Today I had the pleasure of being involved in a kendo event for children. Three dojo with large children’s classes got together to give the kids what we hoped would be a fun and exciting day. Children of 5 years upwards from Mumeishi, Oxford and Wakaba dojo came together at Mumeishi dojo for an all-day event that included a shiai, godo geiko and a party.
The bulk of the work both in organising and teaching was done by our Yoshikawa and Tanaka sensei, Oxford’s Hiyama sensei and Wakaba’s Miyamura sensei. I was just entrusted to make the opening and closing remarks, do some refereeing and take part in the keiko. I don’t teach children often, so this was an opportunity for me to see what a good job these teachers do in keeping the kids highly motivated and interested whilst at the same time teaching correct kendo etiquette and technique.
I am regularly surprised by the endless reserves of energy that small children have. After 4 hours of hard kendo, everyone was still running around at full speed at the after practise party. The teachers and the parents who had been sitting on the side-lines seemed far more in need of a rest. How seriously the children treat their keiko is another source of wonder, with even the smallest approaching every suburi and drill in earnest.
We often hear that kendo attitudes are changing and that there is a dilution of the emphasis put on kendo’s role as a method of self-improvement “to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the sword”. As long as we have instructors who are dedicated to promoting these values, kendo should continue to evolve as a physical discipline with the capability to “mold the mind and body”.
The All Japan Kendo Federation makes enormous effort to provide teaching material such as the Kendo Shido Yoryo and the English equivalent “Official Guide for Kendo Instruction”, but I think that the main reason that kendo will continue to retain its integrity is the continuity of transmission. Those who are taught correctly by good instructors will in turn teach the next generation to approach kendo with the correct mind set. If the enthusiasm and dedication of today’s young participants is anything to go by, I have every reason to be optimistic.