I was asked by Kendo World magazine for a few words to sum up the obituary I wrote for Terry Holt-sensei that will appear in the next issue together with obituaries for Inoue Yoshihiko-sensei, Mochizuki Teruo-sensei. Thinking about my summary and reading the words already written for the other two sensei made me reflect on what we gain from a lifetime of kendo practice.
Inoue sensei would have made the point far more eloquently, but to my mind kendo is the path to becoming a complete human being –to learn to accept others with all their idiosyncrasies through our contact in keiko. By imposing mental and physical discipline on ourselves through constant hard training we learn about our own limits and weaknesses and start to empathise with others who are facing the same challenges
Nearly all of the strong kendo teachers who I have met during my 47 year kendo career are friendly, likeable, self-effacing and big hearted. Whether these characteristics are built on the true confidence that comes from developing a skill to a superior level or whether it is a matter of them being aware of their own inadequacies is open to conjecture.
Our keiko is a barometer of our state of mind at any given moment. If we are nervous, we rush and attack at the wrong time. If we are over confident we rest on your laurels and leave ourselves open to attack. Our objective is to develop a still mind that reacts in real-time to changing circumstances. If we can do this we are not being controlled by others, but allow ourselves the luxury of taking charge of our own actions.
Perhaps this is why kendo is so addictive and why many of us keep training to the end of our lives. If we can achieve this mental balance then it is much easier to take a benevolent view of your fellow men, inside and outside kendo.