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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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