From my limited experience, kendo in Japan is a fairly egalitarian pursuit, attracting tradesmen, company workers, their wives and children and of course the professionals from the police and university factions. It also attracts some of the leaders of Japanese society.
Whether this is due to kendo’s samurai heritage or because Japan’s senior universities all have thriving kendo clubs is beyond me. It might be because many government departments and leading businesses, METI and Mitsubishi for example, have their own dojo that encourages the continued practice of kendo amongst Japan’s movers and shakers, but it could be argued that this is a function of effect rather than cause.
I can think of numerous government ministers and industry leaders who are active in kendo. In fact the current President of the AJKF, Cho Fujio who is honorary Chairman of Toyota recently took over from Takeyasu Yoshimitsu a former government minister. Probably the most senior kendoka in recent history was the late Hashimoto Ryutaro, former Prime Minister of Japan.
It could be argued that kendo either attracts successful people or that its practise develops habits that lead to success, but I wonder how this relates to those of us outside Japan who do not have the same cultural legacy. Any sport tends to attract competitive people and there are numerous examples of athletes who go on to become successful entrepreneurs, or build business or political careers. In most cases their concentration of effort tends to move from one to the other in that they focus exclusively on sport in their early years and then switch their energy to their working life.
Where kendo differs from other sports is that its pursuit can continue into old age, so it makes demands on time that might be added to the hours invested in work. Of course many career focused individuals take time out for the gym, but thirty minutes on the treadmill can be squeezed into the busiest schedule, whereas kendo training takes place at set times and dates and very often entails time spent travelling to the dojo.
For those of us who train regularly, this can equate to a considerable time investment. My own kendo activities take up between 8 and 10 hours per week, which if added to my consultancy time sheet would account for another day’s income. Still I am totally convinced that the de-stressing benefits of kendo can keep us sane enough to continue making the most of our working lives. I am interested to learn your thoughts on the subject. Would you be more or less successful with or without kendo?