Kendo, kenjutsu and HEMA

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Kendo, kenjutsu and HEMA

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 01 Apr 2012 06:02

admin wrote:... Kendo, for example, can certainly teach some things that sport fencing can not, though I would argue that these days you could learn those things even more quickly by attending a HEMA longsword class

What are those things? What could kendo offer to practitioners of Western swordsmanship?
Special breathing techniques?

It would be interesting to hear opinion of those who practiced kendo for a certain period of time (let's say 1-2 years) and then decided to switch to HEMA.
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Gil-Galadh » 01 Apr 2012 07:47

We shared our place with a kendo group and talked about the same topic a few times.
They definitely have great focus in their strikes, and all that screaming and shouting they do really teaches you how to keep your breathing so that you don't get exhausted quickly.
Basically nothing that you cannot learn at a HEMA class
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Joeli » 01 Apr 2012 08:15

Schundi did pretty well in Ars Ensis league few months ago. Well, he won that and the Franco Belgian tournament in Dijon. You should ask him, he has good amount of kendo experience. I fought a match with him in last summer camp and he was able to accelerate his blows over very short distances, meaning he could disengage and stike at the hands from otherwise difficult positions.
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Mark Shaw » 02 Apr 2012 08:08

Ulrich von L...n wrote:
admin wrote:... Kendo, for example, can certainly teach some things that sport fencing can not, though I would argue that these days you could learn those things even more quickly by attending a HEMA longsword class

What are those things? What could kendo offer to practitioners of Western swordsmanship?
Special breathing techniques?

It would be interesting to hear opinion of those who practiced kendo for a certain period of time (let's say 1-2 years) and then decided to switch to HEMA.


I think Matt meant that a long time ago if you were interested in fencing training with a 2 hander sword then the JSA was the only choice.
I've practiced Kendo for over 5 years now but not competitively (too old).
Kendo is good for posture, breathing, discipline and learning to lunge explosively with a two handed sim.
IMHO the linear movement Kendo and the FIE encourage is harder than traditional passing footwork as it's nowhere near as natural as passing. In my opinion!
On the breathing; the yelling kendoka do is done to make you expel breath as you strike. This helps co-ordinate your whole body with your breathing and lessens it becoming ragged the longer you spar.
It tightens your core muscles as well which also makes for better posture as you strike.
No mystery to it you see, but some instructors can get very esoteric about it unfortunately.

Kendo also practices a way to strike while moving backwards which is useful (=> flying out).
There is also a technique called taiatari, which means "body check" where basically if your strike is not successful you continue forward and hit your opponent with your body to knock them off balance.

A big mark against Kendo in my book is a refusal to adopt western fencing theory to improve instuction techniques. You rarely hear instructors using simple concepts like closing the line or tempo etc (actually never in my experience).
Kendo has a very slow learning curve as a result.
Kendo also has other goals that make it very fustrating if your only interested in fencing or MA (eg the sporting, character building and zen/one sword aspects).
Last edited by Mark Shaw on 03 Apr 2012 02:56, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 02 Apr 2012 08:19

Gil-Galadh wrote:They definitely have great focus in their strikes, and all that screaming and shouting they do really teaches you how to keep your breathing so that you don't get exhausted quickly.

One could definitely learn how to breath properly without shouting: "Kiai!" all the time. AFAIK in kendo it is used as an expression of proper martial intent and also is an important requirement for a valid action. But after a while constant shouting during kendo bouts could be very annoying.

I'm more interested to learn more about kendo techniques that are used to calm their minds before and during competitions. Or about semi-mystical concept of seme. Or how 60-70 years old kendokas manage to beat much younger opponents. Is it a myth or reality?
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 02 Apr 2012 08:39

Joeli wrote:Schundi did pretty well in Ars Ensis league few months ago ...

