[Hamilton Press] Hamilton sword fighting family says kendo not only for men
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By Sam Tsai
Last updated 15:44, June 15 2017
Joyce Tsai, 15, is likely to be New Zealand's youngest kendo representative at the 2018 world championships, after learning the sport from her parents Marleen Charng and Sam Tsai.
When Sam Tsai moved to Hamilton in 1998 he didn't speak English, didn't have any money and didn't know anyone.
Despite this, he was encouraged to start up the region's first kendo club, and in 1999, he received 105 enrolments.
"I'll never forget this number," Tsai said.
Marleen Charng and Sam Tsai formed the Waikato Kendo Club in 1999. Their daughter Joyce now also competes.
Kendo is a modern Japanese martial art which descended from swordsmanship, and combines martial arts practices with physical activity.
"Kendo is not only a physical sport, there is a lot of philosophy behind it," Tsai said. "It can be a way of life."
In 2001, New Zealand held its very first kendo championship, and Tsai's Waikato club were team champions.
A year later, Tsai himself won the individual champion title.
Tsai met his wife Marleen Charng through kendo and their daughter Joyce shares their love for the sport.
Joyce started to train when she was six-years-old and is likely to be the youngest New Zealand representative when she competes in the women's squad at the Kendo Championship, scheduled for Korea in 2018.
"If you can walk you can do kendo," Charng said. "Because not everybody wants to do rugby."
Over Queen's Birthday weekend, the family competed as a team for the first time.
Playing in the invitational and international Inoue Hai tournament, Tsai, Charng and Joyce played fourth.
"We just wanted to give Joyce that memory before we are too old and cannot compete together," Tsai said.
To win a match, competitors must accurately strike at the opponent's wrists, head, or body, which are protected by armour.
The competitors must maintain correct posture and awareness throughout the match.
"Girls can beat men straight away," Charng said. "It's more like a mental game, and technique more than power.
"People think martial arts is violent, but it's actually very intelligent."
"Girls can beat men and Joyce has beat many men," Tsai said with a laugh.
Tsai works as a physics teacher at St John's College and has introduced kendo to his school. A club has now been formed.
The Waikato Kendo Club trains at the University of Waikato. Their oldest member is 62 and the youngest is four.
A new beginners class open to the public will start on July 15. For information, email email@example.com