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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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New club trains students in the `way of the sword’

One of GW’s newest organizations allows students to train their minds and bodies while practicing the traditional Japanese art, kendo.

It’s a Japanese martial art, said freshman Shinya Deguchi, founder of the Kendo Club at GW. It looks a lot like fencing.

The difference lies in the motions of the swords, he said.

Fencing is just piercing, kendo is like cutting, Deguchi said.

Competitors in kendo, which means way of the sword in Japanese, use a bamboo sword, called a shinai for beginners. Experts practice in a formal dress, called a bogu, and a headdress. Body armor, known as don, and handguards, or kot, protect the fighter.

I don’t think it’s dangerous at all, freshman Kenneth Chung said. In akido (another Japanese martial art) you might break a bone or two if you don’t do it correctly, but kendo is very safe. It is the only (martial art) that you don’t fight with your arms and legs.

Chung said the object in kendo is to hit the opponent first.

Usually the target is the head, hands, upper body and neck, he said. They don’t go for the legs, it’s not considered a point. He said competitors try to use the top 20 percent of the sword when fighting.

Deguchi said he practiced kendo for nine years in his hometown near Nagoya, Japan. When he came to GW, he met others who enjoyed the art.

I got the information on when we could use the gym, so we thought we’d start a kendo club, he said.

With about 10 members, the Kendo Club holds practices Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Smith Center for beginners and an open practice on Sundays at Mount Vernon with a kendo club in Maryland. Deguchi said the group plans to compete in a kendo tournament at Harvard University April 9.

Deguchi is no stranger to competition in kendo. In February, he received second place in an individual competition during a youth tournament. His team, comprised of two GW students and one Virginia high school student, earned first place in the group competition at the tournament.

The majority of the club’s members are beginners, said freshman Cynthia Wight, who started practicing kendo when the club started in the fall.

With kendo, it’s one of those things you see snippets of, like in movies, but never really get into it, she said. It just looked really cool.

Wight said she enjoys the activity and Deguchi’s teaching.

It’s really fun, she said. Shinya is a great teacher. He practices three to four times a week at a different club. That’s why he started this club, he just can’t get enough.

The combination of mental and physical skills is what keeps him coming back for more, Deguchi said.

Kendo is very self-improving, he said. When we’re fighting, we have to think about what the opponent is thinking. We think highly, like Zen – kendo depends on that.

To prepare the mind for competition in kendo, Deguchi said the club does meditations at the beginning and end of each meeting.

Chung said he likes the meditative aspect of kendo. He said his interest in akido drew him to kendo at the beginning of this semester.

I like it because Japanese martial arts stress a lot of discipline, it’s not so much beating the opponent, he said. I learn a lot about myself.

Chung said kendo should not be considered a sport but a martial art.

In sports, you focus a lot on winning, he said. In kendo, I’ve never won anything yet. I think the best thing in kendo is kind of intangible.

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