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by Vince Juico
When I think of Kendo, I think of Samurais who ruled Japan with katana blades. According to Britanica.com, “The unification of Japan about 1600 removed most opportunities for actual sword combat, so the samurai turned swordsmanship into a means of cultivating discipline, patience, and skill for building character.”
In the Netflix television documentary series, “Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan”, a countless number of men, women and children died by the katana blade, men who lost their honor, took their own lives rather than live the rest of their lives in shame.
Before this author digresses any further, according to the same site, “In the 18th century, practice armor and the shinai, a sword made of bamboo, were introduced to allow realistic fencing without risk of injury. The study of what came to be known as kendo was even compulsory in Japanese schools from time to time. An All-Japan Kendo Federation was formed following the end of the occupation in 1952, and an International Kendo Federation was founded in 1970.”, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Here in the Philippines, Kendo started with the founding of the Manila Kendo Club (MKC) in 1996. As Kendo’s origins were in the “Land of the Rising Sun”, The sport establishing itself in the Philippines began with the UKFP. Presently, according to the UKFP profile, “The United Kendo Federation of the Philippines (UKFP) is the official Philippine affiliate of the International Kendo Federation (FIK).
The UKFP was originally founded by representatives of the Cebu, Davao, IGA, Iloilo, & Manila Kendo Clubs with the initial purpose of making it easier to coordinate with one another to field delegations to international events. The UKFP has since grown in membership by incorporating two more clubs in their fold, the Dumaguete and OISCA Negros Kendo Clubs. The UKFP has also expanded its scope of responsibilities to include the promotion and development of Kendo in the country.”
In an interview with Kristopher “Kutch” Inting, President of the UKFP, earlier last month, Mr. Inting said both men and women Kendo practitioners wear Kendo armor that weighs 7-8kgs or about 14-17lbs, that folks, is heavy, then you combine that with training in the heat and humidity of a gym, you’ll feel like you just came out of a sauna.
Mrs. Loida Estanilla-Inting, wife of Mr. Inting and UKFP Secretary says that even with the armor, when the Kendo stick hits you, it can still hurt, especially when receiving hits from beginners, they tend to flail away since the student doesn’t have a full grasp of the basics and fundamentals yet.
From its infancy in 1996, Kendo has spread, and students have increased in numbers,
- Cebu Kendo Club = 16 members
- Davao Kendo Club = 32 members
- Dumaguete Kendo Club = 7 members
- IGA Kendo Club = 55 members
- Iloilo Kendo Club = 10 members
- Manila Kendo Club = 51 members
- OISCA Negros Kendo Club = 3 members
Total Membership = 174
Mr. Inting explains that now, there is no local manufacturer or maker of Kendo equipment so the armor, Kendo sword and all the other pieces must be ordered online. Kutch, as he is known in the Kendo community, also explains, and this is to manage the expectations of those who want to take up the sport, that the equipment doesn’t come cheap so if one wants to learn the intricacies of the sport, it must be wholehearted.
In the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), a bleacherreport.com article states, “The bamboo weapon used in the martial art of kendo has long been a part of WWE lore. The sticks lay under wrestling rings, waiting to be pulled out and broken against some poor soul’s torso.” I wonder if the Japanese and the Kendo communities worldwide see this as a desecration and demeaning of the sport which goes back centuries to early civilization.
A question I wanted to ask Mr. and Mrs. Inting was if Kendo can be used for self-defense if the person being attacked is using a stick or let’s stay the wooden pole from a mop?
That’ll be for another column but for now, as the sensei of the IGA Kendo Club says, “Do not focus on winning. Just do beautiful kendo.” – Koji Igarashi Sensei, 5th dan
Can-do Kendo indeed.