Campus & Community

Dragons rise up at the MAC

2 min read
The judge’s raised white flags signify victory, not defeat, for Harvard-Radcliffe Kendo Club member Andrew Hartlage, who scored a successful ‘men’ strike — or strike to the head — against his opponent Tina Liu of the College of William and Mary. (Staff photo by Kris Snibbe)
Prior to a match, Harvard Kendo Club member Frank Siu ’03 (left) attends to teammate Masako Konishi’s ’03 chest protector. The Harvard team captured first place in team competition. (Staff photo by Kris Snibbe)

For a sport whose origins date back to the 14th century, kendo — the traditional art of Japanese fencing — couldn’t be more contemporary. From the sleek equipment, to its spiritual emphasis, kendo (which literally means “the way of the sword”) is like yoga with an attitude. Shinai in hand (a bamboo sword made of four fitted staves), opponents — matched without regard to size or gender — square off for three minutes, scoring points by striking clear blows to the head, wrist, and torso. The first player to score three points is deemed the victor.

Developed by Samurais over hundreds of years, kendo has largely achieved its modern appeal through a dedicated community of college dojos, dubbed the “rising dragon,” or shoryu, by the former Prime Minister of Japan Ryutaro Hashimoto.

Leading the sport’s surge is the 12-year-old Harvard-Radcliffe Kendo Club, the group responsible for North America’s largest intercollegiate kendo tournament. Now in its sixth year, the annual event, held this past weekend (April 13-14) at the MAC, attracted participants from 18 schools from as far away as the University of California, San Diego. And though the competition was fierce, the core values of kendo — honor, courtesy, and the cultivation of self — weren’t lost on the kendo warriors.

“The tournament is OK, but we have to communicate with each other,” explained Shinya Deguchi, who made the trip from George Washington University, adding, “We must develop our relationships.”

For more information on the Harvard-Radcliffe Kendo Club, visit the team’s Web site at

Masked and ready, Laura Yilmaz ’04 (left), a second-year member of the Harvard Kendo Club, awaits her turn at the Sixth Annual Harvard Invitational Shoryuhai Intercollegi-ate Kendo Tournament this past weekend at the MAC. Meanwhile, Kofi Kumi ’04 takes in the action from the sidelines. (Staff photo by Kris Snibbe)