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Kendo…The Philosophical side of Samurai swordsmanship

Did you watch Pacific Rim and wonder about the cool scene where two Jaeger pilots fought with bamboo sticks to test their drift compatibility? Well, if like me, you also wondered what was the martial art style that inspired some of those cool moves, you can get your answer now. The scene was partially inspired by kendo, a combination of a Japanese martial art and combat sport, that places great emphasis on dedication, etiquette and discipline. It is a martial art derived from the ancient practice of kenjutsu (swordsmanship) and resembles the Western sport of fencing.

1.History of Kendo

Kendo was once part of the samurai training rituals, when Samurai (Japanese military nobility) used to practice their swordplay with heavy wooden swords, known as bokuto. However, the heavy bokuto injured and at times killed many samurai during training. As a result, the samurai began to look for less dangerous alternatives for practice. Comparatively, the newly invented shinai (bamboo sword) allowed the samurai to practice their kata (formal sword exercises) without the fear of harming anybody.

History of Kendo

2.Kendoka Training and Ranking

Kendoka or Kendoists (people who practice kendo) spend years training themselves and developing their mind and body in the right manner. A beginner kendoka starts at seventh kyu or rank. He moves up the ranks towards first kyu through practice and training. After achieving the first kyu, the kendoka begin on the raking system of dan. First dan is the lowest level, and a kendoka must move up to tenth dan, the highest possible rank in kendo.

Kendoka Training and Ranking

3.The Basics of Kendo

Simply put, the objective of kendo is to exchange blows with your opponent, using a shinai (a bamboo practice sword). To protect oneself from blows, contestants must wear a bogu (a type of protective body armour). In an actual kendo fight, the objective of the bout is to hit your opponent on designated strike zones marked out on the body. Primarily, there are three strike zones on the body : men (the head), do (the torso) and kote (the forearm). A kendoka earns points  by hitting a blow on any of these body parts.  The winner is the contestant who scores two points first.

4.Significance of Learning Kendo

To an outsider, kendo may seem like a vicious battle, with two opponents trying to battle each other. However, at the root of kendo philosophy is respect : for your opponent and for the rules of fairplay. It is noteworthy that before and after every bout, the kendoka bow down to express their respect for their opponents. Kendo also acknowledges that learning the samurai philosophy teaches us a lot about morality and how to deal with daily struggles and challenges in our lives. Kendo teaches you not how to hit, but more how to get hit, and learn from your mistakes and weaknesses.

Significance of Learning Kendo

Kendo is fascinating because it is a sport, a martial art and a samurai philosophy all at once. Although its origins seem rooted in violence, it is more of a philosophy, than a mere fighting technique. If you visiting Japan, you must take time out to enjoy a kendo experience, and perhaps even participate in one. After all, who wouldn’t want to be a samurai, even if its for a couple of hours?

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