Archive for the ‘Travelling for kendo’ Category

Kendo Estepona1I 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.

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Musha-shugyoLast Sunday we had a special keiko to commemorate Holt sensei’s first birthday since he passed away. We did not publicise the event as we were unable to book a bigger hall. Everyone had to fit into our usual Mumeishi dojo.

Despite limitations on numbers, we hosted a number of friends from other UK dojos and a group from Belgium. The result was a really good, if somewhat crowded keiko session that reminded me of the value of practising with different people as often as possible. No matter how much we benefit from training with our usual dojo mates, it is always enjoyable to train with someone new.

Going back into kenjutsu’s history there has been a tradition of musha-shugyo, resembling the European chivalric culture of knight errantry. Representatives from different kendo schools would travel the country, taking on all challengers to demonstrate the superiority of their ryu-ha.  This tradition has continued in modern kendo. Not necessarily with the intent of beating all comers, but with the aim of learning from others.

I have always enjoyed travelling for kendo. As well as travelling for seminars and competitions and using every opportunity I can find to visit Japan, I have tried to take my bogu, or at least part of it, on business trips which I used to make quite frequently. I have had the pleasure of training in many European countries as well as Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa and the USA. As I mentioned in my last post I am looking forward to lots of keiko opportunities in Japan with new and old friends when I visit in May.

Students often ask me at what stage in their kendo career should they start to visit other dojo. My view is that as long as they have correct basics and are able to join in with keiko wearing bogu, they should be ready. Most teachers would be able to immediately size up a student’s level of experience and ability and to make sure he or she only gets involved in activity that they can cope with.

Not all dojo will welcome you however and that is as much for your good as for theirs. There is no way that someone fresh from a beginner’s course would be able to cope with the rigours of a keiko session in Kokushikan or Keisucho. The general rule is to ask before you visit. This is generally quite easy with most dojo in the west where an email before visiting will be enough. With Japanese dojo, the general rule is to seek an introduction to a specific sensei. Some dojo have many teachers, so just contacting the office is not enough. The good news is that in these days of social media it is easier to connect with people than it used to be.

For those of you going to Japan or anywhere else for kendo this spring happy travels and good luck with your own musha-shugyo.

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