By Nuno Vieira de Almeida
July 23rd 2018
This would be the first day of Jukendo training in Japan and, lucky me, we would be training with a group of people from the Japan’s Self Defense Forces (Jieitai) in the afternoon. Because of the intense heatwave sweeping Japan, hydration and preventing heatstroke and exertion was a major concern. Drinking a lot of water (and sports drinks during practice) is very important and emphasizing this is of no minor concern. If you do go to Japan and have to bear with this range of temperatures and humidity…don’t forget: water and Pocari Sweat are your friends (sadly I haven’t got a publicity contract for referring the name of the drink).
I started my day with a morning ritual that I would keep repeating for most of my days in Nagoya: heading to the nearest convenience store to get a can of black cold coffee. With no espresso available, I had to make do and Boss Coffee helped me balance my caffeine levels. On this first morning, while I was lazily walking around the shop looking at all the drinks my ear caught something…oh, right, it was some pop song covered with Japanese instruments. Elevator music for your convenience store shopping, a timeless classic.
After getting my coffee (same importance level as staying hydrated), I headed back home to try on some Jukendo bogu parts for practice. To the untrained eye, a Jukendo bogu is almost identical to a Kendo bogu with one weird part (the kata-ate). However, a Jukendo bogu has some peculiarities that are worth highlighting and that are not easily noticed on most online bogu retailers. Let’s start with the kote. In Jukendo you only use the left side kote: that kote is simultaneously a valid target and the part of your body closest to your opponent. So, it makes perfect sense that the kote is different from a regular Kendo kote. And it is: a Jukendo Kote has extra padding on the fist, mostly on the thumb area and also on the datotsu-bui in the wrist. Having practiced with Jukendo and Kendo kote, I can honestly say that Jukendo kotes make a difference in keiko. Next up, the tare. A closer look reveals almost immediately that this tare has a small difference: a leather loop (chichigawa) through which you can tie your kate-ate himo. You can use a Kendo tare with some string or loop it straight into the tare himo but this addition is very useful.
Kata-ate is self-explanatory and unique to Jukendo (and Sojutsu, or spear fighting, but I guess that’s not so common, I have only seen it on books). And deceivingly similar to a Kendo men…the Jukendo men packs some surprises. First and foremost, the tsukidare. The tsuki (or nodo, throat) protection is wider and sturdier than the ones you will find in Kendo bogus. Besides the wider and more protective tsukidare, the mendare (neck and shoulder protections) are also adapted to Jukendo. The left mendare has an extra padding (on the inside) to protect from thrusts gone astray and for those occasions when you get knocked to the side and hit on the back of your kata (didn’t know that could happen, know I’ve seen it).
So, Jukendo bogu has some peculiarities. Keep that in mind when you face the decision if you should have an extra bogu only for Jukendo (assuming you already practice another Budo which uses bogu). From what I’ve seen, most shops that sell Jukendo bogu online don’t really show these differences and for those of us that are starting almost by ourselves seeing this was an eye-opener.
I picked up some bogu parts and packed them and I was ready for my very first practice in Japan! After grabbing all the bags and mokuju, we headed to Nagoya station to catch the train headed to Kasugai. Three gaijin, carrying huge backpacks and trolleys and weapon bags…we sure caught the attention of most passers-by. But the show must go on and on we went.
*This is part of an ongoing series of posts by guest author, Nuno, from Porto, Portugal.*