By: Lubaba Mahmud, Staff Writer
Diversity at SFU is not only represented in community events and in classrooms — it’s found in the university’s sports scene too! For students looking to diversify their campus athletics experience, look no further than the SFU Kendo Club.
The SFU Kendo Club practices two forms of traditional Japanese martial arts: kendo and iaido. The club is active all year round and welcomes both experienced martial artists and beginners. Membership is not just limited to students, either, as members of the general public can join too.
Founded by Hirokazu Okusa (7th-dan), the SFU Kendo Club had a humble beginning in 2001 with only seven members. In kendo and iaido, dan refers to rank, with 8th-dan being the highest grade attainable. In 2010, an iaido component was added to the club under the leadership of Sandra Jorgenson (6th-dan) and Hirokazu Okusa. The iaido classes, according to the SFU Kendo Club’s website, “focus on the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei style and the Muso Shinden style.”
For readers unfamiliar with kendo, its purpose is to guide improved health of both the body and mind through a disciplined routine of practice with a sword. According to the club’s website, it focuses on the following three components: “the way of the body – how to hold the sword, the way of the sword – how to execute a strike at the right moment, and the way of the mind – the correct mental attitude.”
Similarly, the term iaido literally means, “the path to finding harmony in any situation in which one finds oneself.” The club’s website explains that, “to practice, the student sits or stands quietly, draws out a blade, and cuts through the air, all in one motion.” While this may create a false perception to the casual observer that the sport is easy to practice, iaido actually requires a great level of concentration “to make precise motions” with the sword.
Today, the club boasts a large membership, consisting of many dedicated swordsmen/swordswomen (kenshi) who regularly represent SFU in competitions. Members participate in an annual tournament with UBC and the University of Victoria, as well as other events through the British Columbia Kendo Federation and Canadian Kendo Federation. With their sister club, the University of British Columbia Kendo Club, the group also makes annual trips to Kelowna for training camp (gasshuku).
If you’re interested in joining, the SFU Kendo Club accepts new members in January, May, and September. They hold a trial week on the second or third week of each semester, during which students can give either kendo or iaido a shot — free of charge. If you have some experience in kendo, and have the requisite protective equipment (bogu), you can contact them to inquire about joining the club at other times as well.
Semesterly fees include a program registration fee of $74 and a $5 club fee. For your first training sessions, a bamboo sword (shinai) can be purchased from the club at a cost of $35. After the first semester, students are asked to purchase their uniform (hakama and kendogi), which costs approximately $100. The bogu can only be worn after permission is given by the instructor, and can range from $350 to $500 for a starter set.