Insights For 2017 & Beyond – Trust, Respect, Integrity

As 2016 comes to an end, I reflect on our kendo year in awe due to the many events that we held and took part in. From the German-Delegation seminar; to the Arnold Classic Competition; to the EKC in Macedonia and making history there; to the Foreign Leaders’ Kendo camp in Kitamoto, Japan; to more seminars and shiais (competitions) around the country; then finally ending the year off with our International Kendo Seminar with participants from 10 countries around the world! It has been an extremely busy year. However, I will save the details of the past year in my Presidential Report for the forthcoming SAKF AGM in February 2017.

As many will know, at this AGM, a new SAKF Executive Committee (EXCO) will be elected. Any SAKF member in good standing with their dojo and the SAKF can be nominated as an EXCO candidate. Thereafter, the dojos will vote on who they feel should lead the SAKF for the next 2 years.

As the SAKF’s President for the last two years, there have been moments of both ups and downs. On the “ups”, it has been an exciting journey to be able to introduce different aspect of Kendo to our community. Things such as shimpan training, Kata-specific seminar and the 30,000 suburi challenge, allowed for different facades of Kendo to be experienced. Furthermore, we experimented with some merchandising such as t-shirts, jerseys and towels; as well as had conducted two movie-going outings to try and raise some funds for the organization. It was my hope that by introducing these elements, it would inject a renewed and sustainable energy  to both our junior and senior practitioners. However, there were plenty of “downs” too. Internal disputes; disagreements; delays in delivery; lack of follow up; failure to complete task; poor communications and dismal participation and some events, led to many  frustrating and challenging moments. Coupled with these “downs” was also the fact that my role and that of the rest of the EXCO members and dojo leaders are all done on a voluntary basis and does not compensate us in any way, whatsoever. As a business owner, this became frustrating for me when I had to sacrifice my billable work time (more than what I expected) for the greater good of the SAKF community. All these “downs” and other negative elements has made me seriously consider whether or not I would like to stand again as an EXCO candidate for the next two years.

With that said though, I still have a firm belief that Kendo in South Africa is on the verge on a massive breakthrough. Besides the growth in membership in the forthcoming years, I foresee the Kendo skills of all the practitioners improving drastically, thereby making us not only a formidable competitive nation in our international Kendo community, but also in terms of having more highly-graded dan members and instructors.

In light of this, there are 3 foundation blocks that I’d like to suggest to the SA Kendo community to help prepare us for the events that are to come. Keeping in mind, these blocks are interlinked and are integral to the success of the SAKF.

Trust – There has to be a feeling of trust amongst all members, dojos, leaders and instructors. Both teacher and student must trust each other to be able to give and receive the kendo knowledge and skills that will be transferred so as to move to upper echelons of Kendo. In very much the same way, the SAKF to Dojo’s and Dojo’s to Dojo’s must trust each other to be able to move to a higher level of organization that will be mutually beneficial for all. There have been new policies and procedures that the SAKF had introduced over the past 2 years – things like limiting the use of the SA-Flag bearing nafuda’ s to current national team members only, to a zero-tolerance rule on any forms of harassment or discrimination. Rules and policies such as these, and more, must be abided to by each SAKF member and enforced at each dojo.

Respect – Kendo is a traditional martial art and has a particular etiquette that we abide to. Unlike most martial arts though, there are no coloured-belts to indicate a practitioner’s grade or seniority. Kendo in this way is very homogenous – when training and sparring in particular, there is no separation of ages, sexes, weight-divisions and skill-level – we all train together. However, with that said there are unspoken “rules” that dictate when engaging in training with each other. For example, there is no need to strike excessively hard and fight maliciously with those physically weaker (such as a young, strong male against an older member or female kendo player); respect the higher dan-grades as they put in the time and effort to get to where they are. Be wary that as one progresses in dan-grades, they may regress in speed and stamina due to their increased age – this is inevitable and should be respected as such. Lastly, respect the leaders of your organization – They are the ones teaching and ensuring the organisation continues to exist and grow so that we can do Kendo.

Integrity – Do what you say. As a student, if you have committed to becoming a member, be sure to train regularly as per your dojo-schedule. Furthermore, pay your fees when they are due, and participate in the many other SAKF events that are organised for your benefit. As a leader within the community, whether it is as an instructor or as an administrative person, be sure to play your part in fulfilling those roles. Even though the role is in all likelihood a voluntary one, be sure you set aside sufficient time to do what your community expects from you and do them.

These building blocks are not new in the martial arts, nor are they original in thought. Rather, they have been contextualised for our current situation and is to be considered seriously by the next SAKF leadership team, whether it is headed up by me, or by another suitable candidate.

With that note, on behalf of the SAKF, I’d like to wish everyone within our local and international kendo community a safe and relaxing festive period. See you in the dojo in 2017!

Warren Ho (SAKF President; 2016-12-21)

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