Club philosophy

We practice Kendo on the unceded lands of the people of the Wooi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation and we acknowledge their elders past, present and emerging. We also acknowledge the traditional custodians and ancestors of those lands we visit when travelling around Australia doing Kendo.


Nanseikan Kendo Club was founded in 2002 to spread the practice of the Japanese art of Kendo in Melbourne (Naarm), Australia. We are affiliated with the International Kendo Federation (FIK) through the Australian Kendo Renmei (AKR). Nanseikan is a member club of the Victorian Kendo Renmei (VKR), the peak body for the arts of Kendo, Iaido and Jodo in Victoria.

Our dojo ethos is 修正一如 which means "Practice and Enlightenment are One". To put it another way, the goal is the journey, the journey is the goal. This means that although we set targets for ourselves we know that it is the process of getting there that is the point of Kendo, indeed of life itself. For a more complete discussion of this term, have a look at this short article.

We recognise that everyone has different goals and capabilities, and that the Way of the Sword is a personal journey of challenge and self-development that is life-long. 

At Nanseikan we welcome people of different agesabilitiesgendersethnicities and religions. Kendo is not a religion itself, but please be advised that correct practice of Kendo requires bowing as part of its historical and cultural traditions.

At Nanseikan, we strive to do a correct, Japanese Kendo, not to create a hybrid art or 'Aussie' version. The standard of Kendo in Japan is still much deeper than anywhere else and the dedication of Japanese kenshi is inspiring. We recognise that Japan is still the home of modern Kendo. However we don't wish to keep Kendo locked in an idealised and imaginary past. For this reason, regular trips to Japan are desirable, in order to educate club members in the way Kendo is actually performed and practiced in Japan.

Even though it is slowly changing as Japan changes, nevertheless Kendo is an activity which still has very strong roots in traditional culture and to traditional notions of Japanese-ness. What this means is that Kendo retains strong aspects of Confucian hierarchy and a patriarchal power structure. At Nanseikan we try to be as conscious as possible of these historical biases in order to keep the best of Kendo's wonderful traditions whilst making it accessible to as many people as possible.

Two things that can be confronting are the (frequently male) teacher-focus of the dojo and the emphasis on muga (無我) or egolessness. These two things may seem to be anachronistic or oppressive to some people of European, African or Middle-Eastern heritage. They are very important parts of Kendo culture because they offer enormous potential for personal development. Some examples of how they appear in the dojo:
  1. In the dojo, the only student response to the teacher's instructions is affirmation and then full commitment. However questions, discussion and personal research are encouraged outside training. After every training we have a time for this called 'shugo'.
  2. Intellectual analysis of technique or training methods is discouraged during training. The Western style 'Socratic method' (where understanding is arrived at through the student asking questions) is not part of Kendo or indeed Japanese culture. 
  3. In the dojo, personal adornment and expressions of individuality in dress or appearance are considered a distraction: for the wearer most of all! This is not meant to deny a person's individuality or creative expression. What it can do instead is help emphasise the things that we share in common. Paradoxically the thing that you notice most when people are all dressed the same is how individual they are! It can also allow the individual to step out of what may be their everyday persona and find a new and different expression of who they are through the medium of Kendo.
One of the reasons that Kendo dojo are not run as businesses is because the dojo is teacher-focused, not student (or customer)-focused. The student is grateful to the teacher that they are devoting their time to teach. This is not because the teacher is some kind of guru, but because they would rather be learning themselves from their own teacher. Instead they sacrifice their own progress to devote time to their students. The student's gratitude is recognition of this fact.

If you wish to find out more about any of these things, please contact the instructor or come and visit a training session to speak with one of the members.

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