I got my blackbelt and the reward was this lousy blog post.

If you’re curious about kendo and what happens if you take it up, then you’ve come to the right place.  I graded to 1 dan last week so it’s a good opportunity to reflect on my journey. (Budo people like journeys…)  

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We all have our own preferences when choosing a hobby.  I myself look for activities with a club atmosphere where I can exercise and develop some skills.  Kendo offered this and it always looked like fun, so in autumn 2011 I signed up for the (very reasonably priced!) beginners course at the University of Helsinki Kendo Club.  To be honest, I had no idea back then how far I would take kendo, but I knew the only way to find out was to give it a bash.

Training was three times a week for a semester where we practiced the basics under high-level and patient sensei (“you must unlearn what you have learnt!”).  I also felt very welcome in the club.  

The end of the beginners course was marked by grading for the first “coloured” belt and at this point I already knew kendo was for me.  Naturally I needed the outfit and armour, which of course I hadn’t a clue about, but some senior members advised on what to buy and then on how to put it all on!  

This is when the real fun began since it was possible to take a full part in training.  Which is another reason kendo suits me, training is not about prearranged patterns with a passive partner, it’s full contact where an active opponent really tries to score points.

I continued training three times a week (well most weeks!), enjoying a good workout while learning and perfecting kendo techniques.  Other highlights during this time include weekend training camps with visiting Japanese sensei, competing in a  couple of tournaments, grading up and of course a few parties on the way!

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Which has led me here. Achieving 1 dan seemed very far away when I began but there’s no trick to it, progress comes automatically through regular training.  Which sounds very dull, I know, but believe me training is always enjoyable and even more so when techniques start to work.

So what next?  There’s still lots to learn and improve in my kendo so the journey continues.  Next year I will try for 2 dan and hopefully take part in a few competitions.  There’s also talk of a club party soon 🙂

-Cliff Gilmore

(photos: Heikka Valja)

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