Whereas I was drawn instantly and obsessively to kendo from the first time I saw it, none of my family feel the same. That’s not because they are not sporty. My wife spends as much time in fitness and dance classes as I spend in the dojo. My daughter works for a well known golf club and my grandson fits school work in between football, golf, tennis and swimming, but none of them show the slightest interest towards kendo. Fortunately they all treat my addiction to kendo with a level of good natured tolerance.
I have always been intrigued by the motivation of my fellow kendoka, particularly by those like me, who chose kendo when it is obviously not part of our own cultural heritage. Over time I have run a number of polls from this blog site, including a survey on “Why did you start to learn kendo?” To be honest, the answers were not particularly illuminating, but this may be more a function of my lack of skill as a pollster. The three most common answers were:
- An interest in Japanese culture
- A good way to keep fit
- As an addition to other budo study.
Numbers 1 and 3 make sense to me, but the second answer could apply to any other form of exercise. It interests me more to understand what keeps people coming back to kendo week after week for many years; in some cases for a lifetime. Of course there are some elements that would be common to other sports or pastimes such as the support and friendship of a social group, but I believe that the long-term motivation to continue kendo is often based on a desire for personal growth that is to my mind, unique to kendo.
Kendo is “shugyo” – a long path that leads to self improvement and self fulfilment. Now after 40 or so years of keiko, I feel that I am starting to get some of the basics established, but the current challenge is in adapting my own technique to an ageing body. At the same time I want to be the best motodachi I can be, whilst continuing to stretch myself. So inspired by the advice of Mochida sensei, I am trying to strengthen my “ki” to make up for physical decline.
Kendo’s other attraction for me is that it requires us to suspend conscious thought and commit ourselves on a purely physical level.
Whilst it is interesting to analyse how and why we do things, reflecting on kendo, reading and comparing ideas with others needs to be done outside the dojo. The formula making the most of our keiko time is simple – turn up, listen to sempai and sensei, do your best to practice energetically and correctly and try to encourage others.