There comes a time in a kendoka’s life when they are about to take the next step in their journey. Ideally, this means gaining kyu or dan, but nothing comes close to the feeling of your first time