I have had a few days rest from work and kendo due to a tummy bug, so am feeling a little more reflective than usual. I re-read an article by Inoue Yoshihiko sensei on Kendo and Love. In this very erudite article, Inoue sensei examines through kendo and budhist philosophy, the way we evolve through kendo training to make a positive contribution to society.
I do not consider myself remotely qualified to comment on teaching that is based on such a depth of practical and philosophical kendo knowledge, but I started to think whether or not we are starting to lose some of the spiritual and moral values of kendo along with the older generation of kendo teachers.
The fact that I am even writing this, is indicative that I think we are, but that is from my perspective as a westerner who does not read Japanese. I suppose a question that has been at the back of my mind for a long time is – Was modern kendo formulated to foster a love of mankind, (as the mission statement says), or did someone do a great job of creating a rationale for a now irrelevant form of sword play?
Having practised kendo for 40 years and with the firm intention of continuing to do so until I am no longer able, I do of course, believe that I gain a great deal of mental and physical benefit from regular keiko, but it is impossible to say whether or not I am a better person for it.
Thanks to the internet, there is now much more English language kendo information available. Having said that, much of it is either news about kendo events or discussions on technique. What is missing is the philosophical element! This is probably due to the fact that most of the people putting information out on blogs and web sites, (me included), are not qualified to discuss the more esoteric aspects of kendo. There is also the zen conundrum that you do not reach a state of “no mind” by thinking about it.
What does seem clear is that as kendo grows in popularity, particularly in the West, it is moving more towards sport and further away from traditional budo. By joining GAISF and with the requirement for drug testing at the 14WKC, we appear to be going in the same direction as Judo. My only hope is that through this evolution, we do not lose the discipline and Reiho that separates kendo from other sports.
Inoue Yoshihiko sensei pictured above