I returned yesterday from my third kendo visit this year to the Republic of Ireland. This time I was responsible for leading a three day seminar in Dublin. I have been involved with Irish kendo for a number of years, in the past supporting Yanai sensei, who took a particular interest in kendo development in Eire, and attending with other UK sensei as a referee and grading panellist. Throughout my whole experience there, I have been impressed with the enthusiasm and consistent improvement shown by the whole group.
Ireland is a relatively small country with a population of just over 6 million. Kendo is centred in Dublin and Cork with outposts in Kildare and Galway. Both Cork and Dublin however are remarkably cosmopolitan, with professionals and academics from around the world attracted to the high-tech businesses and universities and the membership of the Irish kendo population reflects this. I have met members from Bangladesh, Denmark, France, Finland, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Italy, Poland, Spain and The Ukraine. Somehow this small but eclectic group are always motivated to make the most of their kendo experience.
In the UK, where we have a bigger, although far from enormous kendo population; we are used to having things organised for us. In Ireland the view seems to be, if you want it to happen, you need to make it happen yourself. This spirit combined with a real appetite for kendo and traditional Irish friendliness and hospitality, ensures a packed calendar of competitions, seminars and training sessions with an equally packed schedule of attendance at overseas events.
This time I was most impressed by the high level of motivation shared by new members: although still not in bogu, most of the new Dublin beginners attended all three days of my seminar and worked even harder than their seniors. I can only attribute this to the contagious enthusiasm of the more experienced members and the fact that people are not just involved with each other in the dojo. They are a group of friends who practice and socialise together regularly. Spending a few days there, makes even jaded kendoka like me, get swept away in their tide of enthusiasm.