THE ANCIENT JAPANESE ART
A HANDBOOK FOR BEGINNERS
MELBOURNE BUDOKAI,(KENSHIKAN DOJO), INCORPORATED.
It has always been the aim of the Melbourne Budokai, (Kenshikan Dojo), Incorporated, to be the leader in the practice and perpetuation of Kendo, within Australia.
It was to this end that in March of 1988, a system of eight week beginner’s courses was implemented, to help introduce novices to the joys of Kendo, with the goal being their successful integration into the general training sessions.
These courses have been a great success and have produced some fine young prospects for the Australian Kendo Title,
During the beginners course of September 1989, Tony Kay and Peter Hocking produced the first beginners manual and this was used by Tony with great success. It is from this original manual that I have produced this current publication. It is my hope that it will not only serve as a beginners manual for future novice classes, but will also provide Kendo players of all levels with a useful reference source.
It should be noted however that this book is not designed as a training manual, but as a reference source. There is no substitute for a good sensei.
Train hard and always apply yourself to the task at hand.
Peter Riordan, Dojo Steward
Melbourne Budokai, (Kenshikan Dojo), Incorporated. 1990
The training area used in Kendo is known as a “Dojo”. The word dojo has its origins in Buddhism, and meant a place where ascetic training in the principles of Buddhism took place. Accordingly, this area was highly respected as a holy and spiritual training place.
Today though, a dojo is also a place in which teh martial arts are taught and practiced. However, strong links still exist binding today’s Dojos to their predecessors of the past.
There are many different Dojo layouts, but one feautre found in all Dojos is the ‘Kamiza’ (spiritual seat) which in times of old enshrined the patron spirit of the Dojo, and in many Dojos is represented by a miniature shrine. The Kamiza is also referred to as ‘Joseki’ (high seat), as it is the place reserved for the senior sensei, or respected guests. At the Kenshikan Dojo however, the miniature shrine is instead housed in the Sensei office and the Kamiza is referred to as ‘Shomen’.
The traditions of Kendo require from its students a strict observance of etiquette within the dojo. Kendo starts with courtesy and finishes with courtesy. When compared with other sports it would be easy for Kendo to degenerate into wild and uncontrolled aggression. However the observance of a strict code of behaviour is able to keep the conflicting emotions, generated by Kendo, in check.
Therefore, the practice of correct etiquette within the Dojo is one of the most important aspects in the practice of Kendo.
For these reasons ‘Mokuso’ (meditation) is practiced at the beginning and end of every training session. The purpose of Mokuso at the start of a training session is to clear the students mind of worries or doubts that have arisen in their mind outside of the Dojo, and which would otherwise interfere with their training. Mokuso is then practiced at the end of the training session to allow the student to reflect on lessons learnt during the training, and to leave the dojo with a clear mind.
- Shoes and hats must be removed before ending the Dojo.
- Definitely NO SMOKING in the Dojo.
- Whenever entering or leaving the Dojo make a correct standing bow to the front (Shomen).
- Equipment and other bags should not be carried into, or within the Dojo slung over the shoulders. Remember that your bag and shinai are respected pieces of equipment through which you are able to learn Kendo. In times of old these were treated as the soul of the samurai. The shinai and bokuto represent real weapons; they should never be leant on, dropped or handled in any other way than one would handle a valued (not to mention exceptionally sharp) katana.
- Late arrival at the Dojo is not tolerated. Be at the Dojo in plenty of time to allow you to change and start warm ups on time.
- Within the Dojo the armour should only be put on or adjusted from seiza.
- The sensei of the Dojo is regarded as complete master within the realm of Kendo. Their word is law within the Dojo. They should be treated correctly and with respect at all times.
- The sensei sits on the sensei side of the Dojo. Depending on the layout of the Dojo that is either in front of the Shomen or to either side of the Shomen. All others sit opposite the sensei. Senior grades closest to the Joseki, with lower grades to their left.
- Do not walk in front of another player who is seated on the Dojo floor. If this is unavoidable, bow slightly and extend your right hand in front of you as you pass.
- Do not step over a shinai or bokuto, but walk around it.
- Do not move another player’s armour unless asked to or permission is given by the owner.
- Bow to your opponent at the start and finish of each practice.
- During practice higher grades stand on the sensei side of the Dojo, facing the lower grades.
- If armour must be adjusted during practice, each player must move off the playing area to the side of the Dojo. Adjustments to the armour should only be made from seiza. The opponent waits until the adjustment is made. Bow to recommence practice.
- If you must leave the Dojo during training for any reason, first seek permission from the Dojo steward or the sensei.
- If you must remove your armour during training for any reason first seek permission from the Dojo steward or the sensei.
- During Kendo practice there should be no talking between players. The training session is a time of learning and not a time for discussion or gossip; there is time enough for this afterwards.
- Respect at all times should be shown to the sensei, Dojo and fellow students. Personal thanks are expressed with a kneeling rei between sensei and students, and amongst fellow students.
- The final rei marks the end of the training session and students are free to leave the Dojo. However, bogu should be properly packed away before leaving the Dojo.
- If relaxed sitting is permitted, sit with legs crossed and back straight. Ensure feet are covered by hakama. This is the only other acceptable sitting position in Dojo other than seiza. Do not allow yourself to slump.
SEIZA (FORMAL SITTING (KNEELING))
Seiza is the formal Japanese style of sitting (kneeling). Kneel with your knees about 20 am apart, your feet should be slightly crossed, with the big toe of the right foot resting on top of the left and both lying flat on the floor. Your hands should rest lightly on your thighs with fingers extended and together. The back should be straight, with shoulders relaxed and head looking directly forward with the mouth closed.
The correct way to assume seiza from a standing position is to lower your weight onto your left knee first, and then your right. Once you have assumed seiza it is important that you carefully adjust your position, so you are iinitially comfortable (this may take some practice), as it is important, that once you are sitting in seiza that you do not adjust your position. The first reason for this is that it is impolite, from an etiquette point of view, to move around whilst a senior person is speaking to you. The second is that whilst seiza is uncomfortable because it restricts the flow of blood to the lower legs, the practice of rocking the body weight from one leg to the other, whilst being rude, causes an unnaturally high blood pressure in the lower legs, as it traps more blood in the lower leg than would normally be there, which can cause nerve and blood vessel damage.
When rising to a standing position, the reverse of the above process is used, place the right foot on the floor first and stand up. Your hands should not touch the floor either in kneeling or rising from seiza, and the back should remain straight at all times.
REI (THE BOW)
ZAREI (KNEELING BOW)
Keeping your eyes on your opponent without raising your hips or bending your neck, lean your body forward. Advance your hand slightly in front of your knees, both hands together, placing them on with finger tips just touching. Quietly lower your head. Hold this position for a brief moment, then reverse the process to return to your original position. Be careful not to stick your elbows out like wings, and not to let your head touch the floor.
RITSUREI (STANDING BOW)
Keeping your eyes on your opponent and without bending your neck or knees, bend your upper body forward, at the hips, to an angle of about thirty degrees. Hold your arms at the side of your body not letting them swing forward in front of you. Hold this position for a short period, and return to a normal standing position.
From seiza, lightly close your eyes and rest both hands palm up in your lap. The fingers of the left hand should rest on top of the right. Both thumbs should touch lightly together to form a perfect “O” shape. Quietly start abdominal breathing, applying a little pressure to the abdomen.