The room exploded with noise as Michiel and I stood in the corner watching as the Kendoka all started sparring with each other, and hitting each other in the head with their bamboo sword (called a Shinai.) One of the instructors took us to one side and explain the history, and all of the tradition surrounding Kendo. I thought it was really interesting especially how important etiquette was – no sitting down, only kneeling, and asking for permission to leave the Dojo were only a few examples.
We had gone to try it out, and it was definitely not what I was expecting. I knew there were swords involved, but I hadn’t prepared myself for smacking someone in the head with a weapon. I used to do karate when I was younger and I always remember the day I elbowed my instructor in the head, and it was quite hard. I apologised immediately to him, and it seems nothing has changed. On hitting one of the instructors in the head, my first and only instinct was to apologise, despite the fact he was wearing protection. I can only conclude that I am not a violent person and that the act of physically hurting someone in a staged and safe environment is not one of my strong points.
The warm up was quite fun, but when we got to this point and were told to just watch, which I was quite relieved about after seeing what they had to do.
Before we even got to the physical part, we had to learn how to handle our Shinai, and learn how to walk. I was terrible at this. Initially I thought I had got the hang of it, but it all went very rapidly downhill as soon as I had to start thinking about the position of my Shinai. The idea is to shuffle along the floor, but because it was very hot, my feet kept actually sticking to the floor, which tripped me up a few times.
Meanwhile, the more experienced fighters (everyone but Michiel and I) were sparring.
Everyone there was so patient, and a lot of the students took the time out to come and talk to us and see if they could help us to learn the techniques. Michiel was far better at hitting than I was, and I think he really enjoyed all of the shouting (though they did have to coax it out of him a little bit!)
Marije told us that in the summer they focus more on fighting practice as there are less students there, and in the winter months the warm-ups involve more walking practice, which is brilliant if you’re new to Kendo as walking is (unfortunately) the most important part.
I really enjoyed it and it’s definitely a very friendly Dojo if you’re looking for somewhere to go and practice, but sadly Kendo is not for me. I prefer sport to be less physical. I would like to thank everyone at Kendo Dojo Museido.
They have classes twice a week. For more information please visit their website here