Thursday, February 12, 2009

Interested in Starting Kendo? (updated 01 September 2017)

How do I find out more about Kendo and the Memphis Kendo Club?
If you are interested in joining the Memphis Kendo Club or have any questions, you can find us on Facebook (Memphis Kendo Club) and ask questions there, or you can email the club contact:
(don't forget to remove the spaces)
Jodi Hilton at:
w i d o w 1 2 8 (at) g m a i l (dot) c o m

When and where does the Memphis Kendo Club meet for practice?
The Memphis Kendo Club has practice on Wednesday nights from 7pm to 9pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 12pm (unless otherwise specified) at the Singleton Community Center located at 7266 Third Road in Bartlett, TN.

Monday class from 7pm to 9pm is reserved for more experienced members (in bogu), but beginners (not in bogu) and people interested in starting kendo are welcome to come watch this practice.

What is Kendo? What is it like?
Quite simply, kendo is Japanese fencing. With its foundation in traditional Japanese sword training, it has developed over many years into a modern fencing art. Kenshi (kendo players) wear protective armor, called bogu, which is very similar to traditional samurai armor, and protects the head, throat, torso, hands/wrists/forearms, and hips.

The sights and sounds of kendo practice can make kendo appear very intimidating at first. People often view kendo with a little anxiety because kendo is a full contact sport played at high speed with the purpose of striking the other player with a bamboo sword. However, kendo is practiced under a very stringent set of rules that are strictly enforced.

Having said that, Memphis Kendo Club recommends that people come and watch the pratice at least once before starting, as many people tend to have a(n incorrect) pre-conceived notion of what kendo is, or should be. To try and dispel some of the more common (mis)beliefs, kendo is NOT like what is portrayed in comic books/anime, or in movies like Star Wars, Kill Bill or The Last Samurai. It's even less like "backyard ninja" videos posted regularly on websites like YouTube, or what you may see from groups such as the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA). If such is the type of swordplay you hope to achieve through the study of kendo, then please do not waste our time (or yours), because that is not the type of swordplay learned through proper kendo instruction.

Is Kendo dangerous?
To watch kendo, it looks relatively brutal and one might come to the conclusion that practitioners suffer many injuries. Surprisingly, this is rarely the case. The protective armor worn by players is very effective, and the simple mechanics of kendo tend to result in fewer injuries than are more commonly found in practitioners of karate, taekwondo, judo, etc.  The most common kendo injuries involve the feet, normally in terms of blisters which can be doctored up and heal very quickly and easily.  Other types of injuries might involve the Achilles tendon, plantar fasciitis (a straining of the tendons of the bottom of the foot), tennis/golfer's elbow, etc.  Overall, many common kendo injuries can be avoided altogether through proper warm-up and footwork.

Speaking very generally, kendo is a very safe activity, and this is perhaps most evidenced by people actively continuing to practice well beyond their "prime" years.

When should I start Kendo? Am I too young or old?
People take up kendo at various ages, both young and old. We accept students from ages 12 and up. If you are under 16 years of age, the community center requires a parent or guardian to be present throughout the practice. Currently, we only take on new students in the first two weeks of:

What do I need to start Kendo?
If you have an interest in starting, there are only two things you should have when you show up: a shinai (bamboo sword) and a bokuto (wooden sword).  Since the closing of Memphis' only martial arts supply store (Dach Imports), these items can pretty much only be purchased online. At some point, the club may consider keeping shinai in stock for club members to purchase through the club's contact person.  For a listing of recommended online suppliers, see the LINKS section from the main Memphis Kendo Club page (Note: Memphis Kendo Club does not get kickbacks from any online supplier.)

As for workout clothes, we recommend you dress simply and comfortably (sweats, shorts, t-shirt, etc.), but please, make it respectable as well (clean, no holes, no profane messages, etc.). Be advised, also, that shoes and socks are NOT worn in the practice of kendo. It really will not be necessary to get into the traditional kendo uniform (hakama and keikogi) for a few months.

For information on costs associated with shinai, bokuto, hakama, and keikogi, please see the section further down on "How Much Does Kendo Cost?"

What can I expect of Kendo training at the beginning?
Kendo training at the very beginning can be extremely monotonous with a lot of repetition of only a few very simple, basic movements. These basics of kendo are vitally important to the foundation of kendo skills, which is why it is necessary for beginning students to spend so much time on them.

