imaginary_golux: adult red riding hood and her wolf (Default)
Today I went to an exhibition of Kendo and Iaido. I would have gone in any event, as swords and swordsmanship fascinate me, but in this case I really wanted to see how Japanese sword sport compares to Western fencing, which I practice. (I’m an epeeist. It’s awesome.)

Of course, the two disciplines are deeply different. Kendo is practiced with wooden swords and lots of shouting, in a big rectangular court – so I learned today – and Iaido is a solitary sort of practice, since it uses a live blade (shiny!) and thus is too dangerous to do partnered. Fencing, in contrast, is a very linear sort of sport, and fairly quiet – besides the clanging of swords and the occasional beeping of the electronic point-counter, most matches aren’t that loud. Occasionally sabreurs yell. Kendo fencers, in contrast, yell with every attack. It’s quite startling.

But for all the undeniable differences, I was struck by the incredible similarities. Of course, there are only so many ways to use a sharp piece of metal. But both fencing and Kendo emphasize courtesy and respect for the opponent: bowing in Kendo, saluting and shaking hands in fencing. Both sports involve rules and careful judging (less so in epee, of course) to decide who gained the point. Practitioners of both sports keep one foot forward and one back – a self-defense posture, I’m told – and wear big bulky metal-barred helmets and heavy canvas protective gear, and I wear a breastplate which shares common ancestry, if not current appearance, with those worn by the Kendo fencers I saw today.

Clearly, we are not so different.

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March 2016

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