I’m not an active person by nature. I have a sedentary job. Hate the gym. Don’t play sports (other than paintball in my youth). Not an outdoorsy type.

So, I thought it was pretty cool when I lost 20 pounds about 11 years ago when I first started kendo, and went from 225 pounds to 205 pounds.

And then the weight slowly crept up again, and I found it harder to keep it down the older I got. This is also about the time, I was solely responsible for getting my kids to and from practice at the expense of my own practice time, until one-by-one each of them decided to do something else.

Enter COVID in March 2020 and the pause in organized kendo. With that, the weight steadily increased to beyond pre-kendo levels. We wouldn’t start practicing again until May of 2021.

With a lot of help and motivation from my senseis and dojo friends, I was able to pass the yondan exam. With that came a sense of relief. I was able to learn to relax and actually enjoy kendo more. While helping others, I found myself spending less time waiting in line and more time actively doing kendo (I still have to figure out how to balance practice so that I get my time in with the higher ranked senseis). But I’m quite happy that the numbers are going in the right direction. And that I can put away the XL large do and bring out the original one I first started kendo with.

So what did I learn?

  1. For me, Kendo is a pretty fun and efficient way to burn calories. It is not uncommon for me to burn at least 1000 calories per kendo session. And keep actively burning calories that evening while sleeping/recovering.
  2. You have to do some activity/exercise (even a little) on the off days. My insurance incentivizes me to be active 6 of 7 days a week by earning points for gift cards (I end up giving them to my daughter for things like Starbucks). Activity is tracked by either an Apple Watch or Fitbit. (Is it accurate? I don’t know, but I’m happy with the results).
  3. Even if you are hungry after practice, don’t eat a heavy meal. Especially no fast food on the way home. I’ve been trying to just eat a little fruit.
  4. Water. I drink enough throughout the day that it forces me to get up from the desk and use the bathroom at least once an hour.
  5. Intermittent fasting. On some Saturdays or Sundays, I try to skip breakfast and eat late.
  6. On some weekdays, I eat a late lunch and then have less at dinner (regular time, not late).
  7. On Kendo days, I can eat a lot more.

4 Dan exam question

So last November, I was fortunate to have passed the yondan exam after the Covid hiatus.

Part of kendo exams are the essay questions. I chose “Describe the benefits of the Kendo kata (剣道形)검도형 and its relevance to shinai keiko (竹刀稽古)죽도계고;.

Kata is defined as prescribed, choreographed movements or a training exercise meant to preserve and pass on knowledge or techniques of a martial art. It is not only a physical but a mental and spiritual exercise. With much practice, the elements of kata can be incorporated into shinai keiko.

Prior to the development of kendo bogu and the shinai, students of the sword could only practice kata and engage in live duels. But with modern kendo, new techniques were adapted for bogu and bamboo swords that were not true swords. To remain true to the study of the sword, it was necessary to continue the practice of kata with bokuto that simulated the heft, feel and dynamics of a katana. Otherwise modern kendo would become a sport rather than a martial art.

Like shinai keiko, kata requires two participants. For there to be set patterns of behavior and choreographed movements, just like dancing you need someone to lead. So, in kata we have the uchidachi or striking/attacking sword (the one that leads/acts) and the shidachi or doing/receiving sword (the one that follows/reacts). In shinai keiko, the participants assume these roles, alternating between uchidachi and shidachi in the same match multiple times but less formally and less choreographed.

Kata and kendo training start with respect (reiho). It begins and ends with a bow. Respect for your partner translates to caring for the other person because we don’t want to injure them while practicing with a wooden sword and no armor. This should also reinforce respect for each other during shinai keiko.

In order to be safe during kata, we learn the correct distance, timing, posture and correct body movements through repetition. Correct distance, timing, posture and correct body movements or mechanics also translate into better striking during shinai keiko. With enough repetition, these mechanics become internalized or muscle memory and the mind can become free (mushin) from surprise, fear, doubt or confusion.

We learn to harness our spirit or energy through proper breathing, kiai (yaa and toh) and zanshin. We also learn to conserve energy by becoming efficient and minimize unnecessary  movements by keeping things simple.

Kata teaches focus. There should be no relaxation of concentration. The same goes for shinai keiko.

While kata relies on repetition, it is not a static or rigid process. The kata forms have been revised multiple times (1906, 1912, 1917, 1933, 1981) since being instituted. Although there are prescribed movements, they are slightly different for each person (and for even for the same person) each time they are performed. It is the mental focus, the spirit, and the response that should remain the same.

Kata as a part of kendo fits in well with the purpose of practicing kendo as espoused by the All Japan Kendo Federation. It molds mind and body through intense mental focus and physical repetition. It cultivates a vigorous spirit through “yaa and tou” and response of the tachi/kodachi. It is correct and rigid training through carefully choreographed movements, striving for improvement with careful attention to courtesy and honor (respect), sincerity (seriousness) and cultivation of oneself through ten kata that we practice and continue to improve.


Bennett, Alexander C. Kendo: Culture of the sword. University of California Press, 2015, page 44.

Donohue, John J. Complete Kendo. Tuttle Publishing, 1956, pp 110-12.

Inoue, Yoshihiko. Kendo Kata: Essence and application. Kendo World Publication, 2003, page 156.

Ozawa, Hiroshi. Kendo: The definitive guide. Kodansha Intl, 1997, page 98.

The creative process

Maybe you are wondering what it takes to come up with a new patch or sticker.

