Mike Ko Personal Portfolio

 

Home-School Education
2001-2012
Hong Kong

University of Durham
Bachelor of Science
2014-2017
United Kingdom

University of Sussex

Master of Arts
2017-2018
United Kingdom



Attitude through a Bamboo Sword


I first came across Kendo when I was around ten years old, through a newspaper article about the Japanese martial art piqued my interest. I remember going with my father to observe a practise session in a Kendo club in Hong Kong. Due to practical reasons I did not join the club back then, but perhaps it planted the seed that led me to pick it up almost a decade later, when I began my university studies.

Kendo is an adaptation of the older form of swordsmanship practised from the time of feudal Japan. Using bamboo (“shinai”) or wooden (“bokuto”) swords, the basic goal is to execute cut techniques with proper physical technique and timing, either alone or against an opponent. At first glance, Kendo may seem like an odd choice when compared with other activities that I could have chosen. It is certainly not a conventional pursuit, if not outright obscure. In relation to other martial arts I could have chosen, Kendo stands out because its techniques are mostly useless in practical terms, such as in self-defence (I doubt striking people with a comparatively light bamboo stick will do much good in most situations). Why then did I choose Kendo? Frankly I had few ideas on what I was getting myself into when I first started. But with the benefit of hindsight I now have a clearer picture of what makes Kendo special, and the reasons behind my motivation to continue practising it.

One key point is the attitudes that Kendo encourages its practitioners to adopt, one of which is commitment. To excel in the martial art, one must be fully committed and confident both physically and mentally, no matter how basic the action may be. You may argue that this is true for all kinds of activities, yet this concept is a fundamental character of Kendo. Executing a good strike requires the synchronisation of various aspects: the physical technique, the footwork, the composure after the strike and even the spirit as manifested through shouting. Everything must be done deliberately and properly from start to finish for the whole action to be defined as an actual strike; each component is not just a means to an end.

Humility and respect are other important attitudes that Kendo fosters, which can be clearly seen through its traditional formalities. At the start and end of each practise, practitioners will bow to one another to express gratitude. Every practice is an opportunity for one to improve, in most cases facilitated by the practitioners’ sparring partner. The etiquette requirements for how one respectfully interacts with other practitioners and even their equipment further develop such attitudes. Indeed, my general experience with Kendo practitioners in the northern United Kingdom has been a very pleasant experience. During grading and competitions I have participated in, everyone within this relatively small community are all very helpful and encouraging.

I believe these mental aspects are the reason that motivates me to practise, and this can continue without a defined end point. There are eight grades of proficiency that one can obtain in the martial art, and I am only approaching the first grade as of this writing. As many have stated before, Kendo is in many ways a life-long training of both the body and mind.

                                

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