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Kendo for defend myself without my sword?

If I took Kendo would I be able to defend myself without my sword?

Throughout the study and practice of kendo you will not necessarily train in simulated situations that mimic a self-defense scenario, such as exchanges of punches and kicks, grappling, or other defenses against armed or unarmed assailants, etc., as would be more common in other martial arts. Exceptionally a particular teacher may present the art within urban defense parameters but it is not the rule.

However, serious dedication to kendo should provide you with better control of your body, mobility, dodging and displacement, as well as a greater management of the distance with your adversary. As well, focus and concentration, development of timing, reflexes, reaction, willpower and the ability to make quick decisions, peripheral vision, intuition and reading of your opponent's body language and intentions will be discovered and improved. Most importantly, the ability to stay calm, assess the situation appropriately and take action when only necessary will be the greatest gift of your training. Indeed, all of these will form tools of your arsenal that can be applied in the event of a self-defense situation, with or without a shinai (bamboo sword).




Martial Art for women

Is there a martial art that is particularly suited to capitalize on the strengths of women's bodies rather than men's? If so, how do I go about learning this art form if I don't live in a big urban center? Sara - USA

There does not exist a Martial Art with a technical repertoire that suits according to the "gender's aptitudes" of the practitioner. There are some courses that are intended as self defense instruction for women and there are some traditional arts that originally were designed by and/or for women. These have evolved as circumstances in society not because of any perceived limitations of women's physical capabilities.

A well-versed teacher, no matter which martial art he or she teaches, will convey it in a progressive, comprehensive manner bearing in mind the needs of the students. If an evident or eventual "limitation" makes its presence known, any Martial Art as long as it is well taught and learned will overcome sufficiently such "despair criteria" with time and good practice.

Sometimes the choice to teach an Art for male or female students may reflect personal preferences in camaraderie, emotional openness, or common affinities. An homogeneous group may seem an easy and comfortable atmosphere but it can carry limitations in itself. Prejudices and fear can flourish in segregated environments. Our experience has shown us that a diverse and mixed group of individuals with different physical attributes, provides an ideal situation for study and practice.

Unfortunately there are some individuals who do not recognize this equality of opportunity and should be avoided especially as teachers. There is no excuse for treating students with sexism, racism etc. nor teachers tolerating such behavior in their students. You will have to "shop around" to ensure that the school and teacher you choose fully exemplify the true spirit of Martial Art in this regard.





Teaching without repeating yourself

I have been teaching martial art for a couple of years now through the local Y. I continue to train on my own and I hope to take my 2nd dan test in the near future. My concern is my own group. I feel that I am beginning to repeat myself with the exercises. How can I keep my classes from getting "stale"?

The best way to keep energy and interest high in your classes is to stay on track with your own practice. It is important to regard your teaching as part of your training and you have to look to your own professional development. A good martial art teacher needs to learn about anatomy and kinesiology, the history and philosophy of martial art, and the psychology, sociology and methodology of teaching. Experience with classes counts for a lot and you also need to work at designing a good program and lesson planning. Some schools and associations have their own program to keep their teachers improve their skills. For those that don't they have to rely on their own initiative and resources.

We have received similar questions from martial art teachers and also senior students who are beginning to assist in their clases with newer students. In response to this has moved forward with our online courses for teachers. They will be available in progressive installments. Check out our courses section for more information.




Do I need to start very young?

I am 13 and I try my hardest in training, but sometimes I feel as though I am behind when I see other people who have been training since they were little kids. I was wondering if in the long run if those few years really make much of a difference and if there's anything I should keep in mind. Sam - USA

The apparent disadvantage that you may feel when you compare yourself with those who started at an earlier age than you, it shouldn't be an impediment to reaching your own maximum potential (as long as you don't compare yourself with others!) Years of training may seem a heavy weight in the martial arts, by tradition, degree or accumulated experience, but sincere dedication, under a good instructor, will provide you with all the necessary tools to stretch your limits within a healthy spectrum of progress and achievements. There will always be those who have had a different opportunity than you. So what? Many great masters started in their adulthood and never looked back at all. Its not how long you have trained but how well you train today that counts.

If you compare yourself with others you my encourage yourself to "catch up" but you may also invite frustrations, regrets and lack of joy for your achievements. Dedicate yourself with an open mind and heart, and enjoy your training. Others in your class should do the same and together create an atmosphere of mutual respect, friendship and improvement.




Find your first dojo

What is some good, simple, advice that I can give my friends who are interested in investigating their first dojo and martial art? Some advice that will help them find a club and a practice that will suit their temperament and expectations. - Michael - USA

It's a marvelous idea to enroll at an early age in a martial art program. Six years old can be a good age to start, depending on the individual. Some may start younger than that, but it really depends on the individual. Some they are not yet ready even at "twenty eight".

However, encourage him/her but don't "push" them to start. Gymnastics or swimming are a good background while he is waiting for his "sixth birthday party".

He/she will require a certain degree of attention span, but if the class is conducted in a friendly and inviting manner, it will create by itself the elements needed.

Similarly, with adult friends, don't be too pushy. People will get a negative feeling and resist unnecessarily if you are too keen. You don't want them thinking you are driving them into a cult! Present them with some good info and your enthusiasm. Offer to have them come visit or try a class at your school sometime but leave it open and let them be. As they observe your increased health fitness and focus they might want to try it themselves.

What should they look for in a martial arts establishment / "school"?

Please, refer to our answer 3 in learning & teaching's archives.

They should trust in their instincts, and don't let any "shopping mall" venture eclipse their gut reaction. Ask questions! Don't let any front desk person be the only one who provides them with information. He or she can have a better selling speech than the teaching methodology of the eventual teacher. Ask if it is possible to observe a class in progress at the level and age group of the interested person.

Don't hesitate to ask the school's teachers anything. Good teachers never mind answering questions, but be patient, they are also very busy people and their current students must come first.

Helpful hints:

- What will he learn and when?

- What program is the school following?

- What rhythm and intensity do they use in the class?

- Are they expected to participate in tournaments?

- Are beginners and advanced students participating together?

- Who will be in charge of the class?

- What about his/her experience?

Any assistant instructors? (Watch-out for the "shopping mall teens teacher", they can be very keen when helping others, but the chances of their lack of pedagogic elements are great.)

- Do they participate in tournaments at a very young age?

- How do they handle disciplinary matters?

- Do they allow parents to observe the classes?

- Are the facilities safe and clean?

- Do they have parent/teacher's conferences about their student's progress?

- Be sure how they handle any tuition arrangement.

Remember that before you enroll him/her, both of you visit the school several times, and during the schedule that it might be his.

Future tip: it is very important that the day that he or she starts that they arrive with plenty of time to familiarize themselves. A trip to look around before the day to begin class is even better. Don't arrive late. Many keen beginners dilute their enthusiasm if they have to come into the training area, dojo, after the class just started.

What "school" would you recommend?

We recommend any martial art as long as they make emphasis in the preservation and improvement of the good health and well being of their participants at any age. A non-competitive approach will provide a solid base for his teens years. Also it will prepared him to take decisions as an individual.

Our written material The Peaceful Way, with appropriate subjects and language to guide a young person in the martial arts, will assist you to incorporate important elements in his martial art.




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