The Way of the Sword



The Way of the Sword
l People & Social
The Way of the Sword
Examiner Alain Gaillard tells us about his passion for Kendo, a Japanese martial art
which moulds the mind and body.
“I didn’t know why everyone was screaming and spearing each
other”, was Alain Gaillard’s initial reaction when his colleagues introduced him to Kendo about four years ago. Kendo meaning “Way of the Sword” is a modern Japanese martial art involving sword-fighting based on traditional Japanese
swordsmanship (“Kenjutsu”) as practised by the famed
samurai warriors, using one or less commonly two “shinai”
(bamboo slats used to represent a samurai sword “katana”).
Kendōka (swordsmen) also use hard wooden swords called
“bokutō” during Kata-performances). Kendo employs strikes
involving both one edge and the tip of the shinai or bokutō.
The training is quite noisy in comparison to other martial arts
or sports. This is because kendōka use a shout, or “kiai”, to
express and enhance their fighting spirit when striking. Additionally, they execute “fumikomi-ashi”, an action similar to
a stamp of the front foot, when making a strike. At first Alain
found it difficult to adapt to the screaming. But once he realised that the main point of it was to free energy sources, he
forgot his hang-ups and really began to enjoy the sport. “Kendo is different from other martial arts”, he tells us: “it is not
just about defence, rather it is a very physical sport involving
attack, with strong roots in Japanese tradition, especially in
Zen Buddhism, designed to mould the mind and body through
discipline and endurance.”
A physical and mental challenge
“Kendo is very physically demanding”, says Alain. “It’s hard to
keep your muscles taut, and to be constantly alert for attack. I
would compare it to a cat the second before catching a mouse.
You have to expect it to hurt a bit.” On the other hand, he says
it helps him to forget his sense of self and compares it to entering a meditative state where you empty your mind of all
thoughts. Alain always liked the idea of zen meditation, but
found sitting in zazen very difficult and needed movement.
He now enjoys incorporating a physical activity with this
spiritual dimension.
Another challenge to master was the equipment. Kendo is
practiced wearing a Japanese traditional style of clothing
and armour to protect specified target areas on the head,
arms and body. The head is protected by a stylised helmet
with a metal grille to protect the face, a series of hard leather
and fabric flaps to protect the throat and padded fabric flaps
to protect the side of the neck and shoulders. “At first I found
this very stifling”, says Alain, “but I soon got used to it.”
When asked if Kendo could be considered a dangerous sport,
he says that danger is relative. Compared with football or
handball it is not so dangerous. It is tiring and sometimes
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hurts, and Alain cannot deny that he occasionally has the odd
bruise. Serious injuries, however, do not occur so often, due
both to the protective equipment and the precision of the
Training with the locals
One of Alain’s most memorable experiences was when he
spent a week training with a group in Tokyo. He first got into
contact with this group through another association where
he trains children. He knew that some members were travelling to Japan and asked if he could get in contact with the
group there. When an e-mail came agreeing to this, he was
delighted. In Japan, kendo is practised in “dojos” (martial arts
houses) rather than sport clubs. “It was a real honour to be
welcomed there”, he says: “as normally these Dojos are closed
to foreigners”. Alain trained with 25 people of all ages, from
young girls up to a man of 85 or 90. “I was surprised to see this
gentleman still practising the sport. Despite the fact that his
movements were constricted, they were very precise and he
was mentally still a formidable opponent.” Alain found the
group to be very friendly and welcoming and enjoyed seeing
the Japanese etiquette and flair. “Things were a lot stricter in
People & Social l
Japan, where only the teacher could speak and we always had
to remain alert and ready for a fight”, he tells us. He hopes to
return there next year or the year after with the EPO club.
Kendo at the EPO
Alain now trains about twice a week with the AMICALE Kendo club. The club has about 20 members, with about eight or
ten attending each training session. When the club meets,
members have a series of fights, often without a break, with
each fight lasting four minutes. “Our trainer, Branislav Peric, is
a very motivated third Dan kendōka, who takes the time to
look after each individual’s posture and movements,” says
Alain. This helps him to learn much more quickly than in other associations with larger numbers. Training consists of four
phases – stretching, sword basic movements, learning the sequence of movements and strategies for effective fighting,
and finally exercises on speed – basically putting everything
together, learning to hit and learning to move in response to
the opponent.
When asked how many women are in the club, Alain replied:
“We had some, but at the moment we don’t have any. We
would like to have more. Kendo is a good sport for women, as
it is excellent physical and mental training. Sometimes women
can see this sport as too aggressive as the men can hit very
hard, but that is not the aim. Speed and precision are more
important than force. This technique is particularly mastered
by the Japanese.”
Future generations of kendōka
Alain is also a co-trainer in an association in Munich for small
children and adolescents aged between six and 15 years.
“Children are good to train”, he tells us. “As the main thing is
to foster a love of the sport, training is not so strict as with the
adults. Kids also have fewer hang-ups than adults, which is refreshing.” And – it’s not just for boys! The association also has
three or four female members, including Alain’s nine-yearold daughter Gwenn. “My son Yann also trains with us”, says
Alain: “and my children even join us at the EPO club sometimes. The best thing about this is that I never forced them to
get into Kendo. They saw me practising and decided to try it
for themselves. Unfortunately, I have yet to convince my wife
to give it a go.”
So, what advice would Alain give to anyone looking to take
up the sport: “Just come along with training trousers and a
t-shirt, leave your hang-ups behind and try it out – and don’t
be afraid to scream!”
Alain’s daughter Gwenn during a demonstration at the EPO Sommerfest
Wollen Sie Kendo ausprobieren?
Dann kommen Sie zum Kendo Beginner-Workshop. und die Kendo Abteilung des ESV München, laden zum eintägigen “Kendo – Beginner Workshop”
ein. Hier lernen Sie die Grundlagen dieser faszinierenden
Sportart kennen und können danach sechs Wochen lang
das Training im “Kendo Dojo” kostenfrei testen.
Termin: Samstag, 16. Mai, 10-12 Uhr und 13-15 Uhr
Ort: ESV München (Sportpark Nymphenburg),
Margarethe-Danzi-Str. 21, 80639 München
Gebühr: 40 Euro (in bar vor Ort zu zahlen), zzgl. Shinai =
Bambusschwert für 30 Euro, kann auch bei der Anmeldung
bestellt werden
Kostenfreies Training: jeden Montag 18.30-20.00 Uhr und
jeden Donnerstag 18.30-19.30 (bis 29. Juni)
Trainer: Branislav Peric, 3. Dan Kendo: “Mit sieben Jahren
stand ich das erste Mal auf der (Kampfsport-)Matte und
durfte seitdem in unterschiedlichen Kampfkünsten (Judo,
Muay Thai, Ninjutsu) meine Erfahrungen sammeln. Seit
2000 praktiziere ich ununterbrochen Kendo, unter anderem
auch auf internationalen Wettkämpfen. Für mich ist Kendo
kein Kampfsport, es ist eine Lebenseinstellung.”
Ausrüstung: für den Anfang reichen ein lockerer Trainingsanzug (auch von anderen Kampfsportarten) und ein
Anmeldung und weitere Infos:
L Mary Kennedy, Internal Communication
gazette 5/09