One of my early posts when I started this blog, lamented the fact that the All Japan Kendo Federation Kyoshi shogo could only be gained through a written examination in Japanese, http://wp.me/stBQt-kyoshi. Since then the wheels have slowly been turning and from November of this year the examination can be taken in English as well.
Some countries including the U.S.A and Germany have developed their own shogo system and do not see this as particularly exciting news, but for British kendoka who are reliant on the International Kendo Federation for grade and shogo recognition, this is a major move towards equality with our Japanese counterparts.
Personally, having held Renshi for 12 years and 7th dan for nearly 5, I welcome the opportunity to develop my kendo career, but as they say “be careful what you wish for”.
I was recommended as a suitable candidate to take the examination by my peers in the British Kendo Association earlier this month and the appropriate paper work has been sent off to Japan. The difference between the new systems and the old, (Kyoshi was formerly open to non-Japanese kendoka by recommendation alone), is that now, Kyoshi examinees need to go to Tokyo to physically take the exam. So this November I will have the pleasure of meeting old friends in Tokyo and getting some great keiko opportunities, but the main business of the visit will be a 3 hour written examination.
The AJKF, have provide a detailed briefing document covering the examination questions and the relevant reading list, so I know what is expected of me. I have sent off and received my order from their online bookshop and I am now wading through the latest edition of Guidelines for Kendo Shiai and Shinpan, Training methods for Fundamental Kendo Techniques with a Bokuto, Nippon Kendo Kata Instruction Manual and the new Official Guide for Kendo Instruction. The latter is brand new and is a really well thought out book, excellently translated by Alex Bennett.
Looking at the subject matter it is clear that the emphasis of the exam is not just on technique, but there is a strong need for candidates to demonstrate knowledge of the philosophical aspects of kendo. Most importantly, the examination seems to looking for evidence of understanding of reiho or reigi saho, (the demonstration of etiquette) and its contribution to developing the whole person.
With application and registration fees, (if I manage to pass) and the cost of a trip to Japan, the new Kyoshi exam has to be taken seriously by applicants. I like the fact however that the content of the exam sets out to measure that instructors have the same depth of knowledge about all aspects of kendo regardless of where they live. Now I just have to ensure that I keep reading and revising and get the questions right on the day.