Cougar Kendo Story
First Spring Gasshuku
writen by: Kathryn Y. Wang
Cougar Kendo hosted its first “Gasshuku” - a week long Kendo camp – in conjunction with its affiliate dojo, the Houston Budokan. The Gasshuku was led by Shinichiro Noguchi, 8th “Dan” – black belt – from Kumamoto, Japan and head instructor of the Kumamoto University Kendo Club. Students at the University of Houston had the rare opportunity to experience and understand the concept of Kendo – to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana (sword) – through the mental and physical challenges of a weeklong practice from a head instructor at a Japanese university kendo club.
Cougar Kendo’s Spring Gasshuku promoted diversity at the University of Houston and gave students an opportunity to be exposed to Japanese culture. Thanks to the University of Houston Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, Cougar Kendo was able to host practice on campus and show Noguchi Sensei its great recreation facilities. In addition, the club is fortunate to begin this relationship due to the efforts Tatsuya Takezaki Sensei, who is an alumnus of Kumamoto U and its Kendo club and is currently an instructor at the Houston Budokan and in Houston to research brain cancer under a grant by the Japanese government at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Noguchi Sensei provided an extremely rare opportunity for not only students at the University of Houston but for other Kendo practitioners as well. He is one of the few 8th Dans in the world. There are only about 300 8th Dans in Kendo and the pass rate for the 8th Dan examination is less than 1% a year. Furthermore, Sensei offered insight on what it is like to practice Kendo at the university club in Japan. Kendo is part of the athletics department at Japanese universities, which provide scholarship offers and even career opportunities for practioners. To win a college championship is a coveted honor.
Because of this event, students were able to mature in terms of responsibility, time management and hospitality by hosting an international guest. The planning and coordination of activities for this event was of the utmost concern to all members of the club. All members volunteered to work together to make this event a successful learning opportunity that is important to their education at the University of Houston. Students showed Noguchi Sensei the combined efforts of the club display how Kendo not only brings people of different backgrounds together but is also good for everyone. Edmond Fung, the club president, is a Junior Computer Systems major and has been practicing Kendo for 3 years. Vice president Kathryn Wang is a Sophomore Biology major who has been practicing for 2 years. Liam Geihl, the club manager, is a Junior Electrical Engineering major who has been practicing Kendo for 3 years. The club treasurer, Lawrence Fu is a Junior, majoring in Hotel and Restaurant Management who has been practicing for 3 years. Rose Nguyen, is the club secretary who is a Junior Biology and Chemistry double major and has been practicing for 2 years. Vincent Barthel, junior officer and Kendo first year, is a Finance Freshman. Margaruite Nixon, also a junior officer and Kendo first year, is a Biomedical Engineering Freshman.
The club officers were aided by alumni and translators. Mark Kerstein, the head instructor, is a practicing attorney who graduated the University of Houston Law Center and has been practicing Kendo for 30 years. Shamina Chang, the founder of Cougar Kendo who double majored summa cum laude at UH in philosophy and psychology, is currently in her last year at the South Texas College of Law and has been practicing for 6 years. Sophomore Supply Chain major Eric Koyama received the scholarship of Academic Excellence to attend the University of Houston, helped translate and has been practicing Kendo for 12 years. Sophomore Political Science major Riki Clement also help translate and has been practicing Kendo for 10 years.
This week was filled with rigorous practices, in which we gained a plethora of knowledge about the art, everything from correcting our posture and our strikes to new techniques and drills. The group put in a great deal of effort and gave up gallons of sweat, but in the end, all agreed, it was well worth it.