Practicing Kendo Abroad

Practicing Kendo Abroad

Un texte de Robbie, notre étudiant écossais préféré, de l’Université de Strathclyde, sur le Kangeiko et sur la pratique du Kendo à l’étranger:

«My name is Robbie and I’m an exchange student from The University of Strathclyde in Scotland. I came to France not only to improve myself academically, but also in the hopes that I might be able to improve my kendo as well. Before coming over, a quick search for kendo clubs in Toulouse brought the Seigakukan dojo to my attention. The dojo is led by the ever-young 5th Dan Pascal Loidi sensei and receives regular visits from members of nearby dojos and national team members. Promptly I got in touch with the head senpai Pierre over Facebook and organised my first visit.

I was slightly nervous on arriving (first time doing kendo in another country) but I was immediately put at ease by the friendly atmosphere. I felt like a member of the dojo and the fact that several members speak English made things even better! A few trainings rolled past and eventually I found myself attending the yearly winter thaw-out session – Kangeiko.

The event took place in Carcassonne and sees members of different dojo’s attending from all over the region to create a seminar-like environment. The idea behind the event is to get yourself back into the energetic, summer kendo spirit after a lethargic Christmas period and boy will it! Kangeiko is comprised of six, two hour sessions over a period of 24 hours – with 2 hours in between each session to rest in the good company of the French kendoka.

The first session began at 2PM and focused on lots of suburi and kihon drills to build up the fundamentals and get your arms nice and loose. Approaching midnight came the hardest sessions – fast-paced uchikomigeiko and kakarigeiko to exhaust you. Afterwards, into the wee hours of the morning there is non-stop jigeiko. This is the most interesting part of the event. At this point the experience becomes almost zen-like, where your mind is too tired to think and your body just does. I remember Naoki Eiga expressing that your best kendo only comes out when you let your instincts take over – you are able to experience that feeling and it really pushes your kendo to new heights.

Afterwards the rest seems easy. The morning sessions roll by because if you can tackle two hours of jigeiko at 12AM and 4AM there’s nothing you can’t handle, and this is the feeling that you are supposed to take away at the end of the session. You are ready for the rest of the year.

Returning to regular training up until the end of my internship I can say that I learned a great deal with my friends at Seigakukan. One thing that I am consistently impressed by, and hope to take home with me, is their spirit. Some sessions are easier, some sessions are harder – but no matter what everyone in the dojo is giving it 110% and it speaks volumes about the quality of French teaching and kendo.

I would urge anyone who has the opportunity to go visit as many dojos as they can. Even if you can’t go abroad, visit that dojo the next town over! You will almost certainly find that there’s a different way of doing that waza and there is always something new to learn – and that’s the beauty of kendo.