I was asked this week about the qualities I look for in kendo students and the answer is persistence. I seriously believe that without this quality, nobody would get to the end of the average 6 or 8 week beginner course without throwing in the towel.
I would hate to be a beginner again. With hindsight, I only managed to progress through that stage myself because of an inflated sense of my own ability and bloody mindedness. Unlike other martial arts where you learn a basic technique on day one and can sort of manage to throw or punch someone immediately, with kendo you have to do months of drills, (years in some dojo), before you can put on bogu and have a decent scrap.
Of course I understand the reasons why. To start jigeiko without good basics will hamper a kendoka’s future development and it would be just plain dangerous for his or her training partners. Still I take my hat off to anyone who can survive months of suburi and footwork practice, without having looked through the bars of a men.
You have probably gathered that I do not often teach beginners. I much prefer working with people who have developed the basics and want to move on. On the occasions when I have taught new students, I have been astounded to learn that not only have most of them not tried kendo before, they have never actually seen it. Instead their inspiration has come from manga or samurai movies or even the light sabre moves in Star Wars. No surprise then, that after a few weeks of “mae, ato, migi, hidari”, when the realization dawns that they are not going to turn into Tom Cruise or Luke Skywalker, they hand back their shinai and join the Salsa class.
Whatever the motivation to start, there are a small percentage of like minded lunatics who survive the initial tedium and keep going long enough to be bitten by the kendo bug. If you are one of them, you can now be officially classed as kendo kichigai , (kendo crazy) – congratulations!