Kendo is a traditional Japanese martial art involving fighting with a bamboo sword. Kendo is often described as a lifelong pursuit. There are perhaps two primary reasons for this. First, it takes a long time to acquire the competency necessary to be able to control, manipulate and ultimately prevail over a broad range of opponents. Second, Kendo is an activity practitioners an enjoy into their 70’s and 80’s. In some cases, even at an advanced age practitioners are able to prevail over much younger and physically capable opponents. Key to this is adaptability with age. The most famous Kendo practitioner in modern times, 10 th dan Moriji Mochida (1885-1974) summed this up:
“Until you are 50 years old, you must endeavour to practice the
fundamentals of kendo and make it a part of you. It has taken me 50
years to learn the fundamentals of kendo by body. It was not until I
became 50 years old that I started my true kendo training. This is
because I practiced kendo with all my heart and spirit.
When one becomes 60 years old, the legs are not as strong as they once
were. It is the spirit that overcomes this weakness. It is through a
strong spirit that one can overcome the inevitability of the body
becoming physically weaker.
When I became 70 years old, the entire body became weaker. I found
that the next step is to practice the concept of not moving ones spirit
when practicing kendo. When one is able to achieve the state of an
immovable spirit, your opponent’s spirit will manifest itself to you. I
tried to achieve a calm and immovable spirit at this stage in my life.
When I became 80 years old, I achieved the state of the immovable
spirit. However, there are times when a random thought will enter my
mind. I am striving to eliminate these random thoughts at this state in
my life. ”
I am 50 years of age. My kendo experience and path is different to Moriji Mochida. However I am having to adapt my approach in a manner that touches on the concepts contained in his quote.
Kendo is physically demanding – therefore it is beneficial to be in good physical condition. however with age there has been an inevitable deterioration in my physical capability compared to when I was younger. To maintain success I have had to adapt. For example, I am unable to rely on speed and stamina to the extent I was able to when I was younger. I am therefore seeking to emphasise stability of heart, spirit and mind – so that I am better able to overcome what are known as the “shikai” or four sicknesses: anger, doubt, fear and surprise. It is a greater level of composure in these aspects that allows me to place pressure on my opponents, to then manipulate and unsettle them and ultimately triumph.