What I Think About When I Think About Surviving Kendo Club Training

The old kendo drive is still missing. I miss the enthusiasm and excitement I feel the moment I step into the dojo. It has not been fun for me since I came back. But I am hoping that this is just a phase. That I would soon get myself out of this rut. To do that, I have to rethink and readjust my beliefs about kendo training with our club.

1. Embrace ambiguities

Kendo is simple. And that is what makes it seem so complicated. It is subject to personal interpretations. This often leads to a lot of ambiguities. Progress is often hampered by differing instructions from different people. There are no clear standards of teaching. At least that is how I see it from my quite limited experience and perspective. There are subtle, and sometimes glaring, differences in various clubs’ practices. Maybe this is because it remains to be a traditional martial arts. There appears to be no strict rules on how to conduct training. Instead, teachers impart their individual knowledge and skills to students. But I always had this impression that kendo follows a set of principles and methodologies that aim to preserve its spirit. So I am curious about what makes it seem so ambiguous.

2. Non-verbal instruction is key

I have come across several references on non-verbal instruction in kendo training. I think this makes sense since kendo is also supposed to be an exercise in mindfulness. Paying attention to what the sensei is doing is key to learning. I have to readjust my expectation from hereon. While I thrive best in clear verbal communications, I will have to learn to focus on squeezing every bit of lesson I can get from the senseis’ actions.

3. Set a personal goal and stick with it

My reasons for taking up kendo has always been clear to be from the beginning. I want to learn the discipline and principles behind it. I just want to play beautiful kendo. I still do not like the idea of competing in tournaments. I feel like I will only be comfortable doing it once I learned the basics as well as I can. I have no illusions that I will be able to master kihon. But I can always strive to learn them the best way I can. I think it is important to have a clear purpose for taking the kendo journey. It centers me when begin to feel adrift.

4. Listen to your body

There are many levels of pain in sports and martial arts training. There are physical and mental agonies that must be endured to improve. But there are also the kinds of pain that can do more harm than good to the body. I am lucky to have learned over the years how to distinguish between different types of discomfort in training. I am at a point in my life where I do not let pride prevent me from acknowledging pain that puts me at risk of getting injured for fear of being seen as weak. I believe that the only way to become better in whatever sport I do is to listen to my body. Because nobody will be able to do that for me.

5. Help yourself

Help is always welcome. But I no longer expect to get any when I need it most. I have been burned enough to learn that I have to rely on myself if I want to make whatever little progress I can.

6. Get used to the confusion

The ambiguities often lead to confusion, at least on my part. Instructions keep changing depending on who are giving them at any given time. So it is like a cycle of learning, unlearning, and relearning. This makes it harder to gauge how much I have actually learned in more than a year of training.

7. Remember that it’s a personal journey

I still have not figured out what being a senpai means in kendo. I have learned by experience that my feedback is not welcome, at least to some of my juniors. I am also still trying to learn how to be a kendoka. For now, I am leaning more on the idea of letting my kendo speak for me. I want to focus more on my personal journey. But I also want to be one of those who will be the first ones to help, if needed. Because I know how it sucks to feel like you are floundering alone.


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