President / Chief instructor : Michio Kajitani - 7 dan Kyoshi
Current instructors: Michiaki Imamura 4 dan, Mike Sentany 3 dan
Arkansas Kendo Club opened in late 2003. Chief instructor, Kajitani sensei is from Japan, has been studying kendo since 1972. He was in Kendo Club at Toyama High School in Tokyo, and Hokkaido University in Sapporo, while attending medical school. He has been in the USA since 1990, teaching and promoting Kendo in Minnesota (1990-1992), Oregon (Obukan 1992-1999), then in Arkansas since 1999. Steven J. Beaupre Sensei was teaching Kendo at University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and Kajitani sensei assisted him to teach Kendo there, until the top student Mr. An Giang relocated to Little Rock in late 2003. Since then, we have our regular class in Little Rock. Mr. Giang relocated to Seattle in July 2011. Mike Sentay sensei (3 dan) is now an instructor. Our club is operated by Arkansas Kendo Club, INC. established in 2006 in order to provide financial and organizational management. Club fees are used strictly for our members' benefit to practice kendo, mainly for Dojo rental, membership fee for SWKIF and AUSKF to provide insurance, and to purchase equipment. The instructors are not reimbursed for teaching the class.
Michio Kajitani and An Giang
Michio Kajitani (7-dan, Renshi) on left and An Giang (4-dan) on right.
What is Kendo?
Kendo, is the art of Japanese fencing. "Ken" means sword. The character for "Do" or michi includes the meaning way or path which translates as "The way of the sword". A path in life which is followed through the training of kendo.
History of Kendo
Modern Kendo originated in Kenjutsu and its feudal origins of sword wielding samurai warriors. The story of the rise of modern Kendo begins with the samurai and extends over the culture of several centuries.
By the end of the 12th century, bands of warriors grouped together for protection forming local aristocracies. Feudalism dominated Japan for the following several centuries. With the military rule controlling Japan, a new military class, Samurai, and their lifestyle called Bushido, "the way of the warrior" gained prominence. Bushido stressed the virtues of bravery, loyalty, honor, and self discipline. Certainly, the influence of Bushido extended to modern Japanese society and Kendo was also greatly influenced by this philosophy.
During the late Muromachi period (1336-1568), warriors struggled for power over each other. This period brought an increased demand and respect for trained samurai. Consequently, as many as 200 schools of Kenjutsu arose creating different styles. Real blades or hardwood swords without protective equipment were used in training resulting in serious and often fatal injuries.
These schools continued to flourish through the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), with the Ittoryu or "one sword school," having the greatest influence on modern Kendo.
Kendo began to take its modern appearance during the late 18th century with the introduction of protective equipment: the men, kote and do and the use of the bamboo sword, the shinai. The use of the shinai and protective armor made possible the full delivery of blows without injury. This forced the establishment of new regulations and practice formats which set the foundation of modern Kendo.
With the Meiji Restoration (1868) and Japan’s entry into the modern world, Kendo suffered a great decline. The Samurai class was abolished and the wearing of swords in public outlawed. But the interest in Kendo was revived first in 1887 when uprisings against the government showed the need for the training of police officers.
In 1895, the Butokukai, an organization devoted to the martial arts was established. In 1911, Kendo was officially introduced into the physical education curriculum of schools, and in 1912, the Nihon Kendo Kata, a set of regulations for Kendo, was published.
After the World War II in 1945, because of its nationalistic and militaristic associations, Kendo was outlawed for a while. However by 1952, supporters of Kendo reintroduced a "pure sport" form of Kendo, called Shinai Kyogi which excluded the militaristic attitudes and some of the rougher aspects of Kendo. Later, Kendo was re-established closer to its original form, with new rules and regulation to clarify the winning points (Yuh Koh datotsu) and penalties (Hansoku). Today, Kendo continues to grow under the auspices of the All Japan Kendo Federation, the International Kendo Federation, and federations all over the world, such as AUSKF.
Although the outward appearance and some of the ideals have changed with the changing needs of the people, Kendo continues to build character, self-discipline and respect. Despite a sport like atmosphere, Kendo remains steeped in tradition which must never be forgotten. For here lies the strength of Kendo which has carried it throughout history and will carry it far into the future.
Arkansas Kendo Club pursues the philosophy based on the history mentioned above, i.e., build character, self-discipline, and respect through learning process of Kendo. We are prepared to teach all aspects of Kendo.
Physical training could be vigorous, depending on individual student’s ability and strength, but we will strictly prohibit reckless, rough, and / or disrespectful behavior. We will provide less physically demanding class depending on individual student’s needs. Variety of skills and techniques are taught, which is the most fun part of Kendo. Students are encouraged not only to ask questions to help themselves improve their skill and knowledge, but also to think why we practice kendo in the way we do.
After all, many instructors agree that Kendo is more for mental training, to help you learn how to concentrate, focus, build your own philosophy why and how you execute certain movements and skills. Start leaning with humble attitude and respect others, and continue to stay humble and respectful. This will help you improve your skill endlessly. In Japan, you will meet 80 year old Kendo instructors, and you cannot even scratch them. Kendo is an unique martial art, or sport, that you can continue to improve your skill no matter how old you are, as long as you are willing to do so. This philosophy shall be adapted and can be applied to anything else you do in your life. This is why it is called Ken DOH (Way of life).
Depending on individual’s needs and wishes, we are prepared to help and guide students to participate in seminars, tournaments, and rank promotion examinations in Southwest Kendo Iaido Federation and All US Kendo Federation. Throughout our activity, we consistently stress on importance of respect and discipline to build a good character.
All students are required to register with SWKIF and AUSKF upon application. We will practice Kendo strictly following their rules, regulations, and guidelines. These organizations put tremendous effort in promoting Kendo in our region and USA. We have to respect their effort and dedication.
We have ‘open minded policy’. We encourage students to visit other Kendo dojo / club to learn different skills, and invite instructors and students from other dojo to come visit us, as long as we share the same philosophy.
Kendo equipment consists of the swords, uniform and armor.
There are two types of wooden swords used.
First, the bokken or bokuto, a solid wood sword made of oak or another suitable hardwood. The bokken is used for basics and forms practice (kata) without body contact.
Second, the shinai, is made up of four bamboo staves and leather. The shinai is used for swing practice and full contact sparring practice wearing armors.
The uniform or dogi consists of woven cotton top called a keikogi and pleated trousers called a hakama.
The armor or bogu consists of four pieces: the helmet (men), the body protector (do), the gloves (kote), and the hip and groin protector (tare). Modern Kendo armor design is fashioned after the Oyoroi of the Samurai.
In order to avoid injury and to encourage promoting proper kendo technique, striking the opponent is limited to only the well protected parts of the armor. The kendo player is required to wear proper uniform (Kendo-gi, and Hakama), then the armor that consists of whole face mask helmet (MEN), body protector (DOH), gloves (KOTE), and hip / groin protector (TARE). On the left, you see Mr. Giang wearing full gear, with Bamboo sword (SHINAI) in his left hand.
Basic striking points are
MEN: top of the head
KOTE: forearm in the front (usually right)
DOH: hard part of the body armor
TSUKI: small square shield in front of the throat
TSUKI is prohibited for non-black belts and juniors to avoid serious injury.
When opponent is in stance with arms up (JOHDAN), left arm is in front, then either left and right arm could be the proper target.
When proper strike to these targets are delivered, using the far end of SHINAI, ie. 3 inches from the tip, with good Kiai (Yelling out the name of the target you intend to hit), and good posture, one point (IPPON) is rewarded to the player. Once you gained two points, you win the match.