I am always grateful to the people who take the time and trouble to send in comments to this blog. I am also impressed by the level of knowledge and insight shown by these contributors from around the globe. No matter how esoteric the area of kendo covered there is always someone happy to share their insight.
This perhaps sounds slightly ungrateful and churlish, but sometimes I briefly wonder “are you talking from knowledge picked up from books and YouTube, or are you able to perform this technique or demonstrate this concept on a physical level?”
Kendo is different from many other martial arts in that we can continue to train for most of our lives and we can spend much of that time gaining a deeper knowledge of kendo techniques. Most people would agree that true knowledge is based on your own repeated practise so that a technique becomes second nature. At the same time you need to understand the purpose or “riai” of each technique on an intellectual or even philosophical level.
In my youth kendo instruction was very much a “monkey see, monkey do” affair based on demonstration and repetition, only after you had trained for a considerable amount of time would your teacher think about buying you a beer in your “second dojo” and explaining the rationale behind the aspects of kendo that you had been working on.
Now days with the proliferation of English language books, blogs and videos on the internet, we almost suffer from information overload. For some reason kendo tends to appeal to bright, educated, intellectually curious people. Many of these students are able to quickly understand the finer points of kendo without necessarily being able to perform them. Perfect examples are the concepts of kigamae and kizeme. You can read about these endlessly, but only when you have developed your kendo posture, breathing and attacking spirit to the required level can you demonstrate them.
In kendo we talk about bunbu no ichi or bunbu ryodo, “pen and sword as one”. This was a maxim that urged the samurai to become cultured human beings by making the most of formal education as well as studying the arts of war. For the modern kenshi who has 24/7 online access to the worlds knowledge, it is perhaps easier to search for the answers to questions on theory than it is to ingrain the physical elements of correct kendo. As ever this is nothing that can’t be corrected by a significant amount of kihon geiko