Cindy Bu: Kendo | 京都剣清会・妙覚寺道場・武徳殿・同志社剣道部体育会

This semester, I went to different dojos to practice kendo, the sword martial arts in a number of dojos. I did not go to Doshisha Kendo Club to practice this semester yet due to schedule conflicts very sadly.

Different types of Dojos have very different vibes. 京都剣清会does not place much focus on waza training, and does fundamental basics (1h), kata (the form) (30min), and Jikeiko (1h) usually. The dojo there is very pretty (on Saturdays, I have not been to the Tuesday dojo). They will also have 飲み会 sometimes. 妙覚寺道場 is a dojo in the temple. They have practice for 1h/time, but 3times a week, spreading basics and jikeiko fairly evenly (I have not been to so many times, and you may refer to Emile’s post!).  Both social dojos have strong senseis. And 妙覚寺道場 is closer to Doshisha University. 武徳殿 is open to the public, and anyone can go to the night practice there (no need invitation as said on the website). I also did not go as much, but the focus on the basics will be much less, and it is primarily focusing on 地稽古. There would be a lot of high-ranking senseis from many different dojos. 同志社剣道部’s practice is less of instruction but has more freedom to practice the skills you wish. Normally, we do the warm-up, 素振り, 切り返し, and some fixed pattern training together, and we are left off to do 自由稽古, (and 地稽古 shortly in the end). It requires more dependence on oneself, and the training is definitely much more demanding.

I would say that the Spring semester is relatively hard for being able to practice in 同志社剣道部 Doshisha Kendo Club (solely) and the fall will be much more doable. Practice after the winter break for Doshisha starts in mid-February, while our spring semester begins in the head of January. In addition, most of the practices during the Japanese students’ spring break are in the morning on weekdays, which KCJS has Japanese classes every day in the morning. And some practices on the weekends will be canceled if there is a tournament, adding on that the 春合宿 that we would not be able to attend as we probably have class at that time (it was right after the spring break for this semester unfortunately, but if it happens right in that week, you are lucky!) . The practice in the Spring semester is in the evening, but their semester starts around April, where the program is about to get to the end. I think it might be fine if you talk to Doshisha Kendo Club only to practice on weekends, but I would also recommend adding some other practices outside Doshisha Kendo and talk to both sides!

P.S. These commentaries on dojos and the scheduling for Doshisha Kendo Club is fully based on my personal first-hand experience practicing in those dojos based on my personal situations. These feelings may be different for different people. Please only take it as ONE source of reference and ask more people about these dojos or ask for a trial training and go there yourself!

Cameron Molnar: Boxing

For my CIP, I had the opportunity to at group boxing lessons at the フュチュールボクシングジム (Futur Boxing Gym). I got to learn a Japanese style of the sport while having the chance to meet many different kinds of Japanese people in a friendly setting. I appreciated my time at the boxing gym because I got to see more firsthand about how Japanese people interact and react with difficult challenges. Also, since myself and others in the lessons were experiencing the same physically challenging activities, we had something to bond over that made it easier to talk to them afterwards. My advice to incoming KCJS students would be to come in with a positive mindset. Sometimes you try to speak with someone and they are too busy or just not interested. But if you keep pushing and look for the right opportunities, you could find some great friendships that you would’ve never been possible otherwise.

Emile Carlo Convocar: Kendo

For my CIP activity this semester, I attended weekly practices at 京都妙覚寺道場 to continue kendo while in Japan. I got to hone in on my basics by continuously sparring against very strong senpais and senseis, who were all eager to help me become a stronger kendoka. Through this experience, I’ve come to learn the importance of basics in kendo and in routinely refining and perfecting one’s form and techniques, no matter how far along they are into their kendo journey. My advice to incoming KCJS students, especially if you decide to do a martial art for your CIP, is to be willing to fail and be okay with not “getting it” immediately. Take it one step at a time and in every practice, focus on one aspect of your martial art that you want to improve upon. If you do that, I believe you will have a fulfilling CIP experience by the end of the semester.

Doshisha University Kendo-Club 同志社剣道部体育会

Doshisha University Kendo-Club 同志社剣道部体育会 was founded over 100 years ago as the school club for kendo, a sword martial art. The students practice almost every day and have mock competitions with other universities regularly where selected members participate.

Doshisha University Kendo-Club provided me with valuable experience on my kendo journey. As one with practice length and strength incomparable to club students, the practice is definitely demanding and intense for me. I had many times of perplexity and inconfidence. However, while looking back, I still realize my growth throughout my journey, not only my Kendo level, but how I view myself in an unfamiliar foreign environment, how comparison and self-focus work together and balance, how I communicate with others especially with Japanese, etc. I still have many things to achieve in this experience, but I will never forget this for sure. (The members are ALL very kind and I am very grateful for their tolerance of my skills and communication!!)

If you want to join Doshisha University Kendo-Club, please contact them early (>1 month on the web page) and if they did not reply, try other methods such as Instagram. The practice is definitely demanding, especially for the men’s practice, so that one might feel overwhelming. However, it is definitely a great experience especially for one that are passionate for kendo!

