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.