Besides also getting to hit people with a stick? Plenty – eventually.
As a beginner in kendo you generally start by learning the body mechanics, repeating the same movements over and over while your teacher continually corrects you on what seems like an endless stream of minutiae.
It’s tough at this point – you’re not quite sure why you’re doing what you’re doing, and you can see off to one side the more experienced students spiritedly attacking one another in what looks like a free-flowing and even random manner, and you wonder if you’ll ever get there.
Gradually though, your body learns and you start to understand why your hands and feet must move just so. Eventually you strap on the armour and it’s like starting over again. Your hands feel weird holding the shinai through your kote, your field of vision is restricted by the men gane, and when you finally add an opponent into the mix, it adds a whole new element to the entire dynamic. Having someone screaming at you and trying to hit you with a stick is not what we usually identify as an environment conducive to learning.
At some point down the track, you face off against someone and your body knows what to do. You have internalised the body mechanics your teacher spent months drilling into you, leaving you to explore how to implement it. You attack your opponent. Sometimes you’re successful, sometimes not. Sometimes they counterattack. Sometimes they confound you with their ability to evade even your most spirited attacks.
The day you achieve a real connection between you and your opponent is the day a new world opens up to you. There comes the realisation that knowing how to strike is not enough – more important is knowing when and why. When you achieve that connection with your opponent, you engage them in a battle of wits and will.
There is an ebb and flow to a match. You can feel it when you have the ascendency, when your opponent does and when it’s in the balance. You engage in a chess match to outmaneuver and outwit your opponent in order to strike them.
Eventually, you realise that a strike is successful not because you have hit the target, this is only a physical manifestation of success. The strike is successful because you have won your chess match and like the final move of a chess match, by the time it happens, there can be no other result.
If you like physical activity and you like to use your brain, then you’ll probably enjoy kendo. I was contamplating adding a software testing analogy in here, but what the hell. You software testers out there can draw your own parallels. 🙂