The Art of Kendo

Respect your peers, train hard, fight hard. Senior Branden Wang has mastered the kendo, the art of Japanese samurai swordsmanship, and hopes to use his artistry to join the U.S. National Kendo Team during the summer. (source: http://www.kendo-usa.org).

Wang’s mother encouraged him to join kendo to learn etiquette and get a better physical build. As Wang progressed, he realized that the kendo dojo was a place where he could not only learn the importance of respect but also find role models to guide him.

“Kendo has taught me ways to respect people and to never be full of yourself. There are etiquette skills that are required, such as bowing after you leave, no cheering during sparring and respecting the teacher. I have passion for kendo, and my teammates and coach inspire me because they’re all older. I look up to them,” Wang said.

Besides the mental and physical skills Wang learned from kendo, the sport has also brought him closer to his little brother, freshman Taylor Wang. Wang and his brother often spar and critique each other so they can improve.

“When me and my brother spar, I would coach him to change his mistakes, and I could see him progress to be a better player than before,” Branden said. “When we spar and he beats me, I take it as motivation and practice even harder. During our practices we would always have the competitive spirit because kendo is based on point scale and we would see who would get the most points.”

Wang has traveled to many places such as Seattle, Michigan and Las Vegas to compete in tournaments, including Junior Nationals and Nationals. He won first place two years in a row and second place once at Junior Nationals. Wang also placed first in the 2014 triennial Nationals tournament.

Now, Wang aims to qualify for the the U.S. National Kendo Team during the summer and to compete against the Korea National Team. Wang is coached by three members of the U.S. team at the dojo in Torrance. He participates in kendo camps to further develop his skills and increase his chances of making the team.

“The camps are really competitive because people come from all over America to attend the camps and try out. I compete against older people, sometimes 20 to 30 years old, and even other teachers that own their own dojos,” Wang said. “The camp is also a semi-trial where you can [make] yourself known and train against better opponents.”

Aside from training for the national team, Wang also wants to inspire the younger students at his dojo and help them improve.

“Right now, I’m trying to play [against] Korea and represent the U.S. team,” Wang said. “Korea is usually top three in kendo tournaments and the U.S. has never beaten them, but I want to change that and be the first to beat them. I want to motivate the younger kids and show them something they can really look forward to. I want to be a role model just like how my seniors were to me.”

By Albert Law, Feature editor

Photo courtesy of Branden Wang

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