Ryan - my Kendo journey

Ryan at the 2018 Kendo Beginner Class

I have been waiting awhile to write about my Kendo experience and journey. As Sam Tsai Sensei has encouraged all of us to write about our time “following the sword road”,  I decided now was the right time. I developed an interest in Eastern Martial Arts from an early age. This is probably from watching Ninja movies in the 80’s and Chinese Kung Fu/Japanese Samurai films  in the 90’s. I briefly took up learning Tae kwon Do, Wing Chun Gung Fu, Jeet Kune Do and MMA. As an avid fan of the Star Wars franchise I loved how the Jedi and Darth Vader’s armour were based on Japanese Samurai. Other things that interest me about Japan and its culture are not limited to Kendo. Japanese architecture (especially castles), indie music, films, art, food, history, banzai trees/ botanics, religion, and language. Other Japanese martial arts that interest me are modern day Kenjutsu (剣術), Iaidō (居合道), and Naginata (なぎな).

Before I moved to New Zealand I became interested in Tibetan Buddhism and began to live by its teachings. When reading about Zen Buddhism and how Samurai closely practiced it, I learned about Kendo. I thought it would be cool to take up one day. In 2010 I was to a point of wanting to get involved. So before I moved here I checked to see if Hamilton had a dojo. There was but unfortunately it would be another 8 years until I decided to get off my butt and just do it! In 2018 there has been a deep drive to improve myself  mentally and psychically. And as I have also learned that Kendo is most greatly about improving character and developing spirit. When we sit in Seiza and the Senpai calls out “Mokuso”, I always try to clear my mind and meditate as Buddhism has taught me. My learning process has been slow but not without effort. At nearly 38 years old in my life and surviving a near fatal car crash in 2001 (which left me with titanium in the hip on one side and on my knee and femur bone on the other) I know that my body is not as young as I wish it was. So with this my passion for learning Kendo is very strong and I do my best to make it to every Keiko I can. Meeting Sam Sensei and Marleen Sensei has been a great turning point in my life. And all of my fellow Kendoka are like a second family to me. I deeply admire all who are of Dan grade and view them as “rockstars”. To watch the NZ team live streaming at the WKC 2018 was amazing and made me feel involved and really proud. I am truly honoured to meet all Kenshi from Kyu to Dan, Kohai to Sensei, and am grateful to learn from everyone. I am also truly honoured to be a part of the Waikato Kendo Club. We are all lucky to have Sam Tsai Sensei and Marleen Charng Sensei create this for the Waikato and teach us their knowledge. I wont leave out the senior members with great experience who are always patient and willing to help you when needed. I want to progress as long as I can, and try my best to keep my daughter involved as well. 

After this past weekend at the Novice Championship I realised how much more effort and training I need to put in. I would say that my training thus far has went really well but it needs to be stepped up a few more notches if I am going to become the great Kenshi that I hope to be. I am adding more exercise, home Suburi and Keiko, even better eating habits, and meditation to my life outside of the dojo. In the dojo I must focus harder and make sure my movements are what they should be. When I begin wearing my Bogu I will be stepping into a larger world. I fear no one and am actually ready to take any painful hits if and when it happens. Before I wear Bogu I must be in great shape and ready to reach my full potential. 

2018 NZ Kendo Championship

Also during the Novice on the second morning during warm up I realised what a strong club we have. There are so many great fighters and I know our Sensei’s are proud, as I am too. The novice championship was a great learning experience on many different levels and provided a few moments of clarity for myself. There is much work to be done! I have a drive now even greater then when I started and renewed after the minor set back of recent eye surgery. I have also started a Kendo journal and will update it regularly. Train hard, fight hard and learn hard will be in my mind always. 

To mould the mind and body.
To cultivate a vigorous spirit
And through correct and rigid training,
To strive for improvement in the art of Kendo.
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honour.
To associate with others with sincerity.
And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.

Thus will one be able:
To love one's country and society;
To contribute to the development of culture;
And to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.