara Dojo

Picure Copyright (C) Emil Byström. Mori sensei is always busy managing the dojo, the children, the parents and his fellow kendoka. Always ready to share a smile and an encouraging word.

It was with joy and happiness that we all learnt of the great news: Mori sensei was recently chosen by Suda sensei to become the Vice Chairman of the dojo. Mori sensei will surely keep motivation high, the dojo in great order and make people love kendo even more.

Congratulations to Mori sensei and we’re all looking forward to the fruit that surely will be harvested from Suda sensei’s wise choice.