A world I’d left behind but never forgot
15 Apr 2021
Reading Time: 3 minutes
I had always had a fascination with feudal Japan, Samurai and all that… I always had a fascination with Japan, period. But I can’t exactly remember why I decided to take up Kendo. Regardless, I was in second year university and I joined a beginner’s class and liked it so much I just kept going. Unlike a lot of other martial arts that seem to have adapted bells, whistles, coloured belts, badges, and all manner of whatnots to attract, and keep students, Kendo for the most part seemed staunchly traditional. And to me, that just seemed like a natural extension of myself.
Kendo clicked with me in a way very few things did.
As life goes in one’s younger years, things change and I found myself unhappily leaving the club, and my Kendo family, as I headed off overseas to study. After about 6 months though I got the itch, so found a local club, bought myself bogu (armour) and joined up. It was not meant to be though. The club had a lot of young kids and more of a ‘family’ vibe, which in hindsight was a lovely thing. But for me, having come from a very active and ultimately competitive club, I found the pace too slow and the other, more ‘advanced’ club was just that bit too far for me to get to mid week. With other interests booming, I ended up selling my Bogu and moving on.
But Kendo never left me.
Over the years I’d always looked into clubs around me but for whatever reason the planets never aligned, re-entering the Kendo world remained elusive. Until my most recent move to a new (old) city…
Prior to moving I had shown the wee man some Kendo videos, as I thought he might be interested; and we were keen to get him doing something with a bit of discipline and structure. He certainly was keen, so I asked someone I knew if there any kid’s Kendo clubs where we were moving, which to my surprise he said there was (a rare thing to find an under 16’s club). So in a way to help the wee man get excited about the impending move, I told him he could join the club when we moved.
It worked a treat.
Fast forward six months and I found myself rocking up with the wee man to the first class of the year. The sensei and motodachi were setting up and even though I knew it was for the kids, I could not help but get that itch again. Seeing the bogu, shinai (bamboo swords), Gi and Hakama, it was like coming home. But the thought of me starting again, oddly, did not cross my mind. Until that was…
While I watched the class intently, it was not until half time that I learnt the name of the sensei. “And this half the class will go with Jo Sensei…”
Jo? Hold on… what?
For the second half the class I sat intently watching Jo sensei. Jo…. I looked and looked and looked. Could it be? He’s older, 30 odd years older it would be, he’s got short grey hair, but the eyes….
After class I tentatively went up and asked him… “Jo?”
“ANU Kendo, ’90-’91?”
Standing before me was my sensei from university days. Older, sure, but still Jo. We chatted for a bit, caught up as best you can between classes, and before I’d knew it I had committed to to the beginner’s course to hopefully earn back my grade level when we parted ways… because, you know, it’s been a looong time.
So Tuesday nights at 7.30pm, I find myself back at the club where I started. Back in the Hakama and Gi, shinai in hand. And although everything has changed, it was like coming home to a world I’d left behind but never forgot… And it makes me feel really good.
Copyright 2023 Gerard Thomas. All rights reserved.
Note: Unless stated otherwise, images are not mine.