6/29/2003 12:33am, #1
We ken about kendo
Sun 29 Jun 2003
WHEN you are up against the combined might of the Japanese riot police and the Korean army, it is a safe assumption that you are up against it. That is the enticing prospect in store for two Scots, key figures in the Great Britain team for the 12th World Kendo Championships, which get under way in Glasgow on Friday, the first time Scotland has hosted such an event. George McCall and Gillian Riddoch are serious about kendo. It is their art and it is their sport, and it takes up a fair chunk of their lives, not that they complain. They practise kendo out of love, and are smitten. That they are being granted the opportunity to don their kendo masks and armour and arm themselves on what amounts to home turf makes them a little more excited.
Kendo means "the way of the sword", but these days they do not wield real swords, but shinai, which are made from bamboo. Kendo, which is of military origin, has been in existence in some shape or form for hundreds of years, the earliest reference to Japanese swordsmanship dating from the seventh century. You need your dojo (clubroom), your do (essential armour), your men (face mask) and kote (padded gloves). Not forgetting, of course, your shinai, which you would not wish to be without in combat. Demands on the combatant are physical and mental. Muscle is not so important - kendo exponents come in all shapes and sizes - but posture, poise and concentration are. As is a common etiquette. We are dealing here with an ancient Japanese tradition. Kendo attacks the head, the wrists, the torso. Itís not dangerous, yet togged up in that gear your average enthusiast looks damned menacing. Still, they are not out to kill rivals; ultimately, in competition, itís about points for a hit. Matches consist of three points and last five minutes. Two points win the match, and it can move into sudden death, but no-one meets their demise, not in the real sense.
McCall caught the kendo bug in 1994 at Napier University, Edinburgh. He was into judo and aikido, but found that kendo was for him: "I never wavered." His job in computers has spirited him to New York, London and Japan, where he will return this summer to live. There was the job in Bermuda, but taking it would have left a kendo-sized hole in his life. Kendo proficiency takes years, and McCall reckons that he became truly proficient only last year. He is a member of the Edinburgh Kendo Club, one of two dojo in Scotland, the other residing in Glasgow. Early this week, the British team for the world championships are in Oban, to prepare, to chill, to switch off mobile phones, switch on the Playstation and practise kendo. McCall wonders how the Londoners in the team will cope with the midges. "Tough luck," he laughs. On Wednesday, they will travel to Glasgow and the Kelvin Hall. They are sporting new team jackets, and the men will be featuring fresh haircuts (No.2s).
His first-round rivals will include a Danish competitor that he has met before - "I think Iíll take him" - and a Hawaiian with a Japanese name. "He could be tough. Heís probably been doing it since he was a kid. But that doesnít frighten me. Bring it on." The Japanese team (the riot police) are "just an A list of stars". They are rarely, if ever, beaten. Only Korea come close, and the Japanese and Koreans (the army conscripts) train every day for a living. McCall explains that competition is not the true philosophy of kendo, and he is honest in suggesting that it is not an ideal spectator sport; the nuances are not that easy to pick up on. "Youíve got to hit the right place, and youíve got to mean it, and thatís a difficult thing to judge. It canít be luck: the intentís got to be there. The ultimate match is one with not a lot of scrapping, then bang, something happens. You will see that at these world championships." The menís team are a young outfit after an overhaul three years ago. McCall thinks that they will get past the early rounds; in fact, there need not be any doubt about that. The key is realising the effort that has been put in so far. With bronze success at the past two European championships, the women can be confident, but it will be hard with Japan, Korea, the United States and Canada in the mix. Riddoch, the womenís captain, an engineer who lives in Newcastle, is eager for the kendo and homecoming.
"To have the championships here is phenomenal," she says as we chat in a Glasgow hotel. "Iím getting a bit excited... another week, and Iíll be hitting the ceiling." Like McCall, she found kendo at university in Edinburgh, accepting an invitation from a friend to watch a demonstration. "I just thought I had to try. It looked fantastic." That was 12 years ago, she has been competing for seven, and has served as captain for two. Kendo has provided her passport to destinations such as Hungary, Italy, Switzerland and, of course, Japan. Riddoch is happy to explain away the intricacies of kendo and offers this summary: "You can stand with a stick and hit anywhere, but there would be no art form in that." The captain hopes that her team can negotiate a few rounds and reach the last eight. The luck of the draw is a major factor. Initially they face New Zealand and Norway, and after that it may be their Japanese counterparts.
I ask Riddoch some first-timer questions about kendo. to which she responds patiently. Is it dangerous? Aside from "the odd bump or bruise", apparently not. The armour does its job - protect. What are the most useful abilities? "Everything! Though it is concentration more than anything else. Against someone who is evenly matched and has the same level of fitness and the same level of skill, then whoever loses their concentration first will go." The captain takes to the arena last in the five-strong team. Riddoch says that the first team member is vital for setting the tone to the tie: such individuals must be "gutsy." The final pair, including her, may be required to be more tactical, adapting their goals depending on whether the team need another win, or perhaps a draw is sufficient for overall victory. Is it hot in all that gear? The kendo armour is "hot and heavy", says Riddoch, but everyone is in the same boat. Everyone must also lose some of their peripheral vision because of the masks.