It is important that students do not miss any classes so that they can be properly guided by the instructors as regularly as possible, otherwise, very small or minor mistakes in prolonged self-practice can develop into horribly bad habits which may inhibit kendo progression.

In our experience, better than 80% of people who start kendo will quit before ever getting out of this beginning/pre-bogu stage, however, for the 20% that have the patience and desire to stick with it, the rewards are well worth it. Kendo doesn't really start to get fun until students reach a level of proficiency where they can wear bogu (kendo armor) and take part fully in every aspect of class.

Practically speaking, what beginners can expect to do is to join the group in basic warm-ups, and then immediately thereafter, one of the instructors will normally take the new folks off to one side for more focused instruction on the basics. Separating the class this way allows everyone -- more experienced kenshi and newbies -- to work on those things specific to their need. For newbies, that means working on proper kendo stance, shinai grip, swinging the shinai, foot movement, and eventually, movement while swinging the shinai. It sounds very simple, but to do it properly can actually be challenging!

When can I expect to participate in full practice? Should I go ahead and buy bogu right away?

New students are scheduled to be in a 'beginner status' for a minimum of 4 months (approximately 10-16 classes).
In a best-case scenario:
-- Your first 2 months will be spent off to the side with an instructor.
-- At the end of 2 months, you will be eligible to test for the rank of 8.kyu.
-- Based on the subjective opinion of the instructors, you may need to spend an additional 2 months off to the side with an instructor and have an opportunity to test again for 8.kyu at the end of that period.
-- If you pass 8.kyu, you will NOT be permitted to wear bogu (kendo armor), but you'll be allowed to wear normal hakama and keikogi, and you will join the regular practice group, continuing to work on very basic kendo (kirikaeshi, basic striking, basic movement).
-- After 2 months at the 8.kyu stage, you will be eligible to test for the rank of 7.kyu
-- If necessary, you may need to spend some additional time at the 8.kyu stage
-- If you pass 7.kyu, you will be permitted to wear bogu (kendo armor) and fully participate in every aspect of normal practice.

All in all, it is anticipated (and hoped) that you will be fully participating in class after 4 months, but there is no maximum time limit for staying in the beginner stage.  YOU will essentially set the pace of your own progression.  Naturally, some people may be more athletic or may simply "pick up" things more quickly than others.  There is no "progression time table" in Kendo.  We are as interested in your progression as you are, and we have no interest in setting people up to fail.  For some, this may simply necessitate a longer period in the beginner stages.  While this may not be overly "fun," it would be even less fun and less fulfilling for you to be pushed forward before you are really prepared and ready.  Regularly attending class, and minimizing missed classes, will help as much as anything else.

For information on Bogu (kendo armor), please refer to the section "How much does Kendo cost?"

What about rank in Kendo?
For those of you who may have a background in another martial art (several Memphis Kendo Club members also fall into that category), you may be accustomed to seeing people with some kind of rank designator (e.g., a belt). There is no external sign of rank worn by kendo players, so no one can know for sure who has what rank. For this reason, it is important that everyone treat everyone else as if they are of a higher rank. Etiquette is a very, very large and important part of kendo. Please keep this in mind.

There is no real time table for rank testing in Kendo, although there are some mandatory minimum waiting periods between some ranks.

Ranking in Kendo runs from as low as 8.kyu through 8.dan.

Memphis Kendo Club conducts in-school testings for the rank of 8.kyu and 7.kyu.  Ranks above that can only be achieved through testing normally held in conjunction with a Kendo event through a regional or national Kendo federation event, e.g., a seminar, a tournament, etc.

Please note that while we understand people may have different reasons for starting Kendo with specific goals in mind, MKC requires that members compete in at least one tournament prior to testing for the rank of 1.kyu.

How much does Kendo cost?

Please note that Memphis Kendo Club does not receive ANY money or kickbacks from any testing/promotional fees, rank certificate fees, monthly/yearly membership dues, or online purchases of gear.

KENDO GEAR -- (available by online purchase)
To start ....
Shinai (bamboo sword) - $25-$35
Bokuto (wooden sword) - $30-$40
(NOTE:  Bokuto is normally something that will be purchases once and never need replacing.  Shinai regularly need replacing, depending on a great number of factors.  A good shinai (coupled with proper use and care) may last anywhere from 4 to 6 months.  Some people may go through anywhere from 3 to 5 shinai in a year.)

