Posts Tagged ‘kendo training frequency’

Ryutaro HashimotoFrom my limited experience, kendo in Japan is a fairly egalitarian pursuit, attracting tradesmen, company workers, their wives and children and of course the professionals from the police and university factions. It also attracts some of the leaders of Japanese society.

Whether this is due to kendo’s samurai heritage or because Japan’s senior universities all have thriving kendo clubs is beyond me. It might be because many government departments and leading businesses, METI and Mitsubishi for example, have their own dojo that encourages the continued practice of kendo amongst Japan’s movers and shakers, but it could be argued that this is a function of effect rather than cause.

I can think of numerous government ministers and industry leaders who are active in kendo. In fact the current President of the AJKF, Cho Fujio who is honorary Chairman of Toyota recently took over from Takeyasu Yoshimitsu a former government minister. Probably the most senior kendoka in recent history was the late Hashimoto Ryutaro, former Prime Minister of Japan.

It could be argued that kendo either attracts successful people or that its practise develops habits that lead to success, but I wonder how this relates to those of us outside Japan who do not have the same cultural legacy. Any sport tends to attract competitive people and there are numerous examples of athletes who go on to become successful entrepreneurs, or build business or political careers. In most cases their concentration of effort tends to move from one to the other in that they focus exclusively on sport in their early years and then switch their energy to their working life.

Where kendo differs from other sports is that its pursuit can continue into old age, so it makes demands on time that might be added to the hours invested in work. Of course many career focused individuals take time out for the gym, but thirty minutes on the treadmill can be squeezed into the busiest schedule, whereas kendo training takes place at set times and dates and very often entails time spent travelling to the dojo.

For those of us who train regularly, this can equate to a considerable time investment.  My own kendo activities take up between 8 and 10 hours per week, which if added to my consultancy time sheet would account for another day’s income. Still I am totally convinced that the de-stressing benefits of kendo can keep us sane enough to continue making the most of our working lives. I am interested to learn your thoughts on the subject. Would you be more or less successful with or without kendo?

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Summer holidayMumeishi dojo is closed for two weeks. I am writing this just after the last Sunday practice and I am already suffering withdrawal symptoms. This is not to say that I will be going totally cold-turkey, as my local dojo, Sanshukan will continue to practice on Thursday evenings throughout the summer break, but it means that I will be cutting back my weekly keiko sessions from three to a measly one.

I have to agree with my wife when she tells me that I have an addictive personality, at least where kendo is concerned. Apart from a period in my early career when work and travel kept me away from the dojo for weeks at a stretch, I have trained at least three times a week, often four times, and it was almost always five times a week when I lived in Japan. My problem has never been that of motivating myself to go to the dojo, but more one of missing kendo when I can’t practice. Even when I come back from a tough day at work and feel tired, I do not even consider the option of not going. It works like this – you have a tough day, you go to kendo and then you feel better.

Kendo has worked for me on two levels: it requires intense concentration but also if you train hard enough; it can take you to a state where for brief periods you put your conscious mind on hold. To me this is almost like taking a brief holiday from daily life.

Obviously kendo can be practised outside the dojo, ceiling height permitting! We can practice suburi or shadow keiko on our own, but it lacks the feeling of training in a dojo with a group of like-minded people. More time at home gives the opportunity to study kendo books and videos, but I see this as activity that we do as well as, not instead of keiko.

In reality, a two week break in kendo practice is not a lot to complain about. Many of my Japanese friends have had a sandwich shaped kendo career, where in their time at high school and university they were able to practice every day. After graduation, work and nomunication (business drinking) restricts their  practice  once a week on Sunday, if they are lucky. Come retirement age they are back to training once or even twice a day.

I shall do my best to survive the next two weeks, but might be tempted to try to visit one or two of the dojo that are not closed for the summer.  For my friends from Mumeishi and any other dojo in the Thames Valley, you will be more than welcome on Thursdays from 8.15 pm at Sanshukan dojo, Kings International College, Watchetts Drive, Camberley, GU15 2PQ

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A regularly asked question is “how often should I train to gain maximum improvement in my kendo?” My honest answer would be “at least three times a week.” Once a week and you are not going to make any real progress, twice and you may improve slightly if you already have a strong grounding, but train three times a week and you are able to reinforce your good habits and learn new skills.

This is however an unrealistic goal for many people. Busy working lives, family commitments and the lack of local dojo often make the ideal training schedule untenable.

The other part of the equation is how you use your time in the dojo. If you turn up, shoot the breeze for half an hour then enjoy one or two leisurely jigeiko before retiring to the pub, you are not going to improve much, even if you train on a daily basis. To my mind, an intense hour’s practice with at least half of it dedicated to rigorous kihon including drills, kirikaeshi and kakarigeiko, with the remaining time dedicated to jigeiko is the ideal session. Most Japanese instruction manuals constantly refer to “correct technique” and “in full spirit”, which reading between the lines, suggests that you should do it to the best of your ability and with your utmost energy. Of course the other element that significantly adds to the value of your training is to do it under the watchful eye of a good instructor, one who can help you correct mistakes and praise you when you get it right.

Elite kendoka in Japan often train twice a day with a break at midday for a meal and a nap. This normally happens 5 days a week with the weekends reserved for competition. There are also a number of happily retired kendoka who attend morning and evening practice five or six days a week, but for working amateurs with a mortgage to pay and kids to feed, this remains the stuff of dreams.

There has been some recent debate on a number of kendo groups about the value of cross training and I honestly believe that anything that increases stamina, speed and flexibility has got to be worth doing. On the other hand no amount of running, cycling or swimming is going to improve your kendo technique.

You can of course train at home. Suburi and footwork exercises can be practiced in most places. However looking at my own history of smashed light fittings, annoyed neighbours and a dispute with my former Japanese landlords over floor damage, I would counsel caution.

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