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Students Succesfully Complete the Kendo Summer School

Students Succesfully Complete the Kendo Summer School

The 8 students who chose to take Summer School Kendo Class were so excited when they arrived for the first training session on Monday, June 13. Students in the new Grade 3 to Grade 7 with experience of enrolling in Elementary School Kendo Club participated in 2 hour training for a total of 10 days to improve their skills.

Since most of the students planned to wear dōgi and hakama from the school's (and Tanaka sensei's personal) collection, they first came to the Activities Room and got a set to wear for the two weeks. What was more exciting was that they were also assigned to a full Kendo bōgu gear of a men helmetdō chest guard, kote gauntletsand a tare waist and hip guard to practice in. They were ready!

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This training was not only our school's first ever Kendo Summer School, but also a Kendo training officially recognized by Kanagawa Kendo Federation. We had a very special coach, Kobayashi Masato sensei, 7th dan Kendo practitioner, to oversee the program. Kobayashi sensei has been training Kendo since Junior High School and also has experience coaching children, highschool teams, adults, police teams, etc. in Japan and overseas. As recently as May 28, he has won the Championship at Kanagawa Senior Sports Festa Kendo Tournament for both the 70 Years and Older Category and Team Category, and thus will be competing in Nenrinpic Kanagawa 2022 (a national sports festival for 60 years and older) in November. 

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Kobayashi sensei wanted the students to first of all enjoy Kendo but he also wanted to remind the students of the Way of the Sword (Kendo) by introducing the following words of Shimada Toranosuke, a famous samurai from the Edo period:

Ken wa kokoro nari
Kokoro tadashi kereba ken mo mata tadashi
Ken o manabu mono mazu kokoro yori manabu beshi
The sword is the mind. 
When the mind is right, the sword is right.
He, who wishes to study kendo, must first study his mind.

Students recited the words in Japanese at the beginning of each practice so that they could remember both to enjoy learning the skills and to be considerate to one another. 

The main focus of the skills training was to learn and to improve the skills of kirikaeshi. It is an exercise done with a partner involving a succession of strikes to the head. It begins with a straight strike to the center of men helmet, followed by a series of alternating strikes to the left and the right sides of the menKirikaeshi is a very basic movement that is conducted at the beginning of any Kendo training sessions by Kendo practitioners of all levels. For the students, it was a bit of a scary experience to be hit on the head, but they gradually learned to control their strength when it was their turn to hit.

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On Friday, June 24th, we invited the parents of these students to demonstrate the skills of this kirikaeshi. Everyone performed their best and impressed their parents. After taking off their men, everyone watched Kobayashi sensei and Tanaka sensei perform full Kendo Kata.  Kata consists of pre-defined sets of attacking and defending movements. For the first 7 Tachi-no-Kata movements, both sensei used wooden long-swords against each other, and for the next 3 Kodachi-no-Kata, Tanaka sensei changed her sword to a shorter wooden sword to perform. Everyone in the room felt the tension between the two sensei as they made their moves with appropriate kiai shouts. 

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This was also a special occasion where Kobayashi sensei, with permission from the school, offered to give a demonstration of Iai-giri.  Both the students and the parents sat in awe of the sharp sword cutting a rolled straw mat as sensei made strong strikes against it. 

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Before the excitement faded out after the demonstrations, students lined up to receive their Certificate of Participation in the Training approved by Kanagawa Kendo Federation. Kobayashi sensei handed out the certificate to each student on behalf of the President of the Federation to culminate the training. Not only the students themselves, but everyone in the room felt very proud of their accomplishments. Many parents expressed their thanks to the sensei, and their joy in seeing their children grow through Kendo.

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