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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kendo Fighting

When I first got to Korea, I was walking up my street, to my apartment, when I noticed men yelling and banging what sounded like swords! I was intrigued, of course, and walked towards the sounds. Low and behold, I looked in a window, into a basement, where I saw men dressed in black robes, with hannibal style masks, sword fighting! It looked like a scene out of Hannibal meets Lord of the Rings! I couldn't believe people actually did this! I remember laughing and thinking, Wow, these guys are such losers. They probably play Dungeons and Dragons in their spare time! (Little did I know what I would soon learn about them.)

A couple days ago, I heard the fighting again, and intrigued, once again, I decided to open the door and ask if I could watch! I had no idea the teacher would be so inviting. He told me to come back in the morning and I could see the advanced students fighting in their full outfits!

So, I woke up nice and early, and walked over to the studio before work to check it out. Here's what I witnessed!

I learned a couple things while I was there. The fighting has a name... It's called Kendo or Kumdo, meaning "Way of the Sword"and it's a modern Japanese martial art of sword-fighting based on traditional Japanese swordsmanship. Since the earliest Sumurai government in Japan, (1185-1333), sword fencing, together with horse riding and archery, were the main martial pursuits of the military clans. In this period kendo developed under the strong influence of Zen Buddhism, which is why, at the end of their practice, I watched them meditate for 5 minutes before they left to go home!

Apparently, there are about 6,000,000 people world-wide practicing Kendo, including the US! Who knew?! Kendo training is actually REALLY loud in comparison to other martial arts, because they shout to express their fighting spirit when striking. Like some other martial arts, they fight barefoot and stomp their front foot, when making a strike! It was a really awesome cultural experience!

Here's a video I found on youtube, so you can hear what it sounds like when they're fighting!

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