May 19, 2006

I first became aware of kendo when I was still in high school. My best friend knew of it and wanted to study it. The closest we could come was a sixteen-week course in fencing at the local YMCA. When I was twenty-nine I started karate-do and ultimately achieved a nidan, or second degree black belt. Throughout my karate studies I was interesting in other arts, trying at various times tai-chi, jujitsu, and aikido.

Moving around the country for my job made it impossible to really settle into a dojo, and my focus was really on my marriage and relationship with Michele. In the vacuum left by her death I have once again started thinking about the martial arts as an outlet. Last fall I attended two classes at a very good karate dojo, but it just wasn’t clicking for me. I think my memories of the level I had once performed at were in conflict with the reality of where I was.

A good friend has started taking kendo in the Chicago area and his enthusiasm for the experience has motivated me to seek out kendo instruction here in Kansas City. I was fortunate enough to discover a group practicing in a park quite close to where I live. On Wednesday evening I ventured out and watched an entire class and I liked what I saw. The sensei is focused on you as an individual, and what you can achieve. To many schools lose sight of the individual and I am no longer interested in being just another dues paying customer.

Tomorrow I will attend my first workout and I am very excited about this new adventure. I already have a bokken (wooden sword) and there are extra shinais (split bamboo sword used for full contact training) available to use. I’ve ordered my own shinai, which should be here mid-week next week. I think that because I have no history with kendo I’ll be able to accept my level of performance without difficulty. At the very least I’ll be out and doing something physical two days a week.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.