Last Friday I completed one full week of Kendo lessons. In the past, the only martial arts classes I ever took was high school wrestling, hand to hand combat training in the US Marine Corps, and finally Aikido here in Saigon. I did not take an interest in aikido three years ago, I had meant to study kendo but I had no idea where the classes where. I regret not starting then because I really like kendo!
Kendo is not easy. I now consider it one of the most toughest things I ever done in my life after Marine Corps boot camp and high school wrestling practice. It does not matter that you are a fresh beginner, Sensei Kanesaki and his students will get you started on the moves immediately. You are not allowed to sit unless you are an observer. Even visitors may be “forced” to start lessons with some encouragement.
At the end of my first practice, I had the world’s biggest blister underneath my left foot. My wrists and shoulders ached. I most have lost about a couple pounds of water from sweating. I looked forward to the weekend. We are supposed to practice at home but I am just too sore.
Practicing with the bamboo sword, shinai, is fun but it takes a lot of energy out of you. After one hour of practice, you start looking at the clock, well if you are a beginner. By lesson 2, I was given my hakama and kendogi, the traditional Japanese clothing for kendo. Last Friday was Lesson 4 for me. I was given my bogu (gloves and protective armour) minus the helmet which I will get tomorrow. All together, the hakama, kendogi and bogu starts to trap all the heat in you.
After wearing the full gear, minus gloves and helmet, for an intense 40 minutes, I got hyperthermia (heat stroke). This is the second time I ever got heat stroke in my life so I knew what was happening. Luckily a couple guys saw this and I started to remove my bogu to cool off and hydrate. I could not work out after that. I was exhausted. I am glad this happened since it enabled to me research more about Kendo and hyperthermia. It turns out hyperthermia is an endemic problem with this sport. The study at the above link urged instructors to educate their students on hydrating properly during the class. I plan to hydrate myself every 15 minutes with an electrolyte that I will make at home.
Oh, if you wonder how I got to the point where I experienced heat exhaustion, it is quite simple. The dojo where I work out at has no air conditioners. The inside temperature if roughly in the high-80s to low 90s. A far cry from an air conditioned health club that I am used to back in the US.
Anyway, tomorrow is lesson 5 for me. I will work on some moves tonight and try putting on all my gear myself. If you want to join, I left some information and costs below the pictures.
Kendo Practice in the Tan Binh District
Address: 364 CMT8 Street, Tan Binh District.
Instructor: Sensei Kanesaki
Class Hours:: MWF 19:30-21:00
- Lessons: 150,000 VND/per month
- Shinai: 450,000 VND (Made in Japan)
- Kendogi and Hakama: 2 million VND (Made in Japan)
- Bogu: 5 million VND (Made in Japan)