by Kristopher Inting, Dojo Manager, IGA Kendo Club Philippines
Throughout the year, we get inquiries about whether we take in beginners. The short answer is YES! We are always glad to welcome new members to the Club. We have an article about that here: Try Kendo at IGA Kendo Club!
People who think about starting Kendo sometimes ask if they are “qualified” to do this art. As someone actively involved in answering the messages we get from prospective beginners, I have corresponded with people who list their “shortcomings,” as if daring me to convince them that they shouldn’t start. All I can say to that is #YouKenDoIt! No matter what you think you can or cannot do, Kendo will always be an art that can cater to anyone and everyone. You just need the determination to start and keep on going to practice once you do.
The following are some of the more common questions I get, and my responses to them.
Am I too old to do Kendo? I am currently ___ years old. Is that too old already?
No, you are never too old to start Kendo. While most Kendoka in Japan start as children or teenagers, you cannot expect the same to hold true in other countries, especially where Kendo is not commonly practiced or well-known. The art also has different approaches for different age ranges, which is why you can see people practicing the art well into their 70’s or 80’s. We in IGA Ken do take your age into consideration when we train you. We have successfully taken in students in their 50’s (and some even older!) so there should be no upper age limit to start.
(Less Common) My child is ____ years old. Is that too young to start?
Most Japanese Kendoka typically start as young children or as teenagers. So being young is not a hindrance. As a practical matter, we tend to set a lower age limit of 5 years old. If your child is younger than that, but is willing to practice, take orders, and (most importantly) enjoy doing Kendo, then we will accept them in the Club.
I have a ______ injury/medical condition. Can I still take up Kendo?
Starting a physical activity like Kendo with a pre-existing injury or medical condition is not ideal. However, as long as your doctor has cleared you to do strenuous activities in spite of what you have, then you can take up Kendo with us. We will ask however for your doctor’s written clearance that you can do strenuous exercises. Once you supply that, we can go forward with your training while keeping your needs in mind.
Kendo seems dangerous. Will I risk injury if I take it up?
Kendo is a contact martial art, so there is always a risk of injury when you practice it, especially once you start sparring. Having said that, Kendo is actually one of the safest martial arts there is. This is in part because of the equipment we use (bamboo sword and armor), which have been specifically designed to dissipate the force of the techniques we execute. More importantly (especially in the case of our Club), there is an emphasis in Kendo on learning the basics as a beginner so that you will have a good foundation to rely on once you get into sparring. This helps reduce the risks of injury because you are more in control and self-aware.
I do not have martial arts experience/I am not athletic. Can I take up Kendo?
As a beginner, we do not expect you to know about Kendo. We don’t also expect you to be fit. As long as you are willing to practice and learn, you can start Kendo. Our beginners’ classes will teach you the basics of Kendo, and this is not so physically taxing at the start. By the time you reach the point you are ready to spar, you will have gained enough experience to do so. And by then you should also be fit enough for the physical challenges of sparring.
I am a girl/woman. Can I do Kendo? Do you have female-only classes?
Kendo is one of those rare martial arts where it doesn’t matter what gender you are. In regular practice, you will wind up sparring with the boys/men. The equipment we use are great equalizers between the sexes. As an art, Kendo relies heavily on the proper execution of techniques, rather than brute force or sheer speed. So women can fight on equal terms with men. On a personal note, my wife took up Kendo a few years after me, and has worked her way up in skill level where we can spar on equal terms. And that is one of the sources of happiness in my life, that I can share this journey in Kendo with her.
So as you can see, there really is no excuse not to take up Kendo. If you want to start, then start! We are waiting for you in our various dojo!