Before Japanese warriors (samurai) learned how to fight with real swords, they used bamboo and wood versions. A lot less dangerous. The shinai is made up of four flexible bamboo strips bound by leather, and we used these in my first-ever kendo class in Osaka, Japan a few days ago. I loved the beauty of the form and the warlike shouting that is part of the sport. The moves and precision are a graceful, but deadly, ballet. The advanced practice and organized kendo competitions require protective masks and body armor. In my beginner class was a boy under 12 and a woman over 60. Also in the advanced group was a white haired, Japanese man who had lived in Manhattan when Eisenhower was president (1953-1961), so he was easily in his 70’s. I was very tired after this workout…

kendo contest

kendo contest

Wooden swords can be deadly, and you see them used here in this movie version above of a fight.

Real kendo matches are nothing like this. I have included a super high-speed, slow-motion clip that shows the winner might be 0.009 second faster than the loser. I can’t grasp how the judges see these slight differences. It doesn’t appear they need to look at a replay.

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