The crack of dueling swords, emphatic stomps and primal yells known as kiai permeated the Lloyd Gym on the Mount Vernon Campus at a Kendo tournament this weekend.
Despite being smaller in number and less experienced then teams in past years, students in the GW Kendo Club proved themselves at the first tournament they hosted on campus, placing among the top three in both skill levels.
Kendo, which translates to “the way of the sword,” is the modern martial art of Japanese fencing, expanded from traditional Japanese swordsmanship called Kenjutsu. Competitors use a shinai, or bamboo sword to attack their opponents, and to score the attackers must successfully strike designated target areas such as the opponent’s wrist, the top of the opponent’s head or the opponent’s left or right side of the torso.
GW, as well as members from the sponsoring Maryland Shidogakuin dojo, competed against other schools on the east coast including Yale University and Virginia Tech. Matches last three minutes or until one competitor lands two strikes.
“Kendo is a mixture of traditional art and competitive sport,” said junior Maxim Brown, the club’s vice president. “It is most similar to tae kwon do, but it is spiritually more (involved) than other sports such as soccer or baseball.”
GW’s Kendo club was created by Shinya Teguchi, a Japanese international student in 1999, and it was growing steadily over the past few years until this year, when it lost many graduating seniors.
“Since our seniors left we are trying recruiting for the first time,” said Mana Yamada, a junior and president of the club. “Now we have about five senior members and six or seven beginners.”
Despite being a relatively young team, however, the Kendo Club has started to make a name for itself as a competitor, group leaders said. Brown said that GW plans to host such a tournament annually.
“There was a lot of good competition and we believe everyone left feeling good about it,” he said. “Most plan on coming back next year when we hope to have several more schools involved.”
At Sunday’s competition, awards were handed out to first, second, and third place in each of two skill level brackets as well as in a team event. In Yudansha, the more advanced level which consists of competitors of a black belt, Jae Woo Kim, the club’s instructor and GW graduate student, took first place overall. Brian Wright, the club’s advisor and a Japanese sword instructor at the Health and Wellness Center, placed third.
In Mudansha, the lower of the two skill levels, GW’s team swept the top places, with alumnus Brian Yudin taking first, and Philip Hughes, another alumnus, placing second. Brown took third place. In the team event, where five members from two separate clubs face off, the GW’s team did not place.
“We were pleased with the success of our clubs members today,” Brown said. “Overall we all feel very strongly that this tournament was a great success, especially for being the first one that we have ever hosted at GW.”
The club will also compete at Cornell University in mid-November and in several more competitions throughout the spring semester including matches against Yale University, Rutgers University and Harvard University.