Kent State student brings kendo to campus

Alison Adams

Because of the benefits it can bring, kendo, a Japanese sport, is growing in popularity and one Kent State student has decided to bring it to campus.

Translated as “the way of the sword,” kendo is the art of Japanese samurai swordsmanship.

“I normally call it Japanese fencing,” said Paul Wetzig, a junior voice performance major and sensei of Kendo Club. “There aren’t really any other martial arts like it.”

Wetzig, who has been practicing kendo for 13 years, started the club last November because there weren’t opportunities outside of Cleveland to practice.

Wetzig said one of the reasons why kendo isn’t as popular as other Asian sports is because it is not an Olympic event due to the fact that scoring isn’t standardized.

Last year there were a large number of participants, but this year the club is down to five members. Mark Smyers, a biomedical sciences Ph.D. candidate, said they lost a lot of members when the anime club extended their meeting time on Fridays.

Kendo Club meets every Friday from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It costs $25 per semester, a fee that covers the cost of the first sword, shinai.

The shinai is used for full contact sparring practice. The bokken, another sword, is used for Kata, which is basics and forms practice.

When practicing kendo, participants must wear protective gear because swords come in contact with the body. A hip protector (tare), an upper torso protector (do), gloves (kote) and helmet (men) are always worn.

“It’s viewed more as almost barbaric,” Wetzig said. “It’s one of the few martial arts where we strike the other person.”

Practicing kendo can be very difficult at first because it takes a lot of physical stamina.

“It takes a certain level of commitment. It’s not easy — you have to work at it,” Smyers said. “It takes a lot of discipline. So I like the focus — it helps me in everything I do.”

The club practices with the goal of ranking well at the two competitions in Cleveland they participate in: the Greater North Eastern United States Kendo Federation Championship and the Student Cup at Case Western University.

Smyers said kendo is good if someone wants to learn new things because it is an art form, a martial art and a sport. He said you learn about a whole tradition and culture.

“Even our uniforms have to be tied and folded a certain way,” Smyers said.

There are many physical benefits to kendo because it is a fast-paced cardio workout. Wetzig said it is a great stress reliever, which every student can use.

Wetzig said he wants to get the name out there so students know Kent State has a Kendo Club.

“We’re here,” Wetzig said. “Hopefully we will be staying for a while.”

Contact Alison Adams at [email protected].