The Spirit of Kendo

Kendo spiritAn extract from an interview with Mr Kiyoshi Nakakura (Kendo & laido 9th dan, Hanshi), talking about kendo spirit.

She (Catherine Bordon 4th dan, USA) also made the following comment: "I am pleased with the fact that Kendo has now spread all over the world but I am still concerned about the loss of the kendo spirit".

After Japan lost the war, the Ministry of Education suggested that the spiritual side of kendo not be emphasised. They approved the introduction of kendo in schools again, but it was presented as a pure sport and not as an art with a spiritual dimension. At one point, the spiritual side of Japanese kendo had deteriorated.

When we went to Europe in 1969, I asked the following question in every country: "What made you decide to practice this art of Kendo when there are only a few instructors, and where you have to buy a lot of equipment". They replied, "We practice Kendo in order to study the Japanese Kendo spirit". I then asked "Do you really understand the Kendo spirit?" They answered, "Yes, we do. Our seniors who have been studying in Japan for many years tell us that the reason Japan has developed economically this far is due to the Japanese spirit this is cultivated through martial arts training, especially Kendo".

However, in Japan we were not practicing the Kendo which the foreigners were trying to pursue then. We were only concerned about how to win championships and how to acquire ranks in kendo at that time. Therefore, we were embarrassed then.

When we returned to Japan, I explained my experience in Europe to the All Japan Kendo Federation and suggested the need to recognise the future direction of kendo. We studied the ideological basis of kendo for three years and made our ideas public in March 1975. Our statement said that kendo is a way of character building through training in ken (sword) techniques. It was then that we confirmed that kendo should emphasise the traditional kendo spirit.