What do letters of the alphabet have to do with kendo? That was the same thing that I thought upon hearing three S and one Z.
It was a steamy summer afternoon in the middle of August, and I, along with a fellow non-Japanese kendoka partner in crime were invited to a weekend seminar of the Kokusai Shakaijin seminar, in Iwanuma city. This was going to be an incredible learning and training experience or so we imagined. Anticipation kept me from sleeping well, as I was filled with anxiety about arriving late to the budokan where Sone sensei, kyoshi hachidan would pick us up. The Japanese are notorious about punctuality. All went well and we were on our way. After sweating under the weight of our bogu for an afternoon of full practice, we soaked away the aches in a hot bath and proceeded to what would be the highlight of the entire seminar.
At the end of the first day we were treated to a lavish meal with endless cups of sake and beer. Anyone that hasn’t had the chance to dine with a group of kendo sensei and take advantage to the forthcoming knowledge that comes with each consumed glass is surely missing out. I was highly surprised when Sone sensei uttered something in English. Having known and trained with him for five years and never hearing him speak English before, I blanched. He said “three S and one Z”. What did three S and one Z mean I asked? He replied simply “Speed, Simple, Straight and Zanshin. ”
The essence of his approach to practice he explained, is to develop, through sustained effort, an ability to execute the techniques with speed, a straight and proper hasuji, in a natural way that exhibits elegance, and a simplicity of motion.
All should be enveloped in Zanshin.