Way of the Samurai 3

Later this month sees the European release of the video game “Way of the Samurai 3″. Having been available in Japan for sometime now it’s finally making it to our shores.As part of the publicity surrounding its release Hizen dojo was asked to give some of the Journalist covering the launch a taste of what real life combat might be like compared to the games virtual combat.The day started with an introduction from Jeff Humm Sensei to the some of the history and philosophy of kendo. This included a promise to experience the four sickness of kendo, fear, doubt, surprise and confusion.With such a limited amount of time a so much ground to cover we started taking people through their first steps.

How to stand, how to hold the shinai. Soon we had them all moving around the dojo making basic cuts. Whilst Humm Sensei continued to give instruction to the participants I put on my armor and took my place receiving cuts from the students.

Once we’re reasonably happy everyone is striking with some style and commitment. It’s time to get everyone in armor and we repeat the exercise.For everyone who does kendo wearing armor for the first time is tough lesson.

What seemed merely hard before now seems impossible. So it’s important for the student to be focused again on the most basic points and for the teachers not allow the student to dwell on the discomforts and act as the had before the armor was worn. With only an hour or so to get used to holding the shinai. Holding on to the basics of posture and footwork is not easy. The signs of the four sicknesses of kendo are showing.Now it’s time to drive the lesson home. The visitors are getting tired and we have one last step to go through before lunch. It’s free practice time. It’s not a fair fight but it’s all part of the experience. What is it like to stand up in-front off someone and be totally out of your depth. In-spite of being scared, doubting your ability being shocked by the speed and intensty of a full on attack and having no idea how to respond, can you maintain your composure and hang on to the little training you’ve had and make an honest attempt to meet your opponents attack head on.

We’re not just to play with them, you try and do your best kendo and show by example how they should be practicing. You can’t just go all out as this would be over welling and make them defensive. You give them opportunities and take them away again. You try to encourage your opponent to do their best to push themselves a bit further to do something more than they thought they could and hopefully have some fun doing it.

Then comes my turn. Before we break for lunch we let the visitor sit and rest and watch as I go through the same process and demonstrate how I practice with my teacher,

how I try to meet that challenge head on. I was gratified that one of the visitors commented afterwards that he it was impressed to see me giving it my all despite being out gunned by my teacher.The return from lunch sees us approaching things from a different direction.

We start by giving a demonstration of the first seven forms of the kendo kata, while Humm Sensei explains the intention behind each one. This is followed by an explanation of the how the target areas which are used in modern kendo evolved from the early targets which exploit weaknesses in armor and anatomical vulnerabilities, rather than encouraging spirited attacks in a safe manner as we do in kendo itself.Then everyone takes up boken and we pair up to practice cutting to various target areas of the body. We then add to this the various countering parries to produce a paired exercise which both partners are linking together a series of cuts and responses. Whilst not as physically demanding as the mornings practice,
the concentration required to get the correct parry to match the correct cut without getting struck with a wooden sword is still demanding.We finish up by demonstrating a more elaborate series of cuts and parries and some older forms of kendo kata. Whilst not part of our normal kendo practice these represent a link to a time when people practiced not to develop their bodies and character, as we do today, but to defend them selves in life and death combat.At the end of the day there’s a feeling that it’s been a job well done. We have time to answer some more questions as people around us are talking into camera lenses and taking photos.

Inviting people to join is in this way does take us out of our usual routine and we have to think carefully about how we represent ourselves and our art and how we treat people who are not as committed to what we are doing. But we feel that the day was enjoyed be those involved and where gratified by what seemed like a genuine desire to enter into the spirit of what we do.Quite how what we did will emerge into the outside public eye, I have no idea. We where there to provide some background to the video game so it’s not about us and as with any of these types of things the final product only represents a small part of the work that went into it. But if we find anything interesting will point it out.

Links to video coverage

Report By: Jeff Martin
Photos C/O Premier PR