Founded in 1993, Wakaba Kendo Club is the largest children's kendo dojo in London, with about 30 registered students aged between five and eighteen years. In Japanese, Wakaba means ‛new shoots’ of a plant or tree and careful cultivation of the young student's development requires dedicated, experienced and qualified teachers. Wakaba is indeed fortunate in having such teachers some of whom have been involved in the club since its creation.
Wakaba is a club run by a collective of volunteers. Crucial to the club are its various officers and adult members, generally parents of children who practice or who have practiced in the club. These adult members play a very important role in the day to day running of Wakaba and help to maintain the club's high spirit and morale.
What is kendo?
Kendo as a fun physical activityAt Wakaba, we are keen to encourage everybody to participate in Kendo for fun and enjoyment. It is also an activity that can be practiced by people of diverse ages, genders, and with most physical conditions. This means that kendo can be a life-long pursuit, which can help shape good physical condition, values and attitudes, such as equality, fair play, and general well being.
Kendo as full contact martial artKendo is also safe as long as it is practiced in the correct manner. However since it is a full contact martial art which involves hitting targets protected by armour with a bamboo sword, minor injuries such as bruises, blisters, swelling and stiffness of joints occur from time to time. The frequency of such injuries is comparable to many other sports activities such as football. More serious injuries such as inflammation or rupture of Achilles tendon are not frequent but possible. Most injuries can be prevented by proper warming up exercises and correct use of equipment.
Kendo as Japanese martial artWhile there is an element of Kendo which can be enjoyed as a competitive sport, it is also worth noting that Kendo is a budo (martial art) that is deeply rooted in the culture and tradition of Japan. We feel that it is our responsibility to recognise this cultural heritage and teach kendo using traditional methods, in Japan. This means that participants must follow a particular etiquette and discipline. Discipline in kendo is positive in focus, aiming to encourage the development of emotional and social skills as well as technical development in kendo. Fighting, over-aggressive or dangerous behaviour is corrected, and participants are taught to treat others in a respectful manner. From time to time, some physical contact between the instructor and students will occur, where necessary, but instructors are trained to use contact appropriately.
Video of children practicing kendo in Japan.
What is a Dojo?
A dojo is the room or hall where kendo is practiced. In the case of Wakaba Kendo Club the dojo refers to the main sports hall and the dance studio where the practice takes place. Students will be taught to follow certain codes and etiquette within the dojo and follow the instruction of the instructors and coaches. The coaching staff at Wakaba are conscious of the health, safety and welfare of the children in the dojo, while engaged in practice during the official practice time. However we also like to ask parents/ guardians to be aware and involved during the practice time in promoting the safest possible environment for children to enjoy their practice. It is also important to stress that once the child leaves the dojo (the main sports hall and the dance studio) after the practice time, we cannot look after the child. Taking the child to and from the dojo is the responsibility of parents/guardians, even at the Britannia Leisure Centre when outside the main sports hall, in areas such as the changing room and car park.