Mr. Michael Lindsay
Tulsa OKLAHOMA, USA
I had the great fortune to record nearly twenty pages of notes from what I experienced at Shi Ku Kai working with Iwanami sensei. The kendo I experienced there will influence me the rest of my life, and it would be difficult t choose just one topic to elaborate on for this report. However, one particular lesson stands out in my mind from the rest: Kiai.
There are many aspects of Budo in general that are very difficult to understand. Iwanami sensei mentioned this to us several times about many different concepts, but for me personally the truth behind the importance of kiai was a linchpin that I had never understood well enough to implement in m kendo. I have done it wrong ever since I started practicing kendo.
Iwanami sensei taught me that Kiai, like Seme, comes from the “heart” of the person. If the person’s heart is not engaged, there will be no seme. However, there are many situations in which kenshi practice where maintaining this engagement comes under heavy assault from both the outside, and the inside; fear, confusion, doubt, surprise, exhaustion, frustration, etc. However, even when you are experiencing these influences, your kiai mus remain strong. You must be aggressive, regardless of any hesitation you might possess.
Kendo is not about fighting, or trying to cheaply beat the opponent to points. Kendo involves a deep level of communication that requires participants to be totally focused on one another, free from outside influence. By using kiai–pulling tension into the tanden–you can push aside distractions and focus totally on th opponent.
In this way, you can train your mind and spirit to continually strive towards correct action. In this way, Kendo becomes Budo–the primary goal of practice being to train ones humanity.
The harder a kenshi works from the beginning of practice forwards, the harder it becomes to maintain constant concentration and mental stability. However, this is the purpose of kendo; training the mind to endure states and situations of extreme duress–in the same spirit that a samurai woul approach Shinken Shobu. This all begins with Kiai, which in my opinion is the gateway to stronger Kendo.
I would never have come to this understanding without the help of Iwanami sensei and the rest of Shi Ku Kai, and I will be eternally grateful. Some things in Kendo can be spoken about, but must be felt to be truly understood. I felt Kiai for the first time at Shi K Kai.