I know I’m pretty late with making a post about this, but better late than never, I guess.
Over the Labor Day weekend, I attended the American Kendo Leadership Seminar in Seattle, Washington, led by Jeff Marsten Sensei and Robert Stroud Sensei from the Pacific Northwest Kendo Federation. The purpose of the seminar was to present materials and resources to build the leadership ranks of Kendo throughout the US. Here is a quick rundown of some of the material covered:
- Tips on structuring Kendo classes to benefit the students and the instructors
- Advice on building and running a dojo
- Explaining the requirements of shinsa and shiai
- Learn how to deal with the Japanese cultural aspects of Kendo within the American mindset
- Provide a network of resources for future reference
For most of us, the trip was very expensive. The seminar fee was actually very low, but when you factor in the plane tickets, hotel fees, rental cars and food, the prices added up very quickly. Naturally, I had some concerns as to how much I would get out of the seminar since this is something unprecedented, as far as I know.
One thing that can become apparent when leading practices is that, once the initial awkwardness of telling people what to do for two hours per day, leading practices becomes very easy. As long as you know how much time you have and a list of techniques you want people to perform during practice, it’s easy to make it through class after class. However, there is another layer called effectiveness. Anyone can lead people through practice by taking the previously mentioned situations into account. But being able to convey the material in a way that everyone can learn from it is a totally different matter. From dojo building, to shiai, to shinsa, there are many facets of Kendo that are available for all that want to practice it, and it’s up to the dojo leaders to know what goes on to be able to lead others through the process. This seminar went over a lot of that information to serve as a jumping off point to be able to perform those tasks.
The overall tone of the seminar was very light-hearted but serious. I had a lot of fun doing jigeiko against people from different regions of the country, and it provided a nice fresh look at my fighting style and how to steal some of their techniques for my own use later . It wasn’t all business though because after practice, we went out to eat at a few places and attended a wonderful barbecue at Marsten Sensei’s house. Each moment provided a chance for all of us to bond under the common goals to improve our own Kendo, the Kendo of the students, and Kendo in the US as well as provided us ways to network with each other for future needs.
The seminar has been over for almost a month now, and I’m still trying to compile the information I learned together, which is due to how much was shared, trying to find the best way to share the information, and partly my own laziness with getting things done as of late. Whether or not I will be able to attend future events (I most certainly would love to provided I have the money and the time to do so), I hope that both Stroud and Marsten Sensei can continue providing the seminar for those that are interested. If they do, then I can totally recommend anyone with even a remote interest to attend. The trip itself was very expensive, but the information I received and the bonds that were formed made it worth more than the price of admission.
P.S.: While none of the pictures are Kendo, or seminar related, I took the extra time I had after practice to take a few pictures around town. Please feel free to take a look at them here.