Japan Matsuri 2010

Last year’s Japan Matsuri had such a huge turn out that the event organisers decided to do it again this year. Hizen along with Wakaba were once again invited to give demonstrations of kendo to the visiting public. This year I was pleasantly surprised to find that the martial arts stage had moved to a central location within Spitalfields Market as last year it was in a somewhat peripheral corner not even under the protection of the arcades. Lucky it didn’t rain last year with this year’s weather being fine too. I arrived during the closing minutes of the preceding demonstration of Shorin-ji Kempo. The audience was large and packed and several children sat around the perimeter of the stage clearly having a great time.
As Hizen’s demonstration team began to appear the crowd started to get audibly excited. Something about the sight of kendo armor captures the public imagination in a very visceral way. One mother sitting next to me exclaimed to her young children, “Look, the samurai are coming!” Eight members of Hizen were to give the armoured practice demonstration. This was about all the small stage could take. Humm-sensei had the microphone to explain what the audience was about to see. Jeff Martin was also at the end of the stage, bokuto tucked away next to him, standing by for the kata demonstration.
Satoshi Miyamura led the group in the opening rei and mokuso. The team bowed to the audience then proceeded to put their armour on while Humm-sensei started explaining some basic points about kendo that in this martial art everyone practices together. Young and old, men and women, beginners and seniors can all practice together with no differentiation. First came the demonstrations of the four targets in kendo with mawarigeiko executions of men, kote, dou and tsuki strikes.

This was followed by short bouts of kirikaeshi and kakarigeiko so the audience gets a flavour of what a typical kihon practice would be like. To once again emphasize the point that men and women can practice together, Jeff asked Steve and Ruth Macdonald to spar with each other as well as for another jigeiko between Nari and Minaxi Arjan. Satoshi and Clayon Stewart showed a more focused senior’s jigeiko in order to demonstration to the audience that kendo is not always seemingly chaos.
Humm-sensei then put the mic down in order to give a demonstration, together with Jeff Martin, of a selection of kendo-no kata. Before Satoshi lead the closing rei, Humm-sensei briefly picked up the mic again to explain to the audience that they were about to see a more rigorous application of the kata forms, first to be performed slowly, then in a more intense manner. This was going to be, I believe, the first public demonstration of Humm-sensei’s tachi-ai interpretation of the kendo-no kata. Influenced by the continuous kata found in Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-Ryu, this exercise links together kendo’s seven tachi forms into a single long flowing kata. This is achieved by re-introducing cuts and kamae from classical kenjutsu not readily seen in modern kendo in between the main body of each kata. It is meant as a fun and exciting way to give kendo-no kata a rigorous combative feel (and you might get to see it at the next Kata Seminar *wink *wink).This was perhaps the one bit of the demonstration that resembled what the general public tends to think kendo is supposed to look like, aside from the super cool looking armour of course.

Japan Matsuri 2010 Demonstration Team:
Jeff Humm
Satoshi Miyamura
Clayon Stewart
Paul Gray
Jeff Martin
Steve Macdonald
Ruth Macdonald
Nari Arjan
Minaxi Arjan
Chi Fung

Report & photos Dillion Lin