Baseball, soccer, soccer, volleyball, tennis—the listing is lengthy on the subject of commonplace leisure sports activities. However when your physique would not transfer prefer it used to, set your sights upon a novel, sharper type of train: sword combating.

At Central Coast Aikido Kendo, head teacher Jason Carter breaks down the intricacies of the Japanese sport.

“It is beating different folks with sticks—it is superior. And, it’s very authorized,” Carter stated with amusing. “By participant depend, it is the preferred martial artwork in Japan, extra folks do Kendo than all different martial arts mixed.”

click on to enlarge Photograph Courtesy Of Daytona Sands

EN GARDE Jenna Johnson (left) of SLO’s Blackfriar Faculty of Fence faces an opponent on the Salt Lake Open event that occurred Oct. 14 and 15, 2022.

Carter defined that Japanese samurai developed Kendo as a strategy to apply sword combating with out utilizing actual metal swords, which in flip advanced into its personal martial artwork by the 1800s. In the present day, contributors wield bamboo swords whereas decked out in armor that Carter jokingly described as “Darth Vader, however with out the cape.”

Though Carter fenced in school, he found Kendo in his early 20s whereas he was dwelling in Japan.

“I did numerous Western sports activities, like mountain biking, highway biking, fencing, cross nation in school and highschool. A number of the athletes in what I used to be doing had been hitting their peak of their [early 20s],” Carter stated. “However numerous the best guys in Kendo had been of their 30s, 40s, and 50s. So it had a for much longer participant life expectancy.”

When Carter moved to the Central Coast, he realized that there have been no different Kendo dojos within the space, prompting him to open up his personal dojo, Central Coast Aikido Kendo.

“There is a lengthy historical past of Kendo on the Central Coast as a result of it was launched by the primary technology of Japanese farmers that lived in SLO all the way in which right down to Lompoc,” Carter defined. “That they had Kendo dojos within the late 1800s and early 1900s, however most of these had been worn out with the internment of Japanese folks throughout WWII. Most of these Kendo dojos by no means rebooted.”

He started instructing Kendo in Paso Robles in 2004 earlier than ultimately increasing to SLO, Lompoc, Santa Maria, and Vandenberg.

Earlier than speeding to join a category, folks ought to take into consideration what they need out of the game, Carter stated. Not like Western types of swordplay like fencing, Carter says that Kendo goes past simply competitors—it is a lifestyle.

“It’s a must to come at it with a affected person perspective as a result of it is one thing you are set to do for the entire size of your life, and mastery doesn’t come rapidly,” Carter stated. “If it is one thing you need to have enjoyable at and do it rapidly and be very informal at, then that is a distinct sport.”

Class costs range relying on the placement—in Lompoc and Santa Maria, lessons can price wherever from $30 to $35 a month. Superior Kendo lessons happen totally free on the San Luis Obispo Buddhist Temple, though Carter recommends donating cash to the temple.

For extra sword than stick, at Blackfriar’s Faculty of Fence historical past buffs and self-proclaimed nerds like Jenna Johnson can put their historic fantasy data to the check.

“We’re actually only a group of associates that simply get collectively,” Johnson stated. “We’re all a bunch of nerds who like fantasy, historic stuff, that type of factor, and we benefit from the sport of sword combating and studying the historical past of it.”

Blackfriar’s completely makes a speciality of European martial arts, studying easy methods to struggle with weapons just like the longsword, saber, dagger, and extra. These combating strategies are derived from historic manuscripts, which may now be readily accessed on-line, specifically by means of the Historic European Martial Arts, aka HEMA.

“We’re going again in time, in a way, and we’re studying from the unique manuscripts and making an attempt to reinvent the wheel,” Johnson stated. “The unique individuals who began out stepping into this sport needed to sort of determine issues out. Individuals are nonetheless taking a look at stuff and making an attempt to determine precisely easy methods to transfer for these totally different guards.”

Nevertheless, do not count on to start out sparring with metal swords proper off the bat. Picket swords damage a lot in case you push laborious sufficient, Johnson defined. When you get the basics down, college students graduate to utilizing a extra stable, artificial sword—one which has a metallic grip with what Johnson calls a “nylon plastic” blade.

“And people are good as a result of they’ve somewhat little bit of flex. When you grow to be good at that, you graduate to metal,” Johnson stated. “The one approach you’ll be able to actually let folks begin selecting up metal is that if they’re absolutely kitted out. They’ve all of the gear as a result of we do not need anybody to get damage.”

click on to enlarge Photograph Courtesy Of Jason Carter

KIAI! College students at Central Coast Aikido Kendo sq. off in a apply sparring match. Carter says that anybody from the ages of 5 years to 65 and older can be part of Kendo.

And it takes fairly a little bit of energy to wield these swords. Johnson describes sword combating as akin to a full-body exercise.

“However you need to sort of assume forward so you have obtained your thoughts engaged. It’s a must to be quick, you need to react. So your arms are getting used so much,” Johnson stated. “Your legs, the facility comes out of your legs. The truth that we’re transferring in a round movement, so there’s sort of pivoting.”

For partakers of the game like Veronica Heilman, the satisfaction of having the ability defend herself towards an opponent makes combating with a longsword interesting.

“There’s numerous adrenaline in it. When any person has [what’s] not an actual sword nevertheless it’s nonetheless a stick popping out actual quick, it will get the adrenaline pumping, and it feels actually good to have the ability to defend your self from one thing like that,” Heilman stated.

Johnson stated that sword combating is ideal for many who really feel nervous about excessive efficiency sports activities.

“The good factor about HEMA is that, in my expertise, it has been an exquisite surroundings to be in if you wish to do one thing athletic however you are frightened about being judged or frightened about not being adequate or frightened about with the ability to slot in and do it,” Johnson stated.

However these with a aggressive streak can decide to take part in competitions, such because the upcoming event, SoCal Swordfight 2023.

“A handful of us are rivals,” Johnson stated. “However there are fairly a couple of of us who’re model new, who’re simply studying, or simply there to hang around and to have enjoyable. So sort of a combination.”

When you want extra convincing to take a category at Blackfriar’s Faculty of Fence, enable Heilman to supply a compelling motive to enroll.

“Why sword combating? As a result of in case you say you are a basketball participant, yeah, that is fairly cool,” Heilman stated. “You go to a bar and also you inform a man or a gal that, ‘I understand how to sword struggle. I am a swordswoman. I’ve a sword at dwelling.’ That is a great factor in your courting résumé.”

Contact Workers Author Shwetha Sundarrajan at