Back to the Dojo - KCP and Asakazekan, Portugal

Posted On: 2 October 2020

Continuing our series of interviews with Dojo that are restarting their activities, this week we bring you some news from Portugal.

We spoke with members of Kendo Clube do Porto and Asakazekan from Aveiro about how practice is progressing there. According to them, although reopening comes with great happiness it also comes with great responsibility. “We cannot go back to practicing in a normal way, at least not until this pandemic is controlled with a vaccine or effective treatment. It would be nice to be able to do that, but we have to think that the priority is to protect everyone's health, whether or not they are Kendo practitioners.”

Kendo Clube do Porto said that during the first lockdown, many of them accepted challenges that appeared on social media, like the 1000 Suburi daily challenge. After that they started using platforms like Zoom and Whatsapp to bring everyone together. “As important as the practice of Kendo, is the spirit of friendship and mutual help, the creation of a safety net between everyone.”

When the lockdown ended, some outdoor routines were scheduled to build up their spirits for the return when gyms started opening again. Asakazekan didn’t organize any online training, but some challenges were created for the students who joined, such as # 1ksuburi a day. “When allowed, we trained outdoors, maintaining current health guidelines.”

About their guidelines, Kendo Clube do Porto starts with self-surveillance. If the practitioner has any symptoms or if there’s suspicion of COVID-19, that person cannot go to the Dojo. “Individual responsibility is a fundamental pillar. This responsibility also includes compliance with protective measures (disinfection, wearing a mask, self-surveillance).”

The limit of numbers training and rules for entering the training hall are set by owners of the space they use to practice, including the use of foot sanitizer to access certain areas. Each member needs to have enough training space to ensure the social distancing rules of 3 meters between them and masks are mandatory at all times. As recommended by AJKF, they stopped making Kakegoe or Kiai. In compliance with the determination of the Portuguese Kendo Association, contact training or any type of work in pairs is not carried out. “The indications we have from the Portuguese Association don’t include Jigeiko or practice with contact. We hope to be able to test, even on the ground, the use of extra protective equipment to understand what impact they have on the body during practice.”

The same rules apply to Asakazekan now that they are back to indoor training, all members must wear a mask, practice runs without without Motodachi and vocalizations (Kiai). “As we have a large practice space and a small number of practitioners, a minimum space has not been defined, although 3 meters is always assumed to be the minimum.”

Because of those restrictions, Kendo Clube do Porto has been focusing on Kihon and all the movements that would often be a little bit overlooked in the pre-pandemic routines, so that everyone could use Bogu and train together. “We are investing much more time in the study of Ashisabaki and Kamae and, as we cannot train together, in Suburi. Training the Kendo Kata - studying the role of Uchidachi and Shidachi separately - and part of Bokuto ni yoru kendo kihon waza keiko-ho has also been very useful.” Asakazekan training is based on Ashisabaki and Suburi right now, but there are some adaptations on exercises that don’t infringe the 3 meters distance. “We have already acquired face shields for when there are no restrictions to practice with training partners. From the experience I have with the prolonged use of a mask, sometimes associated with some physical effort, I know that the exercises will have to be shorter, because the mask will not allow you to breathe easily. It is hotter, but it is tolerable.”

At the moment, Portuguese authorities say that there will be no new lockdown - an approach to the Swedish strategy to deal with the pandemic. “However, we must be responsible and understand whether the joint practice can be dangerous or represent a risk factor for the spread of the virus. If that happens, we will have to take a step back and return to online practices and Hitorigeiko.”

In case of a new lockdown Asakazekan will also be training at home or, if allowed, outside. “The important thing is to realize that one of the bases of Kendo is the creation of respectful and hardworking citizens, useful for society, and as such we have to comply with the rules (in this case health) to help society. Another very important thing that Kendo teaches us is that we have to connect against adversity to overcome ourselves, so we have to adapt to adversity and continue. It is very easy to get depressed by feeling that something we like has been taken from us, but we have to take the time to refine ourselves.”

If you are in Portugal and wants to practice Kendo with a sense of security and surrounded by friends, pay a visit to Kendo Clube do Porto or Asakazekan.