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Marsten Sensei said something at my last shinsa, back in 2013, that has stuck with me ever since.  He was addressing the group of us and explained that kendo is like a chair, with the four legs being made up of shiai, shinsa, keiko, and kata.  He said that we needed all of them to have successful kendo.  Now I know that this won't apply directly to everyone, but the idea is the same for people that have no desire to compete.  What is a chair with 3 legs?  A stool!  I believe whole-heartedly that these four elements (or three, in some cases) are needed to create full, rich kendo in someone, but I'd like to add that all of them need to be balanced to reach full potential.  Have you ever tried to sit on a chair with uneven legs?  What happened?  I'd make a guess that the chair would fall over, or break. 

I enjoy all aspects of kendo.  I train a lot, by myself and with my dojo members.  I enjoy kata in the same way, as a solo endeavor and with a partner.  I also regularly compete in our regional taikais throughout the year, and I participate in shinsas for testing whenever I'm able.  One of my ultimate personal goals is to make my shiai kendo and my regular, every day kendo one and the same.  I do this by working hard on my basics and techniques, trying to move properly at all times (no bendy kendo!) and having overall "beautiful kendo", as one of my sensei would frequently comment on.  In my mind this can only be accomplished by putting in the same amount of focus and dedication to each part of my kendo.  If I practice hard every week at my local dojo and do well there but let it fall apart during competition, what does that show others?  If I perfect my kata to the best of my ability at my level but I neglect my regular training and keiko time, how can I apply what I've learned between the two?  And if I have a strong showing at each shinsa I attend, but am lazy and unengaged at regular practice, how will that be viewed by everyone else?  I would think that any answer to these questions would be more on the negative side.

I've been thinking a lot about this during our semi-annual kata study that we do at our dojo.  I'm lucky to be in a place where these points are important and we are given ample opportunities to improve our abilities, both by practicing together with other members and by ourselves.  I've noticed a lot of people that I admire in kendo have a good balance between all of these aspects.  They test well; they take kata seriously and work to improve it each time; they show beautiful kendo at tournaments, win or lose; they do their best at regular practices and work to improve themselves and everyone that comes to train.  I hope to emulate these traits in my own way, through my continued training and focus on balancing the four legs of my kendo chair.


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