Roxy Cumming: Kendo

For my CIP this semester I did kendo three or four times a week at Kyoto University Kendo Club. Kendo isa Japanese sword-based martial art that I have been practicing for the past two years at Harvard, my home university. Kendo is generally practiced at a higher level in Japan, as many Japanese Kendoka have been doing kendo since they were young, while abroad most practitioners start as adults. Therefore, practicing in Japan has been very intense, I have learnt so many things and it has been a really amazing experience. I really feel like I have discovered a new side to kendo by practicing it in Japan.

My advice to students wanting to do a similar CIP in the future is to think carefully about how you’re going to interact with your club members. Everyone in the club will already know everyone else before you arrive, so you may feel a bit like an outsider in the beginning. Furthermore, sports like kendo aren’t very conducive to holding conversation in the middle of practice, meaning that it can sometimes feel almost impossible to get to know the other people in the club. It really isn’t impossible though, it just requires a bit more strategic planning, as opportunities to socialize won’t necessarily arise organically and you may need to make more of an active effort to make friends. But when you do get to know the other people, you will be able to have a great time in your club. I genuinely don’t think there’s any better experience than doing the things you love with friends.

Tyler Popp: Kyoto University Running Club

This semester I joined the Kyoto University Anpan running club for my CIP. Though it’s run by students of Kyoto University, there are members from many different schools in Kyoto, and the club meets weekly on the Kamo River.

I had a lot of fun this spring being able to run and meet new people in a very social setting in this club. It was a great opportunity to meet other Japanese students not only outside a campus/classroom situation, but also students from other schools in Kyoto that I would normally have met people from.

I definitely struggled a bit in integrating myself in the club initially, and I was too self-conscious about being the only non-Japanese member or making language mistakes when talking to others. However after a few meetings initiating conversation gets easier as I got to know those around the club. My advice would be to get out of that comfort zone as much as you can, as making good relationships with other students makes the experience so much better.

John Henry Waymack: Kendo lessons

My CIP this semester was Kendo, a martial art centered around swordsmanship. The martialart focuses just as much on the practitioner’s abilities as it does on self discipline, as well as respect for your teachers, your opponents, and your Dojo. I was surprised by how specific and precise all elements of Kendo were, from the exact degree of angle you have to achieve when bowing, to the perfection of form required for all of the basic strikes. To anybody else starting Kendo in their time at KCJS, I would say go to every practice you can, and practice outside of the Dojo. The learning curve is incredibly steep, and your time in Japan will probably be very short. 

Mary Wilson: Kpop Dance with Doshisha ASH

Ash, Doshisha’s kpop dance circle, is a circle where you learn and perform kpop choreographies, with generally two performances per semester. 

Everyone in the club was quite friendly, and you can get lots of informal Japanese practice, especially if you join a lot of dances. 

My advice to incoming students is: be as friendly and outgoing as you possibly can. A lot of people may be apprehensive about possibly having to speak English to you because of their own discomfort speaking English, so it’s best to start interactions and sort of “prove” that you can speak Japanese well enough first. Even if you think your Japanese isn’t that good, the fact that you’re trying at all will make it easier to approach you. Be proactive and persistent about trying to make friends, because it is probable that people won’t come to you first. Don’t be scared of asking for help and asking questions, even if you don’t know how to phrase what you want to say ‘properly’. In most every case, it’s the effort that counts. 

Here’s a recording of a dance I led in one of our spring performances!
‘The Eve’ by EXO

Torres Shi: Volleyball Circles

For myCIP project, I participated in volleyball circles for both the Fall and Spring semesters, In the Fall, I participated in two circles, called SANDLOT and L Volleyball, both of which are circles of the Doshisha University. In the Spring, I joined a new circle from Kyoto University of Molten Volleyball.

All three circles I was a part of had distinctive dynamics, and the level of skills also varied greatly. The two pictures below are from a tournament I participated in during the Fall semester and a regular practice session with the Molten Volleyball circle.

One advice from me would be to start conversations with new people actively. Japanese students are very friendly towards international students. However, they can be a little shy to start a conversation, so reach out to them and you will find that they are very easy and enjoyable to talk to.

Ben Wolstein: Judo

For my CIP, I joined the Kyoto University Judo Club and Enshin Dojo. At both of these clubs, I had a great experience and made a lot of new friends. As I already had been doing Judo in the U.S. for a couple of years, it was a great way to build on skills that I was already developing, while experiencing it in the place where it was invented. The two dojos were fairly different from each other: the university club held practices almost every day for two and a half hours and focused on newaza (ground techniques) more than tachiwaza (standing techniques). Meanwhile, Enshin dojo held practices twice a week and had people of all ages participating. Even for me as someone who is really passionate about judo, the Kyoto University team was a lot, and if I had continued attending the practices at the same pace throughout the semester that I was at the beginning, my whole experience in Japan would have consisted of judo. I really do feel that I got to make some meaningful relationships through the sport/martial art, and I’m certain that my Japanese improved greatly as a result. I’m really glad I had the chance to practice judo in Japan, and if you would like to as well, I would definitely recommend Enshin Dojo!