Less than a year after starting the sport, St. Albert’s Reid Pidsadowski competed in the 16U division at the Canadian Junior Kendo Championships in Calgary over the weekend.
Kendo, a Japanese martial art, involves two enemies fighting in a specialized style of sword fighting using bamboo swords called shinai.
“The weekend itself was a very good experience,” Pidsadowski said.
“Unfortunately I didn’t do too well in the tournament, which was kind of expected when most of these guys train at least 10 times longer than me,” he said.
“Personally, I just went there to learn as much as I could from the highest-ranking people in the country.”
Pidsadowski has only been practicing Kendo since September 2021 when he joined the Sturgeon Kendo Club in St. Albert. Before starting Kendo, he had obtained a black belt in Taekwondo.
Pidsadowski said he decided to try Kendo after coming across a sign promoting the Sturgeon Kendo Club outside the St. Albert Community Hall.
“I bounced around in a few other sports just trying to find something that suited me,” he said, “[And] I thought it would be fun to try Kendo and fell in love with it.
“It’s harder than any other sport I’ve ever tried, but it’s the challenge that makes it fun,” Pidsadowski said.
“One aspect of Kendo that I find really appealing is that anyone can pick up a sword and can win a match, but it’s just a matter of how reliable you can win.”
Sword path a way of life
“Kendo itself is the way of the sword, but the way is not so much the method, but the journey,” said Sturgeon Kendo sensei Jason Stelck.
“He has a very competitive and athletic nature on the one hand, and the other half is basically martial arts and budo, in the sense of this warrior’s journey.”
Stelck said that while Kendo is still hugely popular in Japan, it’s only recently that the sport has grown in popularity in the West.
“More and more people are discovering it,” Stelck said. “Especially in Alberta as we start to grow…more clubs mean more exposure, which means more people start to know more.”
Sturgeon Kendo is the fifth Kendo club in the province. Stelck said the club opened in June last year and welcomed its first batch of students in the fall.
Stelck said Kendo is unique in terms of the regulation of the sport compared to other martial arts.
“You’ll find that in martial arts there are a lot of splinter groups that have their own take on things, and they’re very isolated and isolated,” he said.
“There is an International Kendo Federation, and in this one International Kendo Federation, all the national Kendo federations are part of it.
“There is a watchdog over all of the art in the world.”
Although strict regulations make it difficult to expand the sport, Stelck said, regulations allow the sport to remain consistent around the world.
“In a way, having a group controlling all of Kendo means I can practice here, I can practice in Japan, I can practice in the [United States]I can go to Germany – all I know fits all those places,” Stelck said.
“I haven’t had a vacation without kendo since I started because everywhere I go in the world there’s a place where I can train and meet people to do something I love. .”
Practice, practice, practice
Pidsadowski and Stelck stated that an undeniable aspect of Kendo is its difficulty.
“It’s not about strength or power, it’s about timing and precision,” Stelck said. “These elements take time to develop.
“As a result, because of the level of difficulty, it often happens that people come in, find it too difficult and don’t stay.”
Pidsadowski said he was always looking for a challenge.
“Kendo definitely appeals to that side of me,” he said.
“It’s very rewarding if you put in the time and work hard. It’s one of the most rewarding sports you can play.”
Pidsadowski doesn’t want to waste any time as he plans to return to the gym to train right away.
“All my matches [the championships] are still fresh in my mind, so I’m going to get back to training as soon as possible to figure out how to improve.
“It is not difficult to succeed, [but] it’s very difficult to keep pushing yourself to get more success,” Pidsadowski said.