Bowing to shomen at the kendo frontier
This article is written by and expresses the views of Jens Møllgaard Jensen of Thy kendo club.
The first time a heard about kendo was in a car, driving around the city of Odense in the summer of 1999. I instantly knew that I wanted to practice kendo.
I talked to René, one of my best friends, about it and we decided to try it out. The only trouble was that there was no kendo club i our city of Aarhus. Actually there was no club in all of Jutland, so we had a challenge.
We contacted the Danish Kendo Federation and they set up a deal with a japanese guy called Yukio Kato. He would drive 2.5 hours each way from a small town Fyn to Aarhus, to instruct us in kendo to times a week.
At first it was not easy to understand him, but it got easier over time and we found out that he was really good at kendo. He would become my friend, my sensei and would teach me the basis of all I know about kendo.
Real-time kendo history.
Starting kendo was hard, there are many layers of stuff you need to learn at first.
Starting a kendo club in a country, with no steady kendo foundation, comes with a certain set of responsibility too. You become part of something that’s in it’s formation and you need to get it right, so it develops in the “correct” direction.
I had no idea of what correct kendo was, before i had to instruct others. I have been a kendo instructor 2 months shorter than I have practised kendo my self. It was not the best way to start out, but it was the only way to go at the kendo frontier and we had a good guide in Kato sensei.
Void of history
Today all that is history, now there are 4 kendo clubs in Jutland and as a kendo nation we are on our way.
Until about a year ago, there was still one thing missing for me.
When bowing to shomen you show respect for what came before you.
I always struggle to feel anything, when bowing in front of shomen/shinzen, it was an empty feeling.
I think the main reason for that is, when you are a part of something at its foundation, it has no real history. For a long time, Kato sensei was the only one that came before me and most often, he would be right in front of me. Over time some of the few people I could look up to when I started, stopped one bye one and with that, some of our history faded away to.
I have seen many other budo clubs try to tackle this “void of history” in different ways. They claim a connection to some senseis old club or other stuff like that, but that never seemed appropriate to me. We just had to find our history and own it.
This last year I started to feel something when I bow for shomen. Maybe because some of this to me, is becoming real history instead of real-time history.
Over many years sensei and kendo friends, has used their energy and time away from family, to improve our understanding of kendo and budo. I feel pride in meeting these people and having the experience, of the lessons they taught me. I also feel pride in being able to use this experience to teach others, even though I still have to learn my self.
I hope and believe that this is the way, to create a kendo soul on the kendo frontier.