The data for these plots below was acquired from Kendo Culture of the Sword by Dr. Alex Bennett. As usual, his books a small masterpiece chocked full of knowledge. I have assumed that being the trusted scholar that he is, that the data is correct. He presented this data in a table but I decided to present it graphically to illustrated a few things. It is my impression that a lot of kendoka outside of Japan thinks everyone in Japan does kendo, they don’t. What I would like to bring the focus on are a large number of dan holders for 1dan and 2dan. They account for roughly about 75% of the registered dan holders as shown in the second figure. The numbers fall of at 3dan then rapidly drop for 4th and 5th. I would argue that the reduction in population for 3dan might have to do with students graduating from universities and then having limited time to continue their practice. The data presents us with a clearer image of the number of practitioners that are in the beginner’s ranks (1-3), that progress to that middle ranks (4-5), and ever make it up to the higher ranks (6 and above). A recent post on kendo ranks in the terms of academic ranking can help. Below is the population percentage of dan holders in Japan by rank.
For the most part, those involved in kendo have an idea of the sparseness of female partitioners at higher ranks, here we can clearly see the rapid decline of representation after 3dan. If we consider that there are probably more female kendoka in Japan that in the US, I would venture that the decline happens after 2dan in the US in contrast to after 3dan in Japan.
After spending the time to compile these results it got me really thinking about performing something similar but expanded for the AUSKF. Most kendoka in the US have a vague idea of what the population of the US kendo community is, but no one knows for sure. I would like to remedy that. I am interested in conducting a longitudinal study on the AUSKF registered membership that includes:
- The population of kyu/dan holders
- The gender population of kyu/dan holders
- The population of kyu/dan holders by age
- The population of kyu/dan holders by rank
- The population of kyu/dan holders by geographic region (i.e. local federation/state)
This could, of course, be extended to shogo title holders, but I think the data set would be so small it would be hard to draw any statistical conclusions.
The next idea would be to perform a survey of all registered AUSKF members to gather data for a broader study. Particularly, I am interested in the following:
- Racial/ethnic heritage of AUSKF members
- The population of kyu/dan holders by racial/ethnic heritage
- Occupation of registered AUSKF members
- The number of attempts at each rank
- Reason(s) for beginning the practice of Kendo
- Reason(s) for continuing/not continuing practice
- Number of practice sessions per week regularly attended
- Number of tournaments/seminar attended annually
- Number of family members involved in kendo practice
- Other budo previously/currently practiced
- Injuries suffered
The results of this study could possibly be utilized to inform the AUSKF, EKF, FIK, and AJK communities of the current US kendo population and its evolution over time, with special attention to the increased internationalization of Kendo worldwide. It could provide evidence to support AUSKF’s policy for truncated training periods between rank eligibility for members over 60 years of age. Also, it may support the federations outlook of 5th dan as the starting rank for kodansha. Moreover, I believe it would provide a method of comparison to AJKF, FIK, and EKF populations and hopefully incite further global discussions.
This is all but a thought. Let’s see if I can actually ever make this happen. In the meantime buck up and enjoy your time in the dojo.