The Kendo Kid: Jecel Censoro
I’ve been doing martial arts since I was a kid. I first started off with Taekwondo which I did until college. Unfortunately, I got a bad injury from a sparring that bruised and dislocated my knee. I was forced to quit.
After college, being a very active person that I am, I tried doing other martial arts such as Aikido, Capoeira, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Boxing, and Judo but I didn’t really pushed through any given that they are also contact sports similar to Taekwondo. Apparently, I still have some fear in getting another bad injury from being punched, kicked or thrown.
Jecel Censoro. Joined Manila Kendo Club in 2017.
In 2017, I met a Japanese lady who does Kendo. I got curious to what it is since she keeps on mentioning how much she loves it. I went with her in one of her practice and saw people who look like samurai warriors bordering Star Wars Jedi. I thought it was cool given that I am a fan of anime and science fiction so I did some research about it. According to my research, it was the descendant of the Japanese art of swordmanship (Kenjutsu). The martial art practices the “way of the sword” but uses a bamboo sword called shiai instead of a real samurai. I got interested in learning more about it so I observed in the practices and joined their events as a spectator. Lucky me, there are people in the Manila Kendo Club who have been very encouraging and supportive, giving a lot of information and favors so I’ll be enticed to join Kendo. My friend, who introduced Kendo, also gave special trainings which brought me back to my childhood memory of why I loved martial arts. After several observations, demonstration, and Q&A (and gifts), I got convinced to join.
Jecel Censoro with her friend, Rika Mitsuhashi, during Manila Kendo Club practice
In 2018, wearing the dougi (kendo uniform somehow similar to what Kenshin Himura wears in Samurai X) that was given to me, I walked into Gatorade Hoops to join the beginner’s training. Since I already got some special tutorial before, I was recommended to move to advanced beginners. Like how it was in my special tutorial, the basic thing to master in Kendo is the foot work. It is so important that in Japan, the first year of training is only on foot works. Once you get a good handle of the foot works (which by the way hurts at the beginning especially if you are not used to gliding, stomping, and walking barefoot), the next steps will be less hard. Once you are allowed to hold the shinai and eventually wear your bogu and men (body and head gear), the feeling will be different. It is like you are tasked to “save the world” so you get excited to hit something. Of course, that’s not the point of Kendo so you will need to be attentive on the proper way of doing things from standing to moving; from holding the shiai to hitting an exact point. There is much to learn and continually learn in Kendo so everyone is thought to remain humble and be open to be corrected. In Manila Kendo Club, the population is aged from around 7 to more than 60 years old so it tells you that Kendo is really a lifetime of learning.
Jecel with Morishima sensei and the girls of Manila Kendo Club
Given my five months of training Kendo, I would like to share the 5 things that I learned from it:
You build a discipline for learning. I am a learner and I learn fast so my thinking is that when I already know something, that’s it. But what Kendo thought me is that I should continually listen for correction and seek constant mastery. Even the older kendokas are learning so I don’t have any reason to say I know how to do things already.
You develop a heart of gratitude. The senseis (teachers) in Kendo do not get any payment for teaching. They do it as a return of favor for also learning for free from their senseis. Teaching this martials arts is not easy since you literally need to check each one if they are doing things properly. I especially thank my senseis – Rika, Ian, Emerson Sy, Emerson Ingco, Ron, Matt, Adrian, Wally, Elvie, Inoue-san, Yuta, Akita, Morishima sensei, and the rest of MKC – for teaching me.
You become conscious of doing things the proper way. Kendo, like other sports have rules to follow but Kendo is somehow different because it literally has a rule on EVERY LITTLE THING even in terms of how you fold your kendo-gi and hakama (uniform) and how you enter/exit the room. It’s that specific in almost everything that you eventually translate that practice in the way you live your life.
You learn to be more humble. One reason why Kendo is probably not as popular as other martial arts like Karate or Taekwondo is because the practice itself is almost never showcased in public spaces. Part of doing the sport is to keep it at low profile with no intention to impress other people or show off. There was a move to include it in the olympics but the federation refused since they want to preserve the art and spirit of Kendo. I never heard or saw anyone brag about how they do Kendo. Every one, no matter how good they are, always act and speak very humbly.
You gain friends. This is probably the icing on the cake when I joined Kendo. There are so many amazing and interesting people in the club that there is no way that you won’t make friends with them. The practice is also done at least once a week so even if you don’t force it, you will eventually get to know them. In some cases, there will also be dinner together or out-of-town travel. That is when things get more interesting since you will learn more about the profile of the people and why they also joined Kendo.
Bonus: Kendo will also make you look like an anime. So for those who love cosplay, manga, and anime, you will love this! ❤ ❤ ❤