Kendo: The Way Of The Sword

SEASON 1 EPISODE 37

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  • This show is all about sports! Anthony looks back at two traditional sports: the Canadian hockey and the Japanese Kendo.
  • The show’s first guest is Chad Goble who runs the Tokyo Street Hockey Association website. What started as a ragtag group of hockey-loving Canadians has morphed into a weekly game and international tournament.
  • Lance Lindley practiced kendo with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. He joins Anthony to talk about his experiences in studying this traditional martial art in Japan.
  • Kendo is the modern Japanese martial art of sword-fighting based on traditional swordsmanship practiced by samurai warriors during the feudal era. During the Edo period, the Tokugawa shogunate had assumed control of Japan and banned sword fighting. With this relatively peaceful time in the history of Japan, many samurai had to seek new ways to hone their sword fighting techniques.

Passing the Puck from Canada to Tokyo

The origins of hockey can be traced back to one particular hardy Canadian named Pierre Lapin. During the winter months, Pierre had to walk across a frozen lake to get to work and soon found that holding on to a curved stick would greatly increase his balance. One day as he was making his way to work at the Maple Syrup Factory, he spotted a frozen beaver bladder and decided to give it a good whack with his stick!

Pierre’s friend riding his pet moose saw the frozen bladder sliding across the ice towards them. Alarmed that his moose might accidentally step on the bladder and fall, he quickly jumped off and kicked his leg out to block the oncoming bladder and became the first Canadian in history to execute what has become known as the beauty save! Thus, hockey was born and soon spread from the frozen ponds of Canada to ice rinks, tennis courts, gymnasiums, and back alleys around the world.

Anthony invited Chad Goble from the Tokyo Street Hockey Association website. From a small group of Canadians wanting to play, the club morphed into a weekly game and even held an international tournament! Anthony has already joined some of its Friday night games and asked Chad about the history of hockey in Tokyo.

The group has been around since 1996 and was established by some Canadians who are still with the group. Wanting to play ball hockey (the version of ice hockey where they used a ball instead of a puck and played in the concrete floor of a gym), they put an ad in a magazine and met at Komazawa Park. Other guys came in as the years passed and were very serious about ball hockey – they started hosting tournaments and one of these would be done on the long weekend beginning October 6!

Currently, the league plays on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Fridays of the month. Venues change from gyms to outdoor rinks. Members are predominantly Canadians but players include other nationalities as well. Anyone can play but guests need to bring their gear while Chad could lend a stick. The players are fast, competitive but not too aggressive. To know about their schedules, check out their webpage and sign up for their weekly newsletter to know when and where the next game will be held!

The Ways of Kendo

Kendo, which means “way of the sword,” is a modern Japanese sword-fighting martial arts based on the traditional swordsmanship practiced by samurai during feudal times. To talk more about learning Kendo, on the show is Lance Lindley who practiced Kendo with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and achieved the rank of shodan. In 1994 when he was with the US Navy, organizations would come and sponsor different classes. It was then that he became interested in Japanese culture. He had earlier tried different Japanese martial arts such as Yaido, Kenjutsu, and Karate before taking a keen interest in learning Kendo. A Japanese female friend then introduced him to someone with a dojo. He became 1 of the 2 foreigners in that school and had great friends and memories of the experience.

Lance described some of the key movements in learning Kendo such as precise wrist movements. Its seemingly simple footwork serves as a fundamental lesson that must be done correctly by building muscle memory. Unlike younger kendo players who bounce around when fighting, senseis stand still waiting for their opponent to make the first move. In this way, they read each other’s movements to identify their opponent’s weakness and attack.

Thus, to win tournaments, the bamboo sword or shinai must hit certain spots to score points. The judges also base their decision if players execute the move with the proper power, form, and spirit. On YouTube, one can find Kendo’s 8th Dan Examinations. The hardest test in Kendo, the exam is unique with its many restrictions, required skills with kata, fights with others in front of a panel of judges, and even a written exam to prove one’s worth.

There are dojos nears train stations and even kendo classes entirely for women. If you do want to do something different from the usual, try out this traditional sport to unleash your swordsmanship!

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