BKA National Kendo-no-Kata Seminar 20-1st June 2009

This year’s kata seminar took place on 20th and 21st of June and was hosted by Hizen. People from all over Europe attended a successful seminar. It was run by John Howell Sensei (Kyoshi Nanadan) and our very own Jeff Humm Sensei (Renshi Nanadan).

Day one
After the opening Rei, Howell Sensei gave us an insight as to why, in kendo, we do kata and how it can help. This was a good reminder that we are not just people waving sticks and hitting each other on the head. It was to mimic a sword and to allow us to practice safely without serious risk of injury.
We were also told of the importance of correct posture and attitude to display whilst performing kata. This was a reminder to us that it is not just about going through the motion but to also put feeling and passion into the kata, after all it was all about the Samurai and The Way of the Sword. This started off with us being instructed that one should not go through the motion for the sake of it; that posture and even breathing should show intent. We were split up into groups according to our grade levels so that we could all be taught based on our understanding. Howell and Humm sensei both went round and corrected and adjusted every single person present which everyone really appreciated.
After this Humm Sensei showed and put into action different training methods if we either had limited equipment or limited number of people to practice Kendo No Kata. For many this was thinking outside the box and also showed many how well they actually knew their kata. Again it was emphasized not to learn kata for the sake of passing a grading as it can also help individuals in their kendo as well.
Day two
After the starting rei, Humm and Howell Sensei split us into our grade groups and went through what the grading examiners look for when we attend gradings. This was for most (if not all) most enlightening as every little point made the difference between okay kata to good kata. Again, it was the attention to detail here that was very helpful. With the large number of people present it was surprising that they managed to correct so many people’s errors by giving group feedback. With lots of gradings coming up in the not too distant future it was for many an important part of the seminar.
After lunch, Howell Sensei went through in depth how kendo no kata came about and how much it can help in everyday kendo. Most kendoka find kata fairly tedious, but the insight into how so many of the techniques can be practised in kata and their applications can be an important reminder.
In the last part of the seminar, Humm sensei allowed everyone to become ‘’The Last Samurai”. In a practical practise that allowed everyone to see how much kendo kata is derived from actual sword combat and that the blade is not the only deadly part. This had everyone panting and sweating but there were many smiling faces as people lived out their dream of being a samurai.
Although this part was fun and good natured the lessons learnt were serious and hit home. Kata is essential for the development of one’s kendo. We look forward to next year’s seminar which no doubt will attract more people given the enjoyable content of the weekend.
Report by Nari Arjan
Photos by Jeff Martin & Nari Arjan