Drinking and Kendo seems to go hand in hand. Whilst there are some notable exceptions, (Arima sensei sensei for one), most kendoka enjoy the occasional beverage.
Many of my kendo friendships began in the dojo but took shape in the pub and most of my theoretical kendo education has taken place over an after keiko drink.
Drinking after kendo was often referred to as dai ni dojo or “second dojo” and seen as an integral part of kendo. Although a common practice in most parts of the kendo world, it has been refined to an art form in Japan, home of the nomikai. University kendo clubs in Japan all have a strong drinking culture and most have “down in one” drinking games and rituals. This ethos continues into salaryman life and I know kendoka who whilst too busy with work to train, still turn up for the drinks at OB kai reunions.
My first indication that alchohol played such an important part in kendo culture was during my first visit to the Kyoto Taikai in the 70s. Not only did morning practice smell strongly of sake, I was impressed to watch two elderly sensei polish off a large bottle of sake directly after morning practice, before taking a nap on the grass outside the Butokuden at 9.00 a.m.
When it comes to pure stamina and capacity, police kendoka seem in a league of their own, as anyone who has had the experience of drinking with some of the keshicho sensei will verify. I and a colleague were taken to lunch following a practice at the Imperial Palace Dojo and needed to get to a hotel room to recover, whilst our host went back for the afternoon session.
The best example of an unruffled approach to drinking was a recent excursion to a Chiyoda-ku bar with Chiba sensei. He and I were in the process of carrying a friend who let’s say was suffering from jetlag, to a nearby taxi rank when a group of sensei’s fans asked for his autograph. He put his end of the casualty down on the bonnet of parked car, signed the proferred books before retaking hold and continuing on to the waiting cab. And no one batted an eyelid.