What is it about Kendo that keeps kenshi going back to it? When the sport is practiced correctly, it offers the thrill of combat without the risk of injury that often accompanies other forms of combative sport.
Kenshi doesn’t hold back. The armor offers proper protection and allows combative partners to be fully committed to their strikes. This is why there is plenty of scope of self-reflection in kendo. As a result, there is learning and revelations that can make our lives better.
The Principles of Kendo
The All Japan Kendo Federation laid out the purpose of practicing Kendo in 1975. The primary objective is to mold the mind and body. Along with it practitioners aim to nurture a “vigorous spirit”. Improvement in Kendo is to be achieved through “correct and rigid training”. In the practice of it, practitioners should also uphold the classic samurai principles of honor and human courtesy, be sincere in their associations with others and strive to cultivate and improve themselves all their lives.
The reward of following these rules will be the ability to love society and the country, promote peace and contribute to the development of culture. This is the essence behind kendo as a modern sport.
When we learn samurai swordsmanship through kendo, we also learn lessons that help us improve our daily lives. A book on the craft of war like Miyamoto Musashi’s Go Rin no Sho is studied as philosophy, literature, by business leaders and in other areas of life for this reason.
Applying the teachings of kendo to your daily life can help you live a better life. In fact, if you cannot apply what you learn from the sport in your day-to-day interactions with people, your work, and your pleasure, you have not understood the full value of kendo.
Lessons for Daily Life from Kendo
It is not easy to discipline oneself, but that is the main purpose of practicing kendo. This mental training has always been a part of Bushido (the way of the warrior, or the samurai code of morals and honor) and so it has been known for centuries.
Here is a look at how some of the principles of the sport can be applied to daily life.
Learning To Overcome The “Four Sicknesses”
Every time we cross shinai with our opponent, we are essentially faced with the “four sicknesses”: doubt, fear, confusion and surprise. These are negative emotions that also affect our daily lives. According to the wisdom of the ancients, these “sicknesses” make us weak. At the same time, they can be removed through training and discipline in kendo.
Learning to stand calmly before your opponent and being able to think on your feet to meet any strike they throw at you is the ultimate goal of the kendoka. It is also the goal of nearly everyone struggling with the day to day stresses and situations that life throws at us. Here, the philosophical teachings of kendo can clearly help us meet difficult situations more on our own terms.
Consider the concept of zanshin, which literally translates to “a state of awareness after striking”. In Zen, it also means “the mind with no remainder”. This seems paradoxical, but if we look beyond the literal meanings, we’ll find that zanshin is not a recommendation to be thoughtless or too aware of your victory.
In fact, zanshin is the state where you both remain and not remain.
In the words of Miyamoto Musashi:
“Both in fighting and in everyday life, you should be determined though calm…Even when your spirit is calm, don’t let your body relax, and when your body is relaxed do not let your spirit slacken.”
Source: The Week
What this practically means in kendo is being aware of your opponent even after you have made a strike. You should be prepared to react again if your opponent makes a move against you. You must not lose focus after your victory. This also means not dropping all guard and rejoicing after a kendo win.
In daily life, here is how you can apply zanshin: complete what you have started. In other words, whatever you do, whether it is doing dishes, locking your door when you leave the house, finish a piece of work after you have begun it, without losing focus. It is harder to apply in life than it is in kendo, as our “safe” lives today have made us more absentminded than we should be.
Zanshin is an invaluable lesson that can not only make us aware of the details in day-to-day living, it will also improve our quality of life by improving our focus and attention and eliminating fatigue, boredom and lack of concentration.