What about Kendo do you love most?
The concept of kokki (克己), which roughly translates: to win against one's self or to overcome one's weak points or working to become better than the person you were before. One important aspect of kendo that makes it more than a sport is its focus on growth as a person, not on winning tournaments. The highest respect is paid to those who continue to grow their kendo even into their later years in life.
What do you think is the most important aspect of the Sensei-student relationship? Is this something you work on at every practice?
The sensei needs the student just as much as the student needs the sensei. We as sensei learn a lot when we try to grow others. To know what to correct, what to emphasize, etc. for each student, given that every student is different, is a difficult task.
What has been a significant challenge for you in kendo?
Becoming adept at shiai and shinpan have both been most difficult. One reason I moved to California was to have greater access to shiai and shinpan opportunities. My head instructor Yuji Hosokawa sensei has said he has to feel himself in the match when he judges. Lately, I’ve felt that creating ippon and judging ippon are two sides of the same coin -- still a long ways to go.
Who was your primary sensei when you started Kendo?
For my two years in Japan, my primary sensei was Kazuhiko Hataya, 6 dan. Unless it was a kote-men attack, he did not allow me to hit kote, dou, or tsuki during any jigeiko or shiai with anyone. He said I needed a strong men attack and that later my other attacks would be strong because of it. Among many teachings, my favorite metaphor is when he described kendo as each kenshi building up waves, and at the tipping point one’s wave would be larger and crash over the other.
What do you emphasize when you teach?
Men strike is a home-run, everything else are singles and doubles. Be confident in your own men-strike. Always attack with reason.
How did you come upon kendo?
I was an English teacher at a junior high school in Japan, and the teacher sitting next to me in the teachers’ room was also the school’s kendo sensei. He invited me to watch a practice as I had never seen kendo before. I joined the junior high kendo club immediately after watching the first practice. I also joined my town’s adult kendo club where we practiced kendo and iaido. Between the two clubs, I was able to practice a lot each week.
VAN ZUTPHEN, CASEY
Van Zutphen-sensei was born in Arizona in 1982 and started his Kendo in 2004 in Tamatsukuri, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.
It took Van Zutphen-sensei only seven (7) years to attain the rank of 4 Dan. He currently is a sensei and practices at CMKD.