Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kendo Club makes the cut

By Alison Haywood, Sports Reporter

Pacific Lutheran Kendo Club President sophomore Julian Banbury asks all members of the club one question: “Who doesn’t want to be a samurai?”

Banbury restarted the Kendo Club in October after membership declined to just two students the previous year.

Kendo, meaning “way of the sword,” is a Japanese martial art that began to develop around the 18th century and has been rising in recreational popularity since World War II, according to kendo-usa.org.

The bamboo swords, called shinai, distinguish Kendo from other martial arts. Banbury described Kendo as “the Japanese equivalent of fencing.”

After gathering student interest at the beginning of the school year, Banbury contacted the Tacoma Kendo and Iaido Club last fall and expressed his interest in reviving the Kendo Club at PLU.

Sempai -or teacher- Bobby Rasmussen agreed to take the students on.

“I really enjoy the students at PLU,” Rasmussen said. “They ask a lot of good questions, they’re fun, they’re energetic. They have high spirit, and they’re very quick learners, too.”

Rasmussen has been doing Kendo since he was six years old and said he plans on doing it the rest of his life.

“It’s a good way to just like, release yourself,” Rasmussen said. “And it’s a lot of fun. Every day I’m always learning something new.”

Kendo Club currently consists of six members who practice under Rasmussen’s guidance Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. in the Chris Knutzen hall. Although they have different reasons for joining, they all share a dedication to the sport and a willingness to work hard.

First-year Kelsey Johnson said she joined Kendo Club in order to get more involved at PLU.

“It’s a great way to get involved for me, but it’s also a new kind of discipline that I’ve never had before,” Johnson said. “It seems easy but it’s also really hard trying to control the body.”

Vice president junior Sean Themar said he was always interested in martial arts, but never has the opportunity to explore them until a friend suggested Kendo Club.

“I like the discipline, and the hard work that you have to put in for it and all that,” Themar said.

Themar said a goal of the club is to obtain Kendo armor, or “bogu,” by May. Once they have the armor, which can cost between $500 and $2000, Banbury said they can begin sparring one-on-one.

“Rather than striking each other to practice our strikes, we hold up our shinai and then strike the shinai rather than strike the actual person,” Themar said. “And that works just fine until we’re ready to get our armor.”

Banbury said he also hopes to form an official PLU Kendo team next year so the club can participate in competitions, including the nation-wide Harvard Invitational.

“We would just like to be able to have a team so we can say yes, this is us, we’re part of PLU, not just part of the Tacoma Kendo Club,” Banbury said.

Banbury said his biggest goal is to keep Kendo Club going even after he graduates.