A master kendo sensei discusses how timeless notions of stillness and movement come together through the modern lens of Japanese sword fighting.
Translated literally, kendo means “way of the sword.” Similar to Western fencing, kendo is the study and practice of sword fighting in modern-day Japan, a country which takes swordplay more seriously than most. Kendo master Shozo Kato honed his exceptional skill from the time of his childhood. Now 58, he has passed the 8th Dan kendo examination in Japan, which is considered the hardest examination in Japan with a less than one percent passing rate. (He also holds Seventh Dan in the closely related art of iaido.) Needless to say, this man is very good with a sword. His Manhattan dojo was one of the first such schools in the United States when it was founded in 1984, and it now has affiliates up and down the East Coast. Kato has since served as a coach and judge in numerous kendo competitions internationally. And when not slashing his way through the competitive circuit, he is a fine art photographer. Which makes sense since both fine art and sword fighting prize the same skill set – patience, attention to detail, sound judgment, focus. And yet when The Avant/Garde Diaries recently caught up with Kato at a Zen monastery in upstate New York, he was cracking jokes and offering us tea. That is, until the swords came out.
Directed by Brady Welch & Colin Sonner
Produced by Brady Welch
Cinematography by Colin Sonner
Edited by Colin Archdeacon
Color Correction by Aksel Stasny
Music by Colin Stetson
Transcription and Translation by Gordon Small
Additional Thanks to Michael Manning, Takaaki Sudo, and everyone at Dai Bosatsu Zendo