Kendo and Iaido Club cuts new path during virtual semester 

The CPP Kendo and Iaido Club is currently in its third year as an active ASI sports club, spreading awareness to students of two historical Japanese sword art practices and parrying off the challenges of the pandemic to continue operating.  

Usually, members prepare to compete in local tournaments against other university clubs. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, their in-person practices at the BRIC every weekend have transformed into hour-long Zoom practices with their sensei and assistant coaches.  

The Kendo and Iaido club usually trains members to compete in yearly tournaments such as the UCLA Intercollegiate Yuhihai Tournament. (Courtesy of CPP Kendo and Iaido Club)

Not only do club members get a workout during practice, but they also learn to develop mental and physical discipline.  

“I think it’s very interesting that as a school, we are able to have specific clubs, because we are so diverse,” said club Secretary Mei Darmawan, a second-year architecture student. “We have many clubs of different backgrounds and it is really cool that people are finding interest in our club.  

For club members, they can find a deep connection within iaido that has a positive effect in their own lives. Joaquin Godinez, a third-year mechanical engineering student, has been practicing iaido with the club for three years since his first year at CPP.   

“In iaido, you need to have your footwork correct, your posture, and it is like a mental workout… it takes so long to master a single movement,” said Godinez. “It is a very good escape; it gives me something that makes me feel good, it’s that one thing that I can derive pleasure from.” 

Joaquin Godinez started learning iaido forms when he first joined the Kendo and Iaido Club in 2017. (Courtesy of Joaquin Godinez)

While iaido is a noncompetitive sword art, kendo is a high-energy competitive sport similar to fencing that involves two competitors with armor known as bogu protecting their head, wrists, and chest area. Both competitors wield a bamboo sword called a shinai to timely strike down on their opponents at the right opportunity to score enough points to win the match.  

Club Captain Tracey Thai, a third-year engineering student, enjoys the technique, footwork and speed needed to excel in the sport 

“Going to tournaments, there is a lot of energy the moment you enter the gym,” said Thai. “The first few times I participated it was overwhelming, but I now look forward to feeling that energy and being a part of it for myself as I now compete.” 

Club members virtually practice together every Saturday morning and afternoon. (Courtesy of CPP Kendo and Iaido Club)

Started in the fall of 2017 by Sensei Scott Chang, who is also an academic retention coordinator of the Maximizing Engineering Potential program on campus, the Kendo and Iaido Club had up to 33 active members at its peak last year. However, due to the virtual academic year, membership has declined to about 17 members.  

The Kendo and Iaido Club is always looking for new members to join and be a part of a unique family. Any student who is interested in joining does not need any prior experience.  

“Don’t be scared to try it out,” said Darmawan. “A martial art that uses a weapon can be very intimidating at first. It is important to come into kendo with an open mind and be willing to try something new and make new friends.” 

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