Baylor club finds way to stay connected to Japanese culture

Members of the Baylor Kendo Club practice sparring, footwork and moving drills in this adaptation of Japanese swordsmanship. Photo by the Baylor Lariat

By Blake Gray | Reporter

The Baylor Kendo Club connects students to Japanese culture through the practice of Kendo, an adaptation from traditional Japanese swordsmanship practiced in the Samurai tradition.

In Kendo, or the “way of the sword,” students utilize bamboo swords (shinai) to practice various movements, footwork and techniques. When sparring, training armor (bogu) is worn to simulate the armor worn by Samurai, consisting of the face/shoulder guard (men), gloves (kote), body armor (do) and a protective belt (tare), according to Britannica. The martial art teaches discipline to strengthen the mind, body and spirit of the student.

The club is led by Baylor associate physics professor Dr. Kenichi Hatakeyama, who is a two-time national Kendo champion. He serves as the Sensei, or teacher, for the club and supplies his wisdom and instruction to his students.

Arlington senior William Aaron Tomes is the president of the Kendo Club and has about three years of experience in the sport.

“Kendo requires more fast movements,” Tomes said. “At the end of the day, it turns out to be more of a cardio workout than a muscle building practice.”

The club practices twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, currently held at Russell Gymnasium, according to the Kendo Club Facebook page. During practice, students run fundamental drills and movements to improve their footwork and learn various strikes and techniques.

For experienced members, they will put their training into practice through sparring matches, allowing them to apply techniques against opponents.

Lexington, Ky., sophomore Sebastian Enz, a new member in the Kendo Club, said he aspires to improve his swordsmanship and himself through the regiment of the club.

“I’m really looking forward to just making myself the best I can be,” Enz said. “I want to get really good at this because I can.”

Tomes said he places great emphasis on the importance of the traditions and teachings of Kendo. Kendo is much more than a marital art, it is an art form, Tomes said.

“Whenever you get a strike, it is not about winning or losing, it’s about making the perfect, beautiful Ippon,” Tomes said. “They focus more on the artwork of it, the discipline of getting the perfect strike rather than defeating your opponent.”