3 in 30 - 2000.09.15

Preparing for a turn of practicing Kendo. Kendo

Preparing for a turn of practicing Kendo

We have mentioned the local elementary school in our neighborhood and the fact that the grounds and gymnasium are often used by the community. See Aug. 13. Occasionally on weekends, we walk by the gymnasium and hear the sound of feet running and the clatter of sticks.

Friday and Saturday evenings there are classes of Kendo, Japanese fencing or swordsmanship. I don't pretend to know much about Kendo, but my short visit was interesting. My knowledge is limited to a few well-known Kurosawa Japanese Samuri movies. Here, some of the students are lined up on one side of the gym waiting their turn to practice some particular move.

Moving quickly to the contact. kendo approach

Moving quickly to the contact

The students on the other side of the room approach, ready to be the recipient of the move and/or practice a particular defense. The young students at the near end of the gym may seem to be moving rapidly, more so than I could, and with more grace and style, but they are blurred here because of the slow camera shutter.

As I understand, Kendo is based on a long history of the use of the sword as a weapon. For most of Japanese history, only the nobility or samuri class was allowed to own or carry swords. The Japanese were one of the earliest to produce high quality carbon steel blades for their swords and pride in the craftsmanship of many of these swords is well deserved.

Now, sword ownership is strictly controlled, as gun ownership is controlled in Britian and is to be in the U.S. Kendo is practiced using split bamboo poles.

The clash of bamboo swords reverberates in the gymnasium. kendo clash

The clash of bamboo swords
reverberates in the gymnasium

You can see by the armour, padding and head gear that a match could get serious quickly. Here two young combatants clash, practicing three or four distinct moves.

They wear padding on their heads as well as a mask to protect their faces. The hood has low sloping wings which protect the tops of the shoulders. The coat is padded and a lacquered plate surrounds the abdomen. There are additional pads protecting the hips. Given the varying styles of sandal footwear that has been popular through the ages, it seems that the barefooted style provides the greatest stability.

A pair of young people taking a break. kendo break

A pair of young people taking a break

I couldn't resist adding a fourth picture this week. During the time I was in the gym, though most of the students were practicing and completely masked, the ages of the students appeared to range from about six to their early twenties. These two youngsters, probably eight and ten were taking a short rest. With a typhoon about 300 miles to the south, the humidity has been high all day so a temperature of about 30°C (85°F) makes you sweat and tire quickly.

Here you have a clearer view of the masks with shoulder protectors, gloves, bamboo swords, and other armour. I didn't get a real close look at the torso armour, but it looks like the the girl has red lacquered armour while the younger boy looks like he has black lacquered armour.

In the background are some sword cases leaning against the wall, while outside, through the open door, across the street, one of the lights is on at a local health clinic.

This file was last updated on 04 Feb, 2023