4 to 6 months after starting...
Keikogi (uniform top) - $50-$100 (different levels of quality/style dictate pricing)
Hakama (uniform bottom) - $100-$150 (different levels of quality/style dictate pricing)
(NOTE:  Keikogi/Hakama are often available online as a combination purchase for around $150)
(NOTE:  Depending on your level of care of these items, Hakama may need replacing every 2 to 3 years, and Keikogi may need replacing every 1-1.5 years. These are all just estimates.)

6 to 12 months after starting....
Bogu (kendo armor) - $300 to $THOUSANDS;  good starter set averages around $450

Bogu is a true investment in Kendo.  It is not unlike purchasing a car, per se.  There are many different quality levels, styles, and options available online for purchase, which is why it is important that PRIOR to purchasing anything online, you consult with senior members and instructors of the club.  The individual parts of a bogu (men [head], kote [hand/wrist], dou [torso/midsection], and tare [waist/hip]) have differing levels of shelf-life.  The Dou is a piece which undoubtedly lasts the longest and typically never needs replacing.  The Tare comes second and can easily last well more than a decade, maybe only needing a repair/replacement/re-enforcement of the 'belt' portion need to tie the piece around your waist.  A good, quality Men can easily last more than a decade.  Some MKC members have been using the same Men for 20+ years!  Kote suffer the most turn-around and usually require a replacement or patch of the leather palms anywhere from 1 to 3 years.  Palm patching can be relatively cheap.  Palm replacement typically runs around $70 *per palm*, which is sometimes why many people decide just to purchase a new pair of kote.  New Kote, by themselves, can run anywhere from $150-$250 (or higher).

If you are eligible to practice in full bogu, Memphis Kendo Club has some club bogu available to rent for $10/month.  This rental includes ONLY men, dou, and tare.  You will need to purchase your own kote, which will cost approximately $150 online.

NEVER HESITATE TO SPEAK TO A SENIOR CLUB MEMBER OR INSTRUCTOR FOR ADVICE PRIOR TO PURCHASING ANY KENDO EQUIPMENT!!  Always be sure to shop around online (see the LINKS on this blog's main page for suggestions) to look for a good deal!

$25 per person/per month, payable directly to the Singleton Community Center.

ANNUAL DUES - (as of 2017)
$110 -- first-time joining, age 18 and over.  ($100 renewal every year thereafter)
$70 -- first-time joining age 17 and under.  ($60 renewal every year thereafter)
**For legal and insurance purposes, every Memphis club member is REQUIRED to join the All-US Kendo Federation (AUSKF) and Southeast US Kendo Federation (SEUSKF).  NO EXCEPTIONS.  YOU MUST BE A CURRENT/ACTIVE MEMBER of AUSKF/SEUSKF BEFORE YOU MAY PARTICIPATE IN *ANY* CLASS**

RANK PROMOTION FEES - (as of 2017)
8.kyu - no charge for in-dojo promotion
7.kyu - no charge for in-dojo promotion
6.kyu through 1.kyu - $50 (rank certificate fee $20 for under 17, $30 for ages 17+)
1.dan - $50 (rank certificate fee $50)
2.dan - $60 (rank certificate fee $60)
3.dan - $70 (rank certificate fee $80)
4.dan - $80 (rank certificate fee $100)
*Rank Promotion and Certificate Fees are all paid to the regional federation.  Memphis Kendo Club does not set or receive any of these fees

NOTE:  Members are allowed to test at any national or regional event where available.  Members are not required to progress through kyu-ranks in order.  For example, a current 7.kyu may test for 4.kyu or 3.kyu at the next opportunity, and is not required to test for 6.kyu.  Members must possess an AUSKF-issued Kyu-rank certificate of 2.kyu or lower before being allowed to test for the rank of 1.kyu (SEUSKF policy).  Memphis Kendo Club members must participate in at least one tournament prior to being allowed to test for the rank of 1.kyu or higher (Memphis Kendo Club policy).  

Hopefully, this will answer most of the basic questions you may have about the Memphis Kendo Club.

If you have more questions, please don't hesitate to write to our club contact.

See you in the dojo!