As a lifelong kendoist I am guilty of thinking that our philosophy is unique. I started to question this the other day when my wife pointed out an article that she was reading about the Olympic athlete Christine Ohuruogu in a women’s magazine. Christine made the point that she tries to “maintain humility through successes and dignity through failures”. This reminded me of the kendo adage “Utte hansei utarete kanshya” – reflect on your successful strikes, show gratitude for the strikes against you.
Curiosity prompted me to look at what other sportspeople had said about success and failure and I found that I was spoilt for choice. Here are just a few relevant quotes. You may have to substitute kendo for the named sport, but I think that most of these quotes have relevance to the way we think about our keiko:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”. –Michael Jordan
“To me, it doesn’t matter how good you are. Sport is all about playing and competing. Whatever you do in cricket and in sport, enjoy it, be positive and try to win.” –Ian Botham
“Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquillity.” –Billie Jean King
“The hardest skill to acquire in this sport is the one where you compete all out, give it all you have, and you are still getting beat no matter what you do. When you have the killer instinct to fight through that, it is very special.”– Eddie Reese
“Always have the situation under control, even if losing. Never betray an inward sense of defeat.” Arthur Ashe
“If you can react the same way to winning and losing, that’s a big accomplishment. That quality is important because it stays with you the rest of your life.” – Chris Evert-Lloyd
What I believe sets kendo apart from sport is that It’s not about scoring points for fame or money but more about using our efforts to make ourselves the best we can be. It is often been said that kendo should be approached with a feeling of “life or death”, taking us back to the “concept of the katana” and I wholly agree with this, but at the same time we can still benefit from the wise words of others outside the world of budo.