Furthering the Japan martial art of kendo in the country

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The Philippine Kendo Team is hard in practice as it prepares for the 12th ASEAN Kendo Tournament in Jakarta, Indonesia, happening in August. -- MIKE MURILLO

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

COMPARED to other Japanese martial arts, the number of people doing kendo in the Philippines may not be as big, but practitioners of it in the country are undeterred in bringing it to the fore to have more Filipinos appreciate it and, maybe, pick it up.

An offshoot of kenjutsu, or the term use for the different schools of Japanese swordsmanship, kendo, which translates to “way of the sword,” involves two swordsmen squaring off against each other in a simulated battlefield.

In place of actual metal swords, kendo uses bamboo ones known as shinai for striking and protective armor known as bogu.

Kendo has its origin centuries ago but in the 20th century it further evolved and spawn many kendokas (practitioners) not only in Japan but also in other parts of the world.

Here in the Philippines, kendo has been around for a while now and has produced clubs and organizations that practice it.

“Kendo has been in the Philippines for quite a long time now. I heard of stories of Japanese expatriates practicing it in the 1960s. Formally with organizations that people can join in, it started in the mid-‘90s with the Manila Kendo Club then around 2010 we had another club that came out — the IGA Kendo Club — which I’m a part of. Then it spread to Iloilo, Davao, Cebu and Dumaguete. And it’s steadily spreading to other places,” said Kristopher Inting, team manager of the Philippine Kendo Team, in an interview with BusinessWorld during one of their practices.

Mr. Inting highlighted that kendo is a martial art fit for practically everybody who has the “spirit” for it.

“We usually say that when one does kendo you have to have the spirit. You have to have a strong fighting spirit in order to take it up. There are benefits that come from practicing it. You develop discipline, patience and being precise — doing things properly. It develops stamina and makes you physically fit,” he said.

“Anyone from seven to 70 can take it up,” he added.

The usual demographic of people doing kendo in the Philippines, Mr. Inting said, are those in their 20s to 30s, people who have jobs to finance the activity, like buying the needed equipment and gear.

He was quick to point out though that while doing kendo can be expensive, it is an investment all worth it and would last one for a long time.

Mr. Inting shared that the different clubs are trying to make kendo more accessible by providing free lessons as much as they can and making the equipment readily available so people would not have to source them from abroad.

To further hone their skills, kendokas in the country hold annual national tournaments which also serve as venue for selection to the national team.

Next month, the Philippine Kendo Team will compete at the 12th ASEAN Kendo Tournament in Jakarta, Indonesia.

For the competition happening from Aug. 9 to 11, the Philippines will be sending a 25-man team, composed of 14 male kendokas and 11 females.

Mr. Inting said they have been training hard since March, notwithstanding the many challenges, including logistics and financial since the team is practically providing for itself.

He said the team is determined to do better in this edition of the tournament, which takes place every three years, to show the Filipinos can do well in kendo on the international stage.

“Right now I would say [the Philippines is] mid-tier [in the region]. The powerhouses right now are Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, Vietnam is a dark horse,” Mr. Inting said.

“But we have been constantly improving since 2013 and we are hopeful of breaking through further this year,” he added.

While the local kendo scene is steadily developing, Mr. Inting said more can definitely be done to further it.

Having more local instructors would go a long way, he said, as well as informing more people about it and making it more accessible.

“It is in its developmental stage. Developing more local instructors will be a great help. We have Japanese instructors but they are mostly here for work and teach on the side. If we have local instructors we ensure continuity. We have to figure out a way to make the sport and the equipment accessible, and better get the message across what kendo is all about,” Mr. Inting said.

The Philippine Kendo Team manager went on to encourage people to see for themselves the value of doing kendo by going to the various clubs in the country.

“The great thing about kendo is it is a continuous learning. Once you think you have mastered it, you realize you haven’t,” he added.