Yesterday I drove past a shop which sold nothing but Star Wars costumes. This started me on a train of thought that with the release of The Force Awakens, kendo beginners courses are going to be pretty well attended by would be Jedi Knights.
There is a lot of material out there on the internet crediting kendo as the inspiration for lightsabre fighting, in fact I even spotted a YouTube video titled “Star Wars : Evolution of the Lightsaber Duel “. I must confess that I settled for the trailer rather than the full blown version, but between clips from the movie and the Korea- Japan final from last year’s 16WKC the commentary went beyond the physical similarities and talked about the shared values of honour, justice and balance.
Before anyone points out that balance is a physical rather than a philosophical virtue, let me say up front that I agree with you. Nevertheless the tone taken by the video makers is that we kenshi and the Jedi share a long list of values and on the surface this is true. Obviously blockbuster film franchises are about making money, not for the moral education of the film going public, but nevertheless the filmmakers should be commended for making an inspirational movie.
Clearly Star Wars resonates with many people. In the UK’s 2011 census 176,632 people highlighted Jedi Knight as ‘other religion’ on their census form. This was down from 390,000 in 2001. There was no mention of kendoka in the religion column. Even with the lower figure, the 1000 kendoka in the UK equate to about 0.56 percent of the Jedi population, close to the pass rate for hachidan.
Where kendo differs is that we learn moral values from hard physical training. Anyone can talk about courage or courtesy but to pick yourself up off the floor after a hard kakarigeiko session and to bow and mean it, is a mind-set based on repeated exertion. You may start with an idea of what you want to learn from kendo, but the mental virtues have to be ingrained in muscle memory, in the same way as we acquire physical skills.
So I am looking forward to the influx of wannabe Jedi. They will boost membership and club fees and at the end of the beginners course we should be left with 1 or 2 of the 12 starters who will become valued members of our small dedicated group.