Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kendo for the Spiritless

Let me tell you about my first kendo class.

I was all kinds of nervous to be going out into a new part of Madison, all by myself, to do something I knew nothing about with complete strangers. So I persuaded Spousal Unit to go with me. (I would have still gone if he hadn't come with, but it was a comfort to have him there.)

We arrived early as the website suggested (though a half hour was maybe a little much), and proceeded to sit around for 45 minutes until anyone arrived. Apparently, the class starts at 7:30 instead of 7. I had even e-mailed the instructor about it, and he said 7.

I felt like I was in New Mexico again.

The beginning of the class was fun. We learned the different bows, footwork and why it's important, and practiced swinging shinais in proper form while listening to the seasoned students count in Japanese.

It was entertaining to watch the students practice in all their gear, and they were especially serious about it because of an upcoming tournament. But at some point (maybe around when they were smacking each other in the head) I was amazed at how little I cared about any of it.

It had less to do with the head-smacking and more to do with the lack of explanation for things. The website was incredibly detailed, discussing how to behave in the dojo (which was a high school gym), proper treatment of shinais, and overall class etiquette. None of that was addressed in the class. We didn't even get an explanation of the screaming - there was no description of developing spirit through swordwork.

Granted, kendo is different from other martial arts, and I only attended one class. But a discussion of the internals seemed not only important, but necessary. How else are we supposed to get why we're going through the motions?

While the other students ran back and forth screaming at each other, us noobs were set to facing off and practicing motions. And I just felt incredibly silly. With more careful instruction, I may enjoy kendo yet. But in that time, I just felt like someone with bare feet and a piece of wood, shuffling across the floor while people in masks and armor whacked at each other and yelled.

I think it says a lot that something like that wasn't enough to hold my attention.

1 comment:

  1. Do not be upset. This is exactly what you are supposed do during your first kendo class: swing your shinai with bare feet. And not only during your first class actually, but during the next ten classes or so too. If you can keep up, THEN the explanations will start to come, slowly. Kendo is not for instant gratification. It demands commitment, patience and a strong will. It takes years just to grasp the basics, and a lifetime to master it. Be patient!

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