My name is Dante, and I follow my own way of ninja.
I’ll never forget when I first started sparring, especially my first Kendo lesson. My partner, let’s call him “Ken” to respect his privacy, showed me a few basic moves. He said, “Is this your first time?” Like an idiot, I nodded. He chuckled and said, “Try that on,” pointing to his bogu set. Only later would I realize what a brave decision that was. He said, “Alright, now what I’m gonna do is give you a shinai, and teach you how to cut, and how to block, and if you can grasp that, I’ll show you how to counter others’ moves. Ready?” Little did I know that the first thing I would learn is how to DODGE. Man, I was scared. He was swinging a “sword” at me, not holding back, and I ran like an ostrich! Ken called me back over (after reassuring me he wasn’t trying to kill me) and he said, “How do you plan on learning anything from over there?” It was then that I learned about ma-ai (circle of influence) and how to read into your opponent’s actions. Soon after, I got to “cut” him instead of him cutting me (I certainly hadn’t figured out how to block). I really sucked at technique, so he told me to try loosening up a bit, and making noise (this is when I discovered kiai). I still sucked, but I was definitely trying harder, and was doing a little better. Ken helped me out of the bogu and asked, “Question: Are you satisfied with your lesson?” and I answered with a sweaty, tired, bruised NO. He replied, “Why not?” and I proceeded to explain that I still couldn’t get the techniques right and I couldn’t figure out the best ma-ai, and how I felt stupid using kiai and that I was just not getting this Kendo thing. Ken looked me in the eye and said, “Are you really that disappointed? I mean, I didn’t say you had to perfect your technique in one day, I definitely didn’t say you had to master ma-ai, and even I sometimes feel silly using kiai; The point is this, I wanted to see if you had promise, and you do. I wanted to show you that you don’t have to learn everything in order to learn something new. I wanted to teach you that Kendo is a martial art that is difficult to master, but wonderful to apply. And what I really wanted to see… was how long I could hit you before you quit, and you didn’t! You wanted to, but you didn’t!” That day ended and to this day I haven’t taken any Kendo classes (due to lack of means and lack of money for a bogu set). I keep up with Ken from time to time, to see how he is and to ask for tips on swordplay. However, I’ll never forget that lesson. See, that lesson taught me more than how to dodge and how to cut. It showed me that the difference between perserverance and obstinacy is a strong will and a strong won’t. So if you find you’re hitting a rough patch in training, remember, it’s not about how hard it is to overcome, it’s about how much you’re willing to give to overcome it. Always give it 110%, no less. If you’re defeated at your best, you can have no regrets, only respect for the opponent who defeated you.