Monday, March 15, 2010

Samurai Spirit - Iaido & Kendo

In case you haven't seen these, YouTube has a number of episodes of "Samurai Spirit" talking about iaido and kendo. Although there are some obvious criticisms that could be made about the show, I think it's overall a great series. They actually find and speak with people who hold high ranks in real organizations (unlike some other documentaries I've seen where they interview somebody no-one's ever heard of, who's getting arrows fired at him in an abandoned factory, expecting us to believe that this is how normal training is conducted in Japan).

The iaido series contains an all-too-brief interview with Trevor Jones Sensei (7dan). Mainly though, it focuses on Kishimoto Chihiro Sensei (8dan hanshi) who is the chairman or head of the Iaido division of the All-Japan Kendo Federation. In other words, they went straight to the horse's mouth, so to speak, which is refreshing. Here's the first of 5 parts on YouTube.

The kendo episode is also very good, if a bit silly at times. (Why was he surprised that he didn't know what to do when facing an experienced, highly skilled kendo player, while doing kendo for the first time in his life? I suppose it is to drive home the point that kendo is much, much more difficult than it looks, even for someone experienced in other martial arts.) This episode features a very good interview with Alex Bennett (6dan) who is the editor-in-chief and publisher of Kendo World magazine. (Go on, get a subscription...!) The main Sensei they interview is Niibori Sensei (8dan hanshi) who is also one of the most respected kendo teachers in Japan. It is worth pointing out that, every year at the 8th-dan kendo gradings, fewer than 1% of all the hopefuls make it through to hachidan, and not all of these will ever be awarded the title of hanshi.


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