A number of people have confessed that they were drawn to kendo after reading books by Eric Van Lustbader or Trevanian who ‘s works featured heroes who had developed supernatural powers from their studies of the martial arts. This romanticised view was not limited to a few western authors. Japanese mythology also accredited supernatural power to the “Way of the Sword”. More recently manga have continued to give kendo this sword and sorcery image.
I believe that there is a grain of truth in most legends. When you consider the ability of elderly kendo teachers to dominate younger, fitter opponents with the power of their minds (kizeme) it’s easy to realise that kendo transcends the purely physical.
Having thought for some time to see if my 45 years of kendo practice have given me any superhuman abilities, I realised that I am able to stay sitting comfortably in my morning commuter train seat while my fellow travellers fight their way to the exit, and I still beat most of them onto the Bakerloo line. Now I appreciate that this does not compare with the ability to levitate, as seen in many Hong Kong Kung fu movies, or the power to make birds fall from the trees at the sound of your kiai, but it’s a start.
On a more serious note, I believe that kendo does help develop the ability to stay calm under pressure, to strive when the odds are against you, to be confident yet modest and that empathy and fighting spirit can go hand in hand. Where I am not clear is whether these attributes are unique to kendo, or if they are as easily learned from other martial arts or team sports. I am also unclear as to how long it takes to acquire these qualities.
I am also interested to know whether physical mastery and mental development proceed at the same speed. Can you become a physical expert who does not grasp the nuances of kendo philosophy and vice versa? I have heard people give very well thought out rationales on the deeper meaning of kendo before they have acquired basic hand and foot co-ordination.
I would really like to hear your comments on whether kendo has changed you as a person and if so in what way. How long it took to make any appreciable change in your personality and whether you think that change would or would not have happened if you did not practice kendo. If you have learned to levitate or bend spoons without touching them, please tell me about it.