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Jose Vargas of Kendo Equador sent me a questionnaire covering a number of aspects of kendo philosophy. Being that time of year and feeling reflective, I decided to post my answer on “ko ken chi ai”.

4. – What do you think about: Ko Ken Chi Ai (交剣知愛)?

“A) Difficult to translate precisely, but an approximation is “learning to love each other through the application of the sword”. I believe in this on two levels.

The first is that it requires two people to practice keiko or kata or take part in shiai. For any of these activities to be of value, you have to try to read our opponent’s intention and timing and therefore to try meet them “mind to mind”.

Outside the dojo, Kendo gives us a common interest, allowing us to become friends with people from a wide range of backgrounds and social groups whom we might not get to know in other circumstances. One example of this is the experience I had when I lived in Japan. Many foreigners, who are working there, find it difficult to integrate into Japanese society, whereas kendo opened numerous doors for me and created relationships that have lasted for most of my adult life.

This is also true of my experiences with Kendo in other parts of the world. I have traveled extensively for kendo, and for work.On business trips, whenever I could, I have taken my bogu with me and called the local Kendo renmei to see if I could attend a practice. In nearly every case, this has not just given me the opportunity to train with different people, it has led to meals and drinks out with new friends. If you compare this to the average business trip, where the working day ends with lonely meal in a hotel, kendo has made my life much richer.

In the last twelve months, I have practiced Kendo in Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Ireland, Japan and Hong Kong and of course, all over the UK. I have also had the pleasure of meeting and practicing with kendo friends from many more countries, who have visited us in Britain.”

Even writing this blog over the past few months has led me into some interesting conversations, so I look forward to continuing to make new friends on and offline in 2009.

Happy New Year!

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