The intending novice who aspires to practise Kendo – the Way of the Sword – or Iai-do – the Way of Drawing-Sword – really needs some guidance so that he or she understands that there is a great difference between the old traditional arts and ways followed by the Japanese samurai and their descendants down to the closing decades of the 20th century, and the increasingly divergent sports- or competition-based Kendo and Iai that have rapidly managed to dominate the modern systems.
If you are interested in the Japanese martial traditions – specifically Kendo – and feel that you would like to find more than competitive sport which, after all is said and done, may only appeal to the younger and physically active, then your enquiries will be welcomed and the contact address is given here.
We would emphasise that from our point of view Kendo and Iai are NOT sports and the former is only superficially sports-like. We do not deny that there are many perspectives in all the Budo traditions and from the more specific aspect of Kendo and Iai-do it is perfectly feasible that those who see these entities in terms of sport are quite correct and that little from the old tradition has much relevance to-day. Maybe we have evolved and changed these particular Budo to something better, more modern, more up-to-date, more applicable to our undeniably more comfortable lifestyles? This Renmei’s aim is to offer those who are interested an opportunity to probe beneath the modern surface and find out something for themselves of the extraordinarily rich areas that underpin proper swordsmanship.
The student who takes up these traditional entities of Budo needs to keep in mind that the greatest obstacle to advancement and understanding lies within oneself, not in seeking to prove how superior one’s technique is over another. Mastery of the self is far more difficult – and rewarding – than mere victory over opponents. These are the principles contrasted in katsujin-ken and satsujin-ken.
In these notes we do not propose to describe, even in outline, the physical or intellectual make-up of either Kendo or Iai, or to define the difference between the latter-day forms in comparison with those of the classical period. Such knowledge is only to be found in the dojo, or practice hall. It can only be imparted by those with insight and long experience. As we have said before, if this is what you think you are seeking then it is you who must make the choice. There is a famous adage in Kendo that may be worth quoting here.
‘The master does not necessarily need a student in order to improve; however, a student cannot learn without a master’.