For the white heat of competition Riddoch contemplates the danger of being caught cold. "As long as I donít freeze," she laughs, contemplating the moment that she steps out before numerous family members and friends expected to attend the event. "Itís going to be a huge adrenalin rush, but Iím not going to freeze. Itís going to be amazing." Several hundred competitors from more than 40 countries will be in Glasgow until the traditional Sayonara party at the end of the weekend, when a ceilidh will also be held. Kelvin Hall will have turned Japanese.
http://www.scotlandonsunday.com/sport.cfm?id=710062003Kungfoolss, Scourge of the theory-based stylists, Most Feared man at Bullshido.com, and the Preeminent Force in the martial arts political arena
6/29/2003 2:52am, #2
One man's innane article obsession (Shrugs)
My single chopstick is bad at serving soup, cutting steaks and basting roasts and chickens. Besides that it owns.
6/29/2003 8:09am, #3
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- Feb 2003
at least they learn from a teacher not a video hey!
6/29/2003 11:43am, #4
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- Jun 2003
i cna't read this article...its too long and boring. if anything intersting was in there, can someone simplify and summarize?
Do Be Open-minded
Don't Be Gullible
6/30/2003 4:56am, #5
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"i cna't read this article...its too long and boring. if anything intersting was in there, can someone simplify and summarize?"
A guy from the UK likes Kendo. Alot.
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!"The longer I live the more I see that I am never wrong about anything, and that all the pains that I have so humbly taken to verify my notions have only wasted my time."
-- George Bernard Shaw
6/30/2003 8:41am, #6
He's summed it up nicely.
Space may be the final frontier,
But it's made in a Hollywood basement."You realise the transformations give a man enough strength to destroy a truck with his bare hands!?
YOU HAVE BETRAYED ME, IN THE WORST POSSIBLE MANNER!!" - KiWarrior
"Sport ? That kind of thing's not my bag baby!" - Sammy Franco
"This system was developed with the help of notible BJJ fighter Ribbon Muchado." - "Sifu" Anthony Iglesias
6/30/2003 1:18pm, #7
One thing I've never understood about the Kendo methodology- "The way of the sword." If you've ever seen kendo practitioners workout, you would never attack someone in the manner with a real sword as is done in their dojo's. Attacking in short, jerky strikes. A real sword is never utilized in such a fashion other than the thrusting attacks directed at the throat in kendo, the samurai sword is fluid and covers elliptical movement, which generates tremendous speed for cutting or slashing power. If anything, kendo is more accurately termed as, Kendo, "The way of the stick" ; i.e., an IMPACT weapon.
A perfect example of this sort of fighting is done in the Abarenbo Shogun TV series, in which a radical, lone Shogun deals out capital punishment on 20 or more bad guys every week in a multifight at the climax of every show. Hardly realistic, but the sword fighting choreography is fun to watch.
Edited by - kungfoolss on July 01 2003 02:40:16Kungfoolss, Scourge of the theory-based stylists, Most Feared man at Bullshido.com, and the Preeminent Force in the martial arts political arena
7/01/2003 1:40pm, #8
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"One thing I've never understood about the Kendo methodology- "The way of the sword." If you've ever seen kendo practitioners workout, you would never attack someone in the manner with a real sword as is done in their dojo's. Attacking in short, jerky strikes. A real sword is never utilized in such a fashion other than the thrusting attacks directed at the throat in kendo, the samurai sword is fluid and covers elliptical movement, "
You are only looking at one area of a whole art. When you see the striking, you are right (**** did I say that) that real sword work would never be done in that type of matter. The thought process behind the sport (yes KENDO/KUMDO is sport) is one strike would equal one kill. That is why you are limited to 3 target areas (head, wrist, waist) . The shots have to be precise and done with (what we call in Kumdo) Kikumche (yelling, striking and stepping all at once). So what you are describing in your statement is just the sport part of Kendo schools. Good Kendo/Kumdo players are smart enough to know that what they do in the ring is now what is done in reality with a sword.
However, most Kendo/Kumdo schools do teach Kenjitsu/Kumsul. Which teaches you to actually use a real sword. A good school will teach you everything from proper drawing to proper maintance of the sword. Now why you choose to put a story in about a person who loves Kendo is beyond me. Was there point you were trying to make? Or were you simply trying to point out your feelings about the sport of Kendo (which I will assume you have never taken in your life)
Jeremy M. Talbott
Scourge of Kungfools' joke-based logic, Biggest thorn in his side, and the Preeminent Force in putting dumbasses like him to bed