I am back in the UK after a break in Spain where I had the pleasure of training with the members of Shion dojo in Estepona. I enjoyed keiko and socialising with everyone over a beer afterwards and got some tips on good places to visit in the area. By throwing my men and kote into my hand luggage, I immediately went from being a tourist to visiting friends. Later last week I received a Facebook message from a French reader asking about beginners classes in Osaka and I am waiting on an answer to an email before making an introduction.
I enjoy the benefits of social networking. Like many people of my generation I am a relatively late convert to Facebook, I can’t keep my messages short enough to master Twitter, but as a head-hunter I make extensive use of LinkedIn, which I see as an extremely useful business tool. Although I am a member of the Kendo Business Professionals forum, I tend to separate my kendo social life from my business activity, so LinkedIn is reserved for reaching out to people with job-offers and following up references while Facebook is a way to keep-up with my wider circle of kendo friends.
The contact I have with people on LinkedIn is very positive. Most are extremely generous in offering advice and referring people to help and be helped, I find however that there is something very transactional about these on-line relationships. People talk about “paying-forward” which to my mind means doing a favour for someone in the hope that they or one of their contacts will do the same for them when they need it. Relationships in kendo however, be they face-to-face or on-line appear to be much more selfless. We are a network where people give without asking for anything in return, now or in the future.
I imagine that the same could be said be said about other common interest groups, I am sure that Rugby players, Rotarians, Sudoku aficionados and Sci-Fi fans all have lots in common with others of their kind, but I believe that kendo is unique in welcoming visitors regardless of grade, with open arms. A number of other martial arts have a very different policy; admittance to the group is often jealously guarded, at least to those who are not prepared to pay a membership fee.
I have practised kendo now in dozens of countries, referred friends and students to dojo around the world and welcomed numerous visitors to kendo in the UK. With luck we will be able to welcome many more for the Mumeishi 3s in November. In the meantime thanks to all in Estepona for making my summer break special.