Thinking back to my distant days as a student, I remember wading through a book entitled “Finance for non Accountants”. Picking up on the perceptions of kendo amongst people who have not tried it themselves, a similar “Kendo for non Kendoka” might be of value. Strangely enough, practitioners of other martial arts often have the most distorted view of kendo. A friend who was fairly advanced in one of the “harder” schools of karate told me, “you guys are nuts, the way you beat the living cr-p out of each other with sticks”. Another kick boxing, MMA competitor in his twenties, explained that kendo looked “far too fast for me”.
It is only on probing deeper into what they have seen of kendo, that I realise they have witnessed demonstrations of what you or I would not class as real kendo. Although now with youtube, anyone can see the real thing, but it is easier to find if you know what you are looking for.
What many people have seen, are demonstrations at non kendo events, where folk who do not know the basics thrash away at each other; typically wearing kendo equipment in their own unique way. Often the demonstrators are very able martial artists, but unfortunately, kendo is not their major. This is also true of some of the film and TV portrayals of the art. There is a great scene from one of the James Bond films, (I can’t remember which one), where a would be assassin, bundled up in kendogu smashes up a range of inanimate objects. This is nearly as funny as the old Inspector Clueseau film scene, featuring Kato (pronounced Kayto),who shows a similar level of wanton vandalism.
Ther are of course exceptions in the film industry. One that comes to mind is Kataoka sensei of New York, who is both an accomplished actor and an excellent nanadan kendoka. Unfortunately he never seems to play the kendo part, he was the non kendoka son, of kendo playing policeman, Takakura Ken in Black Rain.
So suggestions would be welcome on how we educate the general public on what is kendo. We could emulate the beer lovers CAMRA, (Campaign for Real Ale), with a Campaign for Real Kendo; but the acronym does not work. We could go with my book idea, or we could get some of the better looking kendoka to try for a career in Hollywood. Maybe we should just work on the basis that ignorance is bliss, and admit only those that wait for a few days outside the dojo door. Come to think of it though, I have still got a soft spot for Kendo Nagasaki.