Kendo, “the way of the sword”

Story and Photos by Ben Rickaby, NewsNetNebraska

Kendo is the Japanese martial art of Fencing that is popular around the world but rarely seen in the U.S. Though kendo isn’t common in the U.S. there are still dojo’s, a martial arts gym, scattered around the country that offer kendo under the various kendo federations and districts. There are two dojo’s in Lincoln Neb. that offer kendo classes and Clubs one is Lincoln Budokan and the other is Jinbukan Dojo at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Brad Holmes and his students line up to start practicing drills to hone their techniques.

Brad Holmes and his students line up to start practicing drills to hone their techniques.

Kendo, which means “way of the sword,” comes from the Japanese art of Kenjutsu which forms the basis for kendo. It uses wooden bamboo swords called Shinai instead of normal steel blades. The Shinai is made of four bamboo slats bound together with leather straps. Participants wear a uniform with armor plates over the uniform and a helmet to protect them.

In a kendo match two armored opponents  face off against each other and try to score points by landing strikes on parts of the body. Strikes to the top of the head, either side of the chest and either wrist or forearm can score a point. Opponents not only have to make a clean accurate hit but also have to maintain good form to score a point. Each bout is a three point match and the first two score to points wins the match.

Students use a wooden sword called shinai that represents a Katana and is made up of four bamboo slats bound together by leather strips.

Students use a wooden sword called shinai that represents a Katana and is made up of four bamboo slats bound together by leather strips.

Brad Holmes opened Lincoln Budokan in 2010 after teaching Karate and Kendo at the YMCA and the UNL Jinbukan Dojo, where he is still a senior instructor. Holmes said Kendo is more than just a physical sport but has a spiritual side to it as well, it can help people develop an indomitable spirit and give students a deeper philosophical outlook on life.

“Martial arts help me to stay calm and not get flustered about things,” said Holmes,” I work at the Hospital in critical care and I’m one of the calmest people there.”

The spiritual side of kendo comes from disciplining one’s mind and body and because of this Kendo can be loud. When someone goes to strike with their Shinai he or she will shout to express their “fighting spirit.”

Holmes started learning Karate in 1969 at the age twelve and took up Kendo almost ten years later.  Now he has a black belt in both and also has a black belt in Iaido, which is the martial art  of drawing the sword, striking and then sheathing the blade.

Holmes opened Lincoln Budokan to teach younger students karate and kendo. In Holmes kendo classes he will usually have 4-12 students at any given lesson. Though Holmes is at his own dojo he still considers himself an extension of Jinbukan Dojo focusing more on younger martial arts students.

“I’ll have students work on the basics of Kendo for two years before I have them put on the armor,” said Holmes,” It’s not until they’ve been doing Kendo for five years that they’ll come in and put on the armor every class.”

Holmes said Kendo may not be as popular here in America because we don’t have as strong of a connection to cultural traditions as other parts of the world do.

“Kendo is very traditional and I try to stick to those traditions as best I can,” said Holmes, “I’ve been doing this for 35 years but I always try to think like a student.”

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