Yes, thank you. I'm aware that Schundi is a former kendoka with 2-3 years of experience in that fencing art. I have been regularly reading his blog (Kard az élet = approx. Life is a sword) during past months. It might happen that I could fence with him during Ars Ensis's summer camp, that should be a treat because he is among the top 3-5 fencers of AE and a very competitive guy. Unfortunately he didn't attend last 4-5 joint monthly training sessions of AE, so I haven't be able to cross my sabre with him.
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 02 Apr 2012 09:03

Hi Mark,

A couple of years ago I attended several kendo sessions as an observer, then 6-7 lessons as a participant. After that I decided that definitely this Japanese art wasn't for me. Despite this I still have a hunch that there are useful things that might be learned from them. Not things like simple breathing when you strike, or their footwork, or how to grip your sword etc., because all these issues either are very different in our art or could be learned from old manuals or from good sport fencing coaches.

Mark Shaw wrote:Kendo also practices a way to strike while moving backwards which is useful (=> flying out).
There is also a technique called taiatari, which means "body check" where basically if your strike is not successful you continue forward and hit your opponent with your body to knock them off balance.

Interesting. Especially "flying out" stuff.

Mark Shaw wrote:Kendo has a very slow learning curve as a result. Kendo also has other goals that make it very fustrating if your only interested in fencing or MA (eg the sporting, character building and zen/one sword aspects).

Another thing. As a result of character building stuff (or pure economic reasons) here in Hungary an average beginner has to wait 6-12 months before he could have his bogu and could start sparring. Too bad for them! In 2009 I bought a pair of Olympic sabres and headgear, and almost immediately we started sparring in T-shirts, probably not a very smart move from the viewpoint of fencing methodology and safety, but it was immensely enjoyable!
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Dave B » 02 Apr 2012 09:34

Ulrich von L...n wrote:I'm more interested to learn more about kendo techniques that are used to calm their minds before and during competitions. Or about semi-mystical concept of seme. Or how 60-70 years old kendokas manage to beat much younger opponents. Is it a myth or reality?


I don't find that surprising at all - Skill, cunning and efficiency of movement can trump strength and fitness, at least for long enough to win a bout. I'm sure that in 25 years some guys who are good with a longsword and are 35 or 40 now will still be winning fights.
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby admin » 02 Apr 2012 10:50

Mark Shaw wrote:A big mark against Kendo in my book is a refusal to adopt western fencing theory to improve instuction techniques. You rarely hear instructors using simple concepts like closing the line or tempo etc (actually never in my experience).
Kendo has a very slow learning curve as a result.


This is a very interesting observation. I don't know how true it is, but I find it interesting none the less.
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby admin » 02 Apr 2012 10:56

Ulrich von L...n wrote:
admin wrote:... Kendo, for example, can certainly teach some things that sport fencing can not, though I would argue that these days you could learn those things even more quickly by attending a HEMA longsword class

What are those things? What could kendo offer to practitioners of Western swordsmanship?
Special breathing techniques?


Hi,
Everyone else posting in this thread has answered these questions I think.

To reiterate my statement - what I was saying was that kendo, for example, could teach some things applicable to HEMA that sport fencing could not (thereby highlighting that sport fencing is not the *only* sport/martial art that can be a useful reference point for HEMA). Though I believe that if someone wanted to learn HEMA then they would be best getting to a HEMA class, if possible. Whilst sport fencing or kendo can teach good transferable skills for HEMA, they can also teach bad habits that are difficult to get rid of. Most kendoka doing longsword that I have encountered over the years have been amusingly easy to snipe in the hands, for example, as they tend to leave them exposed habitually (because most hands hits do not count in kendo).
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby admin » 02 Apr 2012 11:06

Ulrich von L...n wrote:Despite this I still have a hunch that there are useful things that might be learned from them.


The things I was refering to are simple things, such as having a good defence with the forte of the blade and being quick and powerful at moving a two handed weapon - kendoka generally have a very quick 'volta' (ie. cutting from one direction to another).
The problem though is that their attacks are extremely limited compared to HEMA – only specific targets count for scoring and you have to shout the name of that body part as you strike it to get the point – and therefore their defence and use of distance is equally limited. Imagine if you took longsword and said that you could only hit 8 specific locations with a certain kind of cut and one location (the throat) with a certain kind of thrust and that you could not grapple, strike below the waist, or ever have the left foot in front.. You end up with a sport that is very far removed from the original considerations of swordsmanship IMO.
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 02 Apr 2012 12:55

Dave B wrote:I don't find that surprising at all - Skill, cunning and efficiency of movement can trump strength and fitness, at least for long enough to win a bout.