So I thought I’d go through what it took to come up with one of the latest drops.

I get inspiration from random things in pop culture. Sometimes they can be well known. Other times, they may be more obscure. Sometimes current themes, but other times you might not get the reference.

So, for the latest inspiration, I took it from Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly:

There are a few fist-bumping Shake and Bake items out there but none relating to kendo. So I thought I’d put my spin on it.

First I set up the shot by taking a picture of my kotes on a white background.

There is some shadow but we will get rid of that later.

The photo was cropped.

Then the image was traced and processed using

Instead of using Illustrator, I use a vector program called sketch. It’s a vector design and prototyping app for Macs for apps and web interfaces. But you can use it to do basic vector design. Much cheaper than Illustrator (no subscription).

Added an indigo background and inverted the kote color.

Then I added text and added racing stripes,

Finally I added a starburst to give a sense of motion/impact.


From last night’s/this morning’s toshigoshi practice:

Your kendo is like 3/4 or 4/4 time [its predictable].

Try 1/8 or 2/4 time.

Paraphrased from Steve sensei, [kendo is like music, mix it up]


I keep coming back to the meaning of sen.

awareness; anticipation; readiness to act

It’s not that I’m overly forgetful but it’s useful to review.

Sente. “First move , initiative ”, abbreviated as sen. The idea of sen is that one is“ready to act”. 

An essay I found by Stephen Quinlan from 2011.

From sen we get the mitsu no sen:

  • sen no sen – I strike you as you begin your attack
  • go no sen – I strike you while you are attacking me
  • sen sen no sen – I strike you just before you begin your attack

One of the references I find most useful is this one from George McCall back from September 2015.

I think this is worth reviewing over and over.

Custom Tenugui

So I came up with an idea to make my own tenugui.

Tenugui are the small hand towels used as head covering in kendo.

I had an unopened gocco printer lying around that I purchased in 2007 and decided it was high time to dust off the box and break open the packaging.

RISO Print Gocco, PG-11.

RISO Print Gocco’s are miniature printing presses first invented in 1977 by Noboru Hayama. It uses mini screen meshes coated with an impermeable material. When the screen is placed on a carbon ink containing original (like a photocopy) and exposed to use-once proprietary flash bulbs, this melts the impermeable material allowing ink to pass through the screen.

Unfortunately, RISO does not support this printer anymore and the supplies (flash bulbs and screens) can only be obtained third party. These supplies are in dwindling numbers.

The box at the top contains two flash bulbs that expose the screens when the metal contacts come in contact with the printer frame and the press is depressed.
Developed screen.

The screen doesn’t show a uniform background and appears weathered probably because the original copy was from an inkjet printer and not from a photocopier. I guess there is less carbon pigment in printer ink than in toner.
Ink is placed on the screen. In this case the ink is a water based fabric ink from RISO. It has the consistency of toothpaste. The ink is laid down on the screen and then smeared.

The screen has a protective film. The screen is attached to a handstamp (on the right).

Test print on a piece of paper.
Final print on tenugui fabric.

Overall the process took me several hours from cutting the original fabric down from a 10 meter bolt (about 394 inches) to about 39-40 inch lengths of cotton fabric. From there the towels were finished with a rotary cutter because my initial scissor cuttings were jagged.

The faito logo was printed from my original design. Placed in the printer. A screen was developed a total of three times. The first time I followed the directions and used the included blue filter which only served to burn the image into the filter rather than the screen. The process was repeated without the filter but this time because I didn’t trim the paper and instead folded it to fit the printer stage, the crease shadows from the folded paper showed up on the screen. Finally, a fresh image was made and cut to size and a second screen was flashed and developed.

The screen was inked, attached to the hand stamp and tested on a sheet of paper. Thankfully, I had a piece of cardboard underneath the paper as the ink leaked through the paper (and also leaked through the fabric). I had to use papers on the cardboard to block the previous ink that seeped through onto the cardboard as it could ruin the underside of the towels with errant ink marks. The screen was also re-inked due to too light prints.

After all the towels were stamped, they were dried over night. Then ironed to set the ink. And then placed in the washer on cold permanent press.

The towels were then removed. Ironed. Loose threads were removed from frayed ends by scissor. Then the towels were re-ironed and folded.

The prints have a weathered and distressed look and can be purchased on the etsy shop.


Park sensei executing tsuki

So the GoPro mount turned out to be a better success than I thought.

The problem was trying to convince people to do their regular kendo and not worry about damaging the camera. It’s a GoPro ppl!!!

Some understood and would have happily tsuki-ed me all night long until I had to motion to yamae (I’m talking about you, Simeon and Okura sensei) but others were very timid and ended up just tapping the camera with the tip of the shinai.


The new backpack mount works great as a tsuki mount for GoPro.

It didn’t fall off.


I’ve been wanted to get this journal from

Musha shugyo nikki 


However, I wanted to start journaling right away, so I found this leather journal cover on Amazon that comes with a 3.5×5.5in insert with dotted pages. Replacement notebooks are cheap (you can use field notes, field books or moleskine cahier).

Compared to the Musha shugyo nikki (means “warrior quest/pilgrimage journal”) it is only $14.95 whereas the one from Bujin design is $54 plus VAT and shipping.

It comes with an elastic strap. Somehow you can insert three notebooks but I have yet to figure that out.

Hopefully by journaling I’ll be able to further incorporate what I learned during first and second practice.

Maybe if I get access to a laser cutter I’ll engrave something on the cover.