Thousands of Miles from Home


Kendo Machismo -OR- Ben Gleitzman is a Wimp

As was mentioned earlier, I bought myself a kendo gee in Okayama at a small backstreet store that specialized in all things kendo related. Both pieces of the gee are royal blue, dyed in such a way as to make everything that happens to come in contact with the outfit (hands, clothing, babies) blueberry in hue. My first day using the outfit at school was tuesday, and only Asama and I showed up for practice. He showed me how to put on my gee (which is more complicated than I expected) as well as the kendo armor. The kendo jo is outfitted with lots of old pieces of armor, but Asama let me borrow the old kendo captain's do (body piece), te (gloves), and helmet. I am assuming that the old captain won't mind.

In full kendo gear, one looks rather scary. Especially with a shinai (bamboo sword), I wouldn't want to meet one of these guys in a dark alley. The armor also obscures most bodily features, so besides height most people look indistinuishable. As I explained before, the goal of kendo is to strike your opponent with a sword on either the head, hands, or body. You must also simultaneously call where you are striking and lunge forward or backward (depending on situation), striking your foot against the ground. If all three of these actions are completed with a clean hit then a point is scored. For the past month or so I have been practicing these movements wearing only a gym outfit (and swinging at nothing but air), so it was quite a different feeling wearing bulky body armor hitting someone equally as bulky.

First of all, swinging becomes more difficult. It's tough to get your sword very high above your head, but quick strokes are preferable to hard slashes. It doesn't matter how hard you hit your opponent, only that you hit them. Also, being hit is a brand new experience. On the stomach or hands it's not too bad because the chest protector and gloves neutralize the strikes. I wish I could say the same thing for the head. I don't know about the general population, but I have very rarely, if ever, been struck directly on the top of the head (barring comical anvil-in-a-construction-zone incidents). The helmet has a metal face guard but if a strike lands properly (directly on the top of the head) the semi-thin woven cloth material doesn't provide much resistance. It's an acute type of pain with an incentive of "move faster next time." I actually rarely get hit on the head during games, but in practice one of the exercises is letting your oppenent strike your head unguarded.

But overall kendo is great. It's a really vigorous workout (I'm sore all over) and the practice matches at the end of each day are my favorite part. Being strong and quick won't always win you the match, you also have to anticipate what your opponent is going to do next. In addition to striking moves, there are various defensive and parying moves as well.

So I hope there is no permanent damage from the occasional bop on the head. If nothing else I've picked up some new phrases like "Where should I hit you?" and "How many times?" which I am sure will prove useful in everyday situations.


  • Propitiate me. No more bops on the head please.

    By mom, at 7:56 AM  

  • Aww now you're making me want to get into kendo. I took fencing for four years, so I can clearly imagine the thrill...

    And this current patch of photos above are very nice!

    By Cinnacism, at 10:47 PM  

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