1. Do I require any previous martial arts experience to practice kendo?
No. Anybody can start kendo, whether you have no previous martial arts experience or you have practised some martial arts. Everybody starts at the same level, and we teach you everything you need to know to be able to do kendo.
2. At what age can I start doing kendo?
The short answer: any age. Kendo is a sport practised by young and old all over the world. The dojo has a lower limit of 13 years of age, this is because we do not have a dedicated “kendo kids” program. Most of our new beginners are students with the occasional high school scholar, this causes a new group to progress at a certain pace which might be too fast for younger members. We will always try to accommodate new younger members, if you or your child are younger than 13 please contact one of the dojo admin members to find out if we can accommodate them in the beginners class.
3. Can children do kendo and at what age can they start?
Children are more than welcome to join us in the dojo. As stated before, we do not have a dedicated “kendo kids” program, we hope to be able to start one in the near future. Current members that have children often bring them along to the dojo to get some exposure and train with other members. The minimum age to be able to participate is 6-7 years.
4. Can girls do kendo?
Yes. Currently, Mushin is home to 3 ladies, and we are always eager to welcome another and grow our ladies club.
5. Do guys and girls compete against each other?
Yes. There are only about 110 kendo practitioners in the country, of which less than 20 are ladies. If fights and training were separated based on gender, girls would never gain any experience or improve their own kendo. There is an occasional ladies only competition during the year, but for the most of it men and women train together and fight against each other.
6. Is the sport dangerous?
No. Kendo is a very safe sport. Members are taught how to fight in a way that won’t cause harm to themselves or others. Before a new member is allowed to face an opponent, whether they are wearing protective armour or not, they must first be able to perform all basic cuts and movements which can take up to 6 months. Kendo is a full-contact sport, but kendoka wear special protective armour called “bogu” during training and fights. Most members suffer at most bruises. A sport like rugby is far more dangerous than kendo will ever be.
7. When do we start using real swords or “katanas”?
Never. Kendo is a martial art based on traditional sword fighting and does not include any real weapons of any kind. We use bamboo sticks to fight and wooden swords to perform kata. Most new members have a false illusion of what kendo is based on popular movies like “The Last Samurai”, thinking we jump off roofs, katanas swinging, slicing watermelons perched on sticks in half. Martial arts that include the use of real weapons are Iaido and Kenjitsu.
8. How long before I start fighting people?
Mushin started implementing a new teaching schedule at the start of 2016. Most new members will only do basic movements with “ghost” techniques for about 4-6 months depending on the group’s progression, thereafter they will move into the beginning stages of the intermediate group during which they will face members dressed in armour (senior intermediates). This phase will last about 1 year, during this time members gradually move from the beginner-intermediates practising on armoured members to become the armoured members being practised on. Thereafter it is up to each individual member to progress to the senior class (full armour for all members) based on class attendance and the go-ahead from their sensei/senpai and the senior class sensei. The senior class is reserved for members that have been in armour for at least 1 year, and know all the basic and some advanced techniques. It is not based on grades!
9. What do I need as a beginner?
At first, all you need is a shinai (bamboo sword) and willingness to learn. The dojo provides practice shinai for new members to use until they have bought their own. Once you have passed your first grading you will need to buy a bokken (wooden sword). This will last you for about 6 months. If you decide to continue on with your kendo journey you will need to start looking at buying a kendogi (kendo uniform), which is required from 5th kyuu onward. From 4th kyuu you will require a kendo bogu (armour), these armour sets are very expensive, so to help members out the dojo has a bogu hire program. If you are serious about kendo this is not a permanent solution, and you will have to consult with our dojo armourer regarding purchasing your own armour eventually. Kendo equipment is not cheap, but if taken care of, they will last for years.
10. Where can I buy kendo equipment?
Nowhere in South Africa unfortunately. All kendo equipment has to be imported. Mushin regularly places bulk orders so that members can purchase equipment via the dojo for cheaper than they would have paid on their own. The SAKF also has an official armourer that carries some stock for members to buy. Please do not buy any equipment from local china markets or sword shops, the quality of these items are horrible and pose a danger to anyone who practices or gets hit by them. Mushin will not allow any equipment to be used that has not been purchased from an armourer associated with the SAKF.