As the kendo versus Iai debate has continued, I have given way to popoular demand by posting the two image polls below. The output from these should help sociologists, anthropologists and sports scientists reach a definitive understanding of how practitioners of the two arts regards each other.
The polls have been scientifically designed by Kendoinfo’s crack team of behavioural scientists and statisticians and meet the standards of objectivity and rigour insisted upon by national governments.
Please think carefully before choosing an option, whilst the purpose of these polls is to understand what you truly think. The future harmonious relationship of these kindred martial arts depends on the choice you make today.
Much encouraged by the healthy debate surrounding my “Why I hate Iai” post. I thought it worth throwing the subject out in the true spirit of democracy, that recent speakers at BKA meetings have assured us that people have “fought and died for” . So here is the chance for you to make your views known.
PS. If anyone can be arsed to fill this in, there may well be a follow up on the types of individual attracted by Iai and Kendo.
Last year the British Kendo Association was hijacked by a group of power hungry Iai players. In the true British spirit of protest I slightly raised an eyebrow at the time. Now I hear from my crack team of ninja informers that there are suggestions in place for every kendo member to learn some Iai. Well, in the words of my wife’s old dance teacher “I would rather do the splits over a blow lamp”.
To be honest I did try Iai in Japan, to please a teacher who taught both kendo and iai. A CV of my Iai career reads thus: 6.45 pm reported for practise – 7.00 with difficulty managed to stuff Iaito into hakama, pausing to adjust so the saya was on the outside – 7.05 attempted standing rei and iaito fell out of saya denting pristine dojo floor – 7.10 sensei suggested that I leave the dojo, eat a bowl of noodles and return for kendo practise – 7.30 enjoyed bowl of kitsune udon – 8.30 returned to dojo and practised kendo without further incident – 10.30 retired for drinks with sensei – 11.30 promised not to try iai again – 12.00 had another drink to seal deal. 12.30 – missed last train home – 1.00 a.m took taxi home at cost of JPY 30,000
Perhaps slightly scarred by this experience, I have watched Iai on a number of occasions since and not had even the slightest desire to try. I know a number of people suggest that, if you practise kendo you must do iai, or vice versa, but to my mind, you may as well add ikebana, sado or origami. Some of reasons I feel no connection with Iaido are as follows:
Kendo requires a minimum of two people, as does lovemaking – Iai requires one, (read into that what you will)
Iai requires you to dress up in silky clothes and strike poses
Iai shiai (is that the correct term?) have the winners decided by vote, rather like ice skating
Whereas even stopping for water is frowned on in kendo, Iai allows for the intake of tea and biscuits
As a fan of “sweaty workouts”, I would miss having to wring out my keikogi
Do not get me wrong. I can see the value of Iai when it comes to drawing and putting away the mogito, as part of Kendo-no-kata, but the idea of turning up for seitei iai is not for me.
I just got back from teaching at the Norwegian Martial Arts Association Summer Camp in Mandal. This event is unusual in that it attracts students from many different martial arts. This year there were instructors teaching various schools of Karate and Jujutsu, Kung Fu, Kick Boxing, Judo, Aikijutsu, Escrima, Krav Maga and some I didn’t recognise. I was there to teach Kendo and Rene van Amersfoort from Holland taught Jodo and Iaido.
Apart from the attraction of being held in a pretty seaside town and having a dojo within walking distance of the beach, many of the martial artists come because it is a chance to practice disciplines other than their own. This happened constantly with people from one “body art” trying another. From a spectators perspective there are obvious similarities between most self defence forms regardless of their country of origin and many of them use weapons in a way that fits naturally with the structure of their “bare hands” forms. Kendo however really appears to be out on a limb, having no obvious connection with most other arts.
You can argue of course that the principle of blocking for kirikaeshi is similar to the way people block in Karate and that we push from the tanden in taiatari like in the body arts, but visually Kendo appears to be out on its own. The linear footwork, the requirement to go through after attacking men, the unique use of sonkyo, all make Kendo look very different.
At the end of the day on Saturday, each group presented a demonstration to the whole camp. Kendo, with all its inherent bashing and crashing and loud kiai was very well received as I had expected. I then watched Rene’s Jodo and Iaido demonstrations which were extremely impressive. The fact that we shared a number of students between the Kendo and Jodo sessions underlined the similarity between these sword arts.
Rene then went on to present a Karate demonstration and suddenly you could see points of similarity between Karate and Iai and Jo. I wonder is that the link. Do people who practice the body martial arts get interested in Iai and Jo to improve their weapons skills and if so is there a further migration to Kendo. I really don’t know the answer. I would be interested to know how people reading this blog got started in whichever arts they now practice. Anyway here is the official line up from the Mandal Camp.