Here's an excerpt from an interesting article. Kendo is the Japanese counterpart to classical fencing. Unfortunately, we have had no counterpart to the Japanese iaido.
But I'm working on that.
Thanks to Maitre Ric Alvarez for sending this along.
For many sports, the ultimate goal would be to go one step further and make it onto the Olympic schedule. But not in the case of kendo. Many in the sport’s global community are set against that, saying it would spell the end of kendo as they know it.
Kendo, which means “way of the sword,” is a Japanese martial art that uses a bamboo sword and involves rigorous training geared toward developing both combat technique and character by instilling virtues like courage, honor and etiquette.
If kendo were a straightforward contest like table tennis or archery, making it conform to International Olympic Committee standards would not be difficult. The sport, however, has a highly subjective scoring system that values form and execution as much as the result.
Unlike Olympic fencing, which keeps score with electronic sensors that light up when the target is hit, a game-winning perfect strike in kendo, known as ippon, cannot be measured electronically; instead, it is a judgment call made by at least two out of the three referees.
The ingredients of that perfection are so nebulous that referees are notorious for bad calls. Nevertheless, for many kendoka, a referee’s call is preferable to the flash of a light; for them, the technology would degrade the beauty of victory.
A judo victory also used to be determined solely by ippon, a “perfect throw.” But now, following I.O.C. intervention, judo competitors can score points in a variety of ways that along with the introduction of weight classes and other changes, compromise its essence, some purists say.
“For kendo to become an Olympic sport, it would have to be simplified considerably,” said Alexander Bennett, editor in chief of the Kendo World Journal and an associate professor of Japanese studies at Kansai University in Osaka, Japan. “The really important part of scoring is the process of initiating the attack, identifying a target, striking that target with correct posture and full spirit and then showing continued physical and mental alertness.”
If the scoring were simplified, Bennett said, kendo would lose “its aesthetic value, and as a result, its value as a means for personal cultivation, replaced by a winning-at-all-costs mentality, which is pretty much what is considered to have happened to Olympic judo.”
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