First of all I don't see any hard evidence that indeed old kendokas (60-70) are able to win bouts against top level fencers, let's winners of All Japan Kendo Championship. No sparring videos, basically nothing. Only hearsay! I don't have credible evidence about bouts between old kendo practitioners and younger representatives of other fencing styles. So I'm sceptical a bit.

Dave B wrote:I'm sure that in 25 years some guys who are good with a longsword and are 35 or 40 now will still be winning fights.

Unfortunately it is very unlikely, only exceptionally talented guys with a superb genetic background could compete at the highest level after the age of 40-45. For example Evander Holyfield or - a much better example - Aladar Gerevich who won his sixth Olympic gold at 50. Even he decided to stop competing after the Rome Olympic (1960).
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 02 Apr 2012 13:08

admin wrote:
Mark Shaw wrote:... Kendo has a very slow learning curve as a result.

This is a very interesting observation. I don't know how true it is, but I find it interesting none the less.

I think I could second this observation. Once upon a time ... I had a friendly sparring with a 3rd dan, Hungarian kendoka (a little bit later he received his 4th dan). That meant somewhere 6-8 years of kendo training. It was almost a draw, naturally he won (around 5:4). At the moment of sparring I had roughly 20-22 free sparring sessions behind me, without support from a qualified fencing coach. To be honest I was very surprised and felt exhilarated by that result!
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 02 Apr 2012 13:17

admin wrote:I believe that if someone wanted to learn HEMA then they would be best getting to a HEMA class, if possible. Whilst sport fencing or kendo can teach good transferable skills for HEMA, they can also teach bad habits that are difficult to get rid of.

It would be a bit foolish to advocate to practice kendo and HEMA simultaneously. I just have a gut feeling that kendo guys might have preserved and still use some interesting psychotechniques that could be applied to HEMA without being a follower of Zen Buddhism etc.
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby admin » 02 Apr 2012 13:26

But don't we know about sports and combat psychology already? I doubt that kendo could provide unique psychological information that other sports, martial arts or combat training can not also.
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 02 Apr 2012 13:56

admin wrote:But don't we know about sports and combat psychology already?

When before my first ever competition I asked a fencing coach, who teaches mainly epee, but helped me in my sabre training, what to do before the competition and how to relax immediately before an important bout, he replied: "Just relax! Read, listen to your favourite music." Well, what a wonderful piece of advice... :? ... I must tell you I was deeply disappointed because: either a) he tried to help as much as he could (so he is ignorant on that particular issue) or b) he didn't want to disclose some well guarded secrets to a "stranger". Either way is bad. It is also quite bad that after certain period of kendo training you say: "I doubt that kendo could provide unique psychological information..."
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby admin » 02 Apr 2012 14:07

The important part of the sentence being the word 'unique'. There are many hundreds of books written on how to deal with stress in sporting and combat situations. I would not expect kendo to be any better at helping than sport fencing, boxing or tennis.
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 02 Apr 2012 18:46

Too bad I didn't have time to complete the sentence.

It is also quite bad that after certain period of kendo training you say: "I doubt that kendo could provide unique psychological information..." so presumably there isn't any special method to deal with competition stress in kendo.

A couple of years ago we tried to ask several Hungarian forumites who practiced kendo to explain a few concepts of kendo in lay, European terms. Basically the whole discussion went nowhere.
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Mitlov » 02 Apr 2012 18:50

The best thing I've found for competition stress is a combination of (1) zazen meditation and (2) a portable mp3 player. Curiously, I've never had a single coach or instructor, from fencing to Shotokan to taekwondo, explicitly sit me down and talk me through how to deal with competition stress.

(I could begin a long rant about how much better a Windows Phone with Zune software is over an iPod, but I doubt anyone here wants to hear that.)
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Re: Kendo and HEMA

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 02 Apr 2012 18:58

Hi Mitlov,

It would be interesting to know a little bit more of your zazen meditation.
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