We had a disappointing day on Saturday. Having booked a venue for a taikai we were moved at the last minute to another venue because of a double booking. When we got there, we found that the floor was solid concrete with a thin vinyl coating which meant the shiai did not happen.
Clearly concrete is an unacceptable surface for kendo, but thinking about it I have practiced on a lot of surfaces that have not been much better!
Traditional Japanese dojo floors are of course ideal for kendo and no matter how old or dilapidated the building, the floor always seems to give the right amount of bounce to make fumikomi painless. In some cases dojo floors seem to improve with age, as witnessed by the example of the late Noma dojo. A number of similar facilities have been lost in recent years. The old Oji dojo in Kobe was replaced by a magnificent multi-purpose gymnasium and although kendoka no longer had to change outside or be at the mercy of the winter winds as they blew through the open walls, the original floor was sadly missed.
Certainly in the UK, we are limited to whatever floors we are able to rent at our local schools or sports centres. All of these are designed for sports played in trainers. At best, we have sprung basketball courts at worst solid hardwood or composite surfaces. These I am sure, account for the high incidence of foot and knee injuries suffered.
I never experienced problems of this kind in Japan but having returned to the UK, soon developed plantar fasciitis. After years of treatment I moved on to various other achilles and knee troubles. At times, I feel that I am personally supporting the rubber industry through my ongoing investment in knee and ankle supports.
Of course I could try to do kendo without full-on fumikomi, but until I reach 70, I will try to keep that option for the future.
Here’s a picture of the old Noma floor