Hizen actively welcomes and encourages women of all ages and experience to come along and practice kendo. Currently there are 14 women practising regularly at the dojo, ranging from beginners to 6th dan and including an ex- National Ladies Team Captain.
Since starting in 1982, Hizen has always had a good representation of female kendoka in its membership. Hizen’s Shihan (Head Instructor) fervently believes that women have a great deal to offer the art of kendo and as well as encouraging female participation at his own dojo, he has trained the Ladies National Team to two successive medal places at European Championships. Many of those that he has trained are now leading female kendoka in the B.K.A.
Kendo is unique within the martial arts as there is no segregation within the practice; women are treated as equals and required to undertake all forms of training alongside the men. The dojo was the first club to enter an all ladies team into the National Clubs Championships in 1985 and then in following years.
Kendo doesn’t rely on physical strength – to progress you need skill, technique and an insight into your and your opponent’s psychology. This means that regardless of experience there is always something new to learn.
Apart from having the youngest 7th dan in the UK for our Chief Instructor, one of the Hizen’s longest serving active members is Dr. Alexandra Burch, Ex-National Ladies Team Captain. She has also won various honours throughout her kendo career including Fighting Spirit at the World Kendo Championship, two medals at the European Championships and was the British Ladies Champion. She is also one of the dojo’s Senior Coaches and is a great role model for all the other female members.
We asked Alex and other female members to make a comment on why they started and their thoughts on the benefits of kendo to them.
“I’ve been practising at Hizen for over 25 years and love being part of this dojo. Hizen’s sensei and its members are very supportive of everyone who comes along and provide a great environment in which to learn.
What I most enjoy about the practise of kendo is that it provides a perfect blend of physical and mental exercise requiring you to both train hard to improve the outside and think hard to improve the inside. I enjoy practising at a dojo where women are treated equally and I think that women bring a lot to the practice. I’d encourage anyone interested to come along and have a go.”
“Kendo gives me a challenge, so it is not just a martial art or a sport. I find that the women in kendo are less in to the things that come with kendo, expensive armour, Japan etc. but that they crave discipline and true kendo in a strange way makes them look elegant while preforming but also makes them look strong and fearless.
For me it pushes me into something that might not be my obvious mental state that comes with being a woman, a less feminine side but it is also part of me. Although we fight individually and are all competitive in our own way there is still a great deal of friendship between kendo women in the club. Wanting to help each other to go though the process of being stronger and improving, I have never encountered this before! The number of women is not great in kendo especially considering the number of clubs but i think with time more women will start trying it and then realising the benefits that kendo can bring to their every day life.”
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“Kendo offers a great work out for both your body and your mind. Not only is it very physically challenging but you also have to use your brain as you work out how to execute certain techniques or the best way to overcome your partner. I’ve found kendo to be a great way of learning more about myself, and have grown in confidence both inside and outside the dojo by constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone.”
“I started kendo as I wanted to do a martial art that would allow me to focus all of my energy and provide an exit for some pent up frustration and stress. Kendo allows me to encompass the mind, body and spirit – and has given me the confidence to meet and overcome the challenges I face everyday as a result of working in a male dominated environment.”
“I had not quite expected how challenging kendo would be. Yes, you can be competitive but it is so clear in kendo that your competitiveness is ultimately with yourself. It is your own self control that you strive for.
This is why I especially like Hizen. The emphasis is not on winning points (though that is fun too). We focus on performing good technique, mental toughness and, above all, respect.
Kendo has become a friend to me, not always an easy one, but one that tells you what you need to hear. It’s taught me patience and resilience. It’s an amazing stress release. And there are also lots of lovely people from all different backgrounds to meet and practice with.”
“I’ve been practicing kendo at Hizen for just over a year now. I was looking for more than just another sport as a hobby. Having been a keen sports person for many years it was not just competition and routine that I was looking for. Practicing Kendo at Hizen is thoroughly enjoyable, incredibly character building, great exercise and for me personally, a way to unwind at the end of a very sedentary day. The physical enduranceis coupled with the mental challenge of improving my concentration and self-discipline. I particularly enjoy being part of the Hizen dojo because it is so welcoming and has a real spread of people from different backgrounds and different abilities.”
‘’I started kendo because I wanted to practice a sport that helps me both physically and mentally. My job can be quite demanding and stressful so kendo helps me to release my stress. I have always wanted to practice a Japanese martial art and I’m fortunate enough to have joined a dojo that is very relaxed and where all the members are close to each other. There is no competition between the members and everyone can progress at their own pace which I like.”
”Kendo allows me to keep fit whilst learning something completely new (I was always rather intrigued by history of Samurai and martial arts in general) and getting rid of the day’s stress too. It makes me be aware of my posture (which can indeed go downhill if you are working in the office…) and correct it if needed, therefore you stand taller. In general this is a brilliant way to challenge yourself and learn, to explore what you are capable of as a person and what limits are to be pushed. However always with respect to people you are with as well as your surroundings.”
If you are interested and would like to see a class, please feel free to come and watch and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have about kendo or becoming a member.