The group's main goals are to promote friendship, to provide support and encouragement, and to have fun! The group is an informal organization which will meet approximately once every one to two months.
The impetus to form the group came from Yuriko Shikai Sensei, who was strongly encouraged to do so by Yamamoto Sensei, Kendo 5 Dan and a dance instructor at Japan's International Christian University. According to Yamamoto Sensei, Japanese women kenshi have support groups that help each other, especially to provide encouragement and support when one person is down or seems to be drifting away from kendo.
Although attrition is a common problem among all kenshi, it is especially apparent among women for a number of reasons, in addition to the normal ones such as college or career. First, it is easy to become discouraged when you are physically smaller than most of your opponents. Also, if your dojo has few or no women it may be difficult to find a kendo "buddy" for mutual support on a continuing basis. Furthermore, social pressures sometimes tend to discourage women from competition against men. Finally, child-rearing responsibilities make it difficult to continue in kendo (impossible during pregnancy!). And, for the above reasons, it may be very difficult for a woman to return kendo once having stopped.
We are fortunate in SCKF to have a relatively large number of women kenshi compared to other federations. According to rosters provided by each SCKF dojo, there are approximately 80 female kenshi in SCKF. Of these, 46 are 14 years or older and 10 are yudansha.
Following two brainstorming meetings of the senior women kenshi in July and August, an initial meeting combined with a dojo visit was scheduled for September 8th at Norwalk Dojo. Meeting notices were mailed to all female kenshi on the roster [note: if you didn't receive a notice, please notify one of the contacts listed at the end of this article!]. The meeting and keiko had a good turn out, with 18 women attending. Since this was the initial meeting, it largely consisted of open discussion and prioritizing issues, as summarized below.
Although the turnout at the Torrance Dojo meetng and practice was good (11 people), it was too small to plan any ambitious projects, such as a year-end party. We also need suggestions for a name for our group!
The next meeting and dojo visit is scheduled for Friday, November 24, at Norwalk Dojo. This will be an excellent chance to work off those Thanksgiving calories and to join in the fun. Please make every effort to attend! If you are interested but have been unable to attend, plese let us know the issues so that they can be addressed. We really want to see you there!
For more information, please contact one of the following: Jean Kodama (Norwalk), Yuriko Shikai (Chuo), Rika Uto (Chuo), Michi Takeda (OCB)
A number of women of the Southern California Kendo Federation are establishing a group dedicated to the promotion of kendo and female participation in kendo through support, encouragement, friendship, and fun. By providing support and encouragement, this women's group endeavors to combat the problem of attrition, frequently seen among female kenshi.
The third meeting of this group was held at Norwalk Dojo on November 24, 1995 at 6:30 PM with a practice immediately following. We had an excellent turnout with 27 people present. After some discussion, the official group name, Women's Kendo Association, was chosen by popular vote. The word Association (defined as an organized body of people with a common interest) in the name was chosen over titles such as Federation (which belies a separatist, autonomous organization) or Support Group (which suggests dysfunction). We would appreciate any suggestions for a kanji character to represent the Association's philosophy. Rika Uto Sensei was the guest speaker at the meeting, providing many tips on how to handle larger opponents. Various committees were established to plan special practices, seminars, fundraising, parties, and picnics.
It is our intent to dedicate a portion of this newsletter article to profiling individuals, male and female, who have contributed to the promotion of women's kendo.
Yuriko Shikai Sensei states she is on a personal quest to find her niche in life and to find an occupation that will offer her personal fulfillment. Her questing nature, she says, is attributed to various people who have impacted her life. One such person was her 9th grade teacher, Mr. Howard Lazar. He told her not to limit herself and that she could do great things if she believed in herself. She says that her husband, Masashi, has been very supportive of her and is a "kind, thoughtful, and loving father." Yuriko says she is inspired by being around motivated people. She attributes the formation of the WKA to the efforts of Jean Kodama, Rika Uto, and Michi Takeda. "With everyone's help, if we do things together, we can accomplish great things." She laughingly recalls that she never won anything before becoming shodan. She has always tried to improve. This endeavor to improve in both kendo and in life is what she wants to impart to the younger generation. When asked if she had any advice for the younger kenshi, she said, "Whatever you do, if you do anything, put all your effort into it. Even if you fail, you will still improve, get good results, and have the satisfaction of knowing you did your best. Never give up."
"To go to keiko at least twice a week and, the killer, to show up on time." Jean Kodama (Norwalk)
"To arrive at work and practice on time." Junko Uehara (Costa Mesa)
"To conquer my Japanese class and my posture problems in kendo. To arrive at events on time." Lisa Yamamoto (San Diego)
"To work harder at what I do, not procrastinate so much, and wake up earlier." Annie Chiang (Norwalk)
"Eat less." Nora Izumihara (Norwalk)
"Not to gain 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's. I broke it in 1995. Hopefully I will keep it in 1996." Tsvia Tabuchi (Covina)
The practice lasted about five hours. The first two hours consisted of practice on footwork, suburi, kirikaeshi, and how to wear your bogu properly. Kenshi received individual attention in these areas. In the second portion of the practice, sensei from different dojo demonstrated various waza. The kenshi then had yakusoku keiko to practice the waza they liked with the sensei giving advice and corrections. Kenshi put the new waza into action in the shiai portion of the practice, which was divided in to three rounds. In the first round of shiai, kenshi were divided into groups of five. Each match lasted two minutes regardless of how many points were won. The kenshi with the most points at the end of each match won that match. In the second round of shiai, offensive kendo was stressed; no purely defensive kendo was allowed, and matches were one minute each. The third round of shiai was the most interesting. Instead of the usual one to one match, the matches in the third round were two against one. Kenshi seemed to enjoy this round the most.
After a rigorous day of kendo, kenshi were invited to stay for a dinner party and to mingle. Overall, it was a great practice with many opportunities to practice new waza and shiai. Though we had a good number of people show up, we'd like to see more people in the practices to come. Hope to see you there next time!
Sincere thanks go to everyone who helped make our special practice successful. In particular, thank you to the kodansha sensei (Higuchi Sensei, Yamaguchi Sensei, Huang Sensei, Murakami Sensei, Henmi Sensei, and Yuge Sensei), and to Norwalk Dojo for hosting the practice. Special thanks to all the parents who helped us put on the party, especially Mrs. Chiang.
Jean also has been very successful in her career. A straight-A student from grade school through high school, she was accepted to Caltech where she received her Bachelor's degree, followed by a Master of Science Electrical Engineering degree at the age of twenty-three. Jean enjoys being an electrical engineer because it has fulfilled her dream as a little girl of being an inventor. When she was in the second grade, she invented a trap to catch chickens on her family farm. She has received a patent for creating a fast electric circuit.
It was at Caltech that Jean met her husband, Dave Kodama, who is also an electrical engineer. They were very good friends for a long time before getting married. They have a lot in common and are very compatible, which is the strong bond that has held them together for eighteen years. Now she and Dave own their own company which does various consulting jobs ranging from integrated circuit design to earthquake instruments to sushi programs.
Jean says Dave is a great husband who has always been very supportive. When she was considering discontinuing kendo, he was the one that stood by her side and encouraged her to stay. She hopes that the WKA can help do the same for anyone who needs encouragement to stay in kendo.
In August, the WKA hosted a barbecue party at the Tiburon Recreation Center in Cerritos to thank all the sensei and parents of SCKF for their support. Thank you to all who came, and special thanks to Mrs. Fu for all her hard work.
Uto Sensei was brought up with a handicap which is ameliorated by a hearing aid and reading lips. Although her 4'9" stature does not strike one as threatening, when she dons her kendo bogu her spirit is overpowering. While visiting her grandmother in Japan, she practiced at a nearby dojo. After she had finished the kirikaeshi drill, the dojo was quiet and everyone was staring at her. The dojo sensei, very impressed, praised her in front of the students and encouraged them to copy her kiai.
Asari Sensei gave her a sense of the importance of the beauty of kendo through proper form. She is thankful to Catherine Bodenstein Sensei for teaching her discipline and proper kendo etiquette. She attributes her continuing growth in kendo to Masashi Shikai Sensei. Her mentors' indelible imprint is reflected in Uto Sensei's teachings at Chuo Dojo as she passes along her knowledge of kendo to the younger kenshi.At one time Uto Sensei seriously considered quitting kendo. However, her kendo friends helped renew her interest and energy in kendo. It was after this that she won second place in the women's goodwill tournament at the World Kendo Championships in Toronto, Canada.
She appreciates the support her friends gave her during that time, and in turn she has tried to help others in need of the same kind of support.
Uto Sensei enjoys her job of teaching physical education at an elementary school for the past few years. Her talents in athletics and teaching help the kids become more physically coordinated, while her kendo training helps her to teach them discipline.Rika Uto believes that she will practice kendo for the rest of her life. When asked what advice she would give to other kenshi, she answered, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, as long as you have form. Form is the most important - that is what people look at first."
The WKA is inviting Yurika Taniyama of the Kyoto Police Department to come to Southern California in November. Taniyama Sensei, who captained the Japan Women's A Team at the 10WKC, is a former Women's Champion of Japan. Two other women sensei will accompany her.
The tentative schedule is:
Finally, thanks to all who have cared enough to provide input, interest, encouragement, suggestions, criticisms, and help.