Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bamboo a Path to Strong Mind, Body

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bamboo a Path to Strong Mind, Body

Article excerpt

The sharp, quick sounds of bamboo swords striking one another echoed from the gymnasium as 10 students, barefoot and dressed in black or white body armor, shouted Korean words and aimed their weapons at their opponents.

The students, of all ages, were practicing techniques of a martial art that uses a wooden sword to develop one's mind and body. The sport, which also teaches etiquette, courage and honor, is called kendo by the Japanese and kumdo by Koreans, and it will be on display Sunday, when the 20th Eastern U.S. Kumdo tournament takes place at Palisades Park High School.

More than 220 men, women and children, ranging in age from 7 to 70, are expected to spar with one another, organizers said. They will be coming from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Illinois.

"I've been doing martial arts for many years, and I like the history behind it, and the philosophy behind it, and that's why I'm doing it," said Andre DaSilva, an Oradell resident who will be competing on Sunday. "This is spiritually very good, as well as good exercise."

The kumdo tournament, one of two held on the East Coast every year, will be hosted by the Kumdo Academy Sung Moo in Dumont, which opened more than a decade ago and now has two sites in New Jersey and another in New York. The event, which is open to the public, will also feature demonstrations.

The words kendo and kumdo, in Japanese and Korean respectively, translate to "way of the sword," and the sport is very much like fencing, with participants thrusting the bamboo sword as they spar. Participants strike one of four designated areas of their opponents' body: the wrist, head, torso and neck.

Points are awarded by judges, with scores based on several factors, including form, whether participants shout the word of the body part as they strike it, and whether they succeed at hitting their target. Penalties are assigned to those who drop their weapon, cross boundary lines or show too much enthusiasm when they win a match, said Myung G. Min, the head instructor at the Dumont school.

"Every strike is considered one death, that's why we take it very seriously," Min said. "And you can't show too much temper or too much happiness. You always have to show respect for the person who lost."

The martial art dates back hundreds of years and has its roots in Japan, but it is now practiced all over the world.

Tsuyoshi Inoshita, treasurer for the All United States Kendo Federation, said his organization belongs to an international federation that has 52 national affiliates. Although the sport is found in all parts of the world, he said, it's not for everyone.

"It's appealing to a small segment of the United States," said Inoshita, who is a doctor in Portsmouth, Ohio. "I often tell people that kendo is more like tennis, not like racquetball. With tennis, if you never practiced you can't have a game, because you have to learn strokes and other moves, and practice. …

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