Archive for the ‘Kendo and the Olympic Games’ Category

Capture Olympic PollAt the time of writing this the Rio Olympics are coming to an end and the post that I wrote at the time of the London Olympics has had quite a few new visits.  This and the conversations I have had with kendo friends, make me think that kendo’s stance on the Olympic Games is still a hot topic for many people.

As part of that post, I included a poll which showed that the majority of readers were in favour of staying out with a vote of 62% to 38%. I would be interested in everyone’s thoughts this time round.

Perhaps I am softening with age, or am feeling my share of national pride at Britain’s medal haul in Rio, but I can now take a slightly more balanced view than I did four years ago. The pluses of kendo becoming an Olympic sport are that we would attract more players. With increased funding the level of kendo would improve globally, eroding the dominance of Japan and Korea.

In the minus column there is a very real probability that we would need to simplify our scoring system so that it was understandable to non-kenshi spectators. This could totally change the nature of kendo with the current values for yuko-datotsu being eroded. Without the insistence on valid strikes being based on the “Principles of the katana”, we would lose much of the spirit of kendo. Reiho would almost certainly suffer too as we develop a win-at-all-costs attitude.

One other change that is either good or bad depending on your point of view is that instructors and coaches might finally receive some payment for their efforts.

Along with many other people, I am confused about the amateur status of Olympic sport, particularly with the recent addition of professional golf and tennis to the games. Certainly the more successful competitors for many sports fall into the “paid to train” category and I am sure that kendo would soon see an increase in “professionalism” if admitted. Having said that it could be argued that police tokuren and dojang instructors fall into this category already.

Opinion is still polarised with The All Japan Kendo Federation staunchly refusing to join the Olympic movement for the reasons mentioned, but nevertheless taking Kendo into the Combat Games. The Korean Kendo Federation on the other hand continually lobbies for the inclusion of kendo, making impassioned speeches at FIK meetings and WKC referee meetings.

On balance I still come down in favour of staying out of the Olympics. Having spent almost 50 years treating kendo as a shugyo I would not like to see it devalued. I wonder though how much sentiment has changed over the past four years so I include a new poll and would appreciate you taking the time to tick a box.


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The 2012 London Olympics have reached their end and like many of my fellow Britons, I have been caught up in Olympic fever. From the opening ceremony (give or take a slightly wobbly Sir Paul McCartney), to the final days competition, the whole thing has been truly inspirational.

I have been delighted that London has managed the event so well and that we have seen so many exceptional performances from athletes from around the globe. On a patriotic level, to know that Great Britain with a population of less than 60 million is third in the medal count, behind only the USA and China makes me swell with pride and whilst tickets were hard to get, I was glued to the TV for many of the events.

Whilst I writing this before the closing ceremony, many of the analysts and pundits have been giving their view on why Team GB has achieved relative success this time round and the answer has emphatically been the £260 plus million of lottery funding spent on athlete development. It is good to know that although I have never won so much as ten pounds, that my pound a week (and that of a few other people) has gone to such a good cause.

I have to confess to slightly mixed feelings on this going back to the 12th World Kendo Championships, when both Sport England and Sport Scotland refused to make any contribution to a World class event. It is of course obvious that the Olympic Games is the most prestigious sporting occasion in the world today, so one can see why funding works the way it does. With that in mind and with the adrenalin of the event still running high, it is easy to ask the question “Why is kendo not an Olympic sport?”

Coming back to the games themselves, there were as I mentioned some amazing performances from many athletes, not least from female competitors in the combat sports.  Nicola Adams won an amazing boxing gold for Britain in the women’s flyweight class and Jade Jones took gold in the women’s 57kg taekwondo competition, This in itself was a superhuman feat, a nineteen year old from a small town in North Wales beating the World’s best.

What I am going to say next in no way detracts from my admiration of Jade’s achievement; but I was disappointed to see that at the end of her final match instead of thanking her opponent, her first reaction was to throw her headgear on the floor and break into a victory dance routine.

If kendo were to become an Olympic sport would we lose the strict reiho that now seems unique to kendo and perhaps sumo? If we did, would the sacrifice be worth it when weighed against the gains in public interest and financial support?

For once, I would like to keep my opinion to myself and to ask yours with the following simple questionnaire.

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