Kendo Philippines – My trial experience at IGA Kendo Club
I did my first Kendo trial last saturday with the IGA Kendo Club (be sure to check out their sites at http://igakendoclub.webs.com/ and http://igakendo.wordpress.com/) and it was a great experience. I’ve decided to continue taking classes and see if this is something I can do longterm. One of the reasons why I tried the class was because my Saturdays are free this semester so I was looking for a weekly class I could take to fill them. I picked Kendo because I’ve always wanted to try a weapon sport and I grew up watching Samurai X hehe. I also started reading James Clavell’s Shogun and I’m loving the Japanese Historical setting of the book and the insights into the Samurai lifestyle. I love how they infused philosophy into their training and holistically grew as they trained themselves in the martial arts. I would like to see if I can achieve something similar by training in kendo. I’m currently just testing the waters of the martial arts but I really do plan to make it a big part of my life at some point. I just haven’t found the right one/s for me yet.
So that’s why I joined the IGA Kendo Club, now on to my trial experience.
IGA Kendo Club Trial
I found the IGA kendo club on the internet. I was looking for classes in the Philippines, Manila in particular since that’s where I’m based right now, and I learned that there are only two places you can learn Kendo here. I could be wrong though and there might be more, but from my research there’s only IGA and then there’s the Manila Kendo Club. I opted for the former because it was in QC and although I live in Manila, I’m enrolled at crossfit insurrecto so I’ll be in the area a lot. I also have friends who live in Tomas and I hang out at their place a lot so IGA’s training venue is convenient for me.
Here’s a map to Arena Fitness Inc. in Quezon Ave. That’s where they hold their classes. And here’s a link to their site if you want more info about them igakendoclub.webs.com.
The class is being taught by a Japanese business man called Igarashi Koji, he’s the head teacher although some of the senpais help out as well. Sensei Igarashi Koji is a 5th dan in kendo and seemed really nice. Sure he hits you on the head when you make mistakes but only if you’ve got a head guard on ;). There seemed to be a pretty good atmosphere in class and he was serious and jovial at the appropriate times which made me think that I’d probably enjoy learning kendo under him.
Anyway, on to the trial class.
There was actually a couple of us who just started this month. An FYI, they only accept new students on the months of March, July and November although you can come any saturday if you want to watch them train before you join. I was lucky enough to be able to attend on the last Saturday of November so thankfully I was still able to join. Like I said there were new members other than myself, from my count I think there were 9 or 10 of us beginners who joined the class just this month. There were maybe 20 or 30 senpais who were there last saturday as well so you can imagine it’s a fairly big class.
The regular training is held at arena fitness in Que Ave like I said. They have a basketball court with wooden flooring there and that’s what we use. I’ve read that they sometimes train in UP too since the club has close ties with the UP kendo club (I think).
Since we were beginners we didn’t have gear and the uniform yet so sensei loaned us some shinai (bamboo practice sword). We also wore just regular workout clothes and we were told that we could continue to do that all throughout our begginer classes. I plan to buy mine sometime in January though. We were allowed to take part in most of the exercises except for the sparring training and the ones that required a bogu (training armor).
To start, sensei and another teacher (I think) showed us a Kendo Kata. It’s like a mock sword fight that we replicated later on during training. We were also thought the basics of the kendo stance, the bowing and fighting rituals, and the proper form for the basic overhead slash. I’m not sure about the terminologies yet hehe since they’re in japanese so I can’t use all of them in this post. I’ll have to do a bit of research for next class and maybe write another post about them.
The class starts at 2 pm and ends at 6 pm, Saturdays although I think they have one weekday class as well. We did mostly drill exercises for the Kata and slashes. The senpais sparred and did hitting exercises. It was fun but wasn’t very exhausting because we weren’t allowed to participate in half the exercises yet. As I understand it one has to graduate from the beginner level to join the bogu class. It takes 4 months or more I’m told, depending on how quickly you learn. I’m hoping they’ll allow me to join in 2 or 3 months (uma-asa hehe), but for now I can always do crossfit in the morning before class or the evening after it to get a better workout.
Below are some pictures and a video of the senpais in the bogu class training.
Bogu Class Practice Video
Kendo Gear and Prices
There are a couple of things you’ll need to have if you want to give kendo a try. Some of these you’ll need immediately while others you can buy later on.
Shinai – The shinai is a bamboo sword that you’ll use to train. you’re going to need this one as soon as possible. You’ll be allowed to borrow a shinai from sensei while you’re doing the trial but you’ll have to buy your own if you decide to continue to train with IGA. Sensei brings back some of these from Japan whenever he goes back there and he sells it for 2400 pesos and his wife makes bags for 400 pesos so you can get these from him if you want. I tried checking for local sellers but I’m not really sure if you can buy a shinai in the Philippines, at least not one of decent quality. There’s really not much of a market for these here so there are no decent stores that have them. The site that I eventually plan to get my gear from is http://www.e-bogu.com. They seem to be decently priced there and the gear looks like it’s well made. I wont need the other gear till next year though so for now just the Shinai from sensai will be enough.
Bokken – This is a wooden sword modeled after a Katana or one of the other traditional japanese swords. It’s useful for training to get one a bit more used to the feel of a katana. It’s main use in Kendo, as I understand it, is in Katas. It’s not really used in training since it can still cause injury despite being made of wood. Shinais are still the best for training and spars. Some Bokken are made for ornamental purposes as well.
Keikogi – Keikogi is the upper part of the kendo uniform. It’s kind of like the other gi’s that you’ll see other martial arts practitioners use. The colors I saw being used in practice were white and blue. I’m not sure if there are other colors but it’s likely that there are. I don’t know where you can get these locally but online a keikogi and hakama set costs around $68.
Hakama – The Hakama is the skirt like clothing that’s worn by kendo practitioners. If you’ve seen japanese samurai films you’ll most likely have seen them wearing those long flowing skirt like clothes whenever they’re in the dojo or aren’t in full armour.
Bogu – is the training armor that Kendo students use. It’s divided into four main parts, the Do (body armor), the kote (hand armor), the Men (head armor), and the Tare (leg and groin armor). You’ll find an illustrative picture below. I got it from Wikipedia.
In kendo training we train barefoot so no need to bring your training shoes.
So that’s it pretty much for basic info about kendo and about IGA. I still haven’t learned the names of the forms they had as practice during the trial so I’ll probably write another post about those later on once I know a bit more about them so watch out for that one.
If you want to learn Kendo and live in the Philippines, particularly in the Manila area then you might want to attend one of IGA Kendo Clubs saturday sessions. Just head on over to their website igakendoclub.webs.com or do a search on Facebook to find their group.
You can also leave comments below if there’s anything you’d like to ask about kendo or the classes. Also I’m still a beginner and might have made some incorrect statements in this post so feel free to let me know if I got something wrong in the comments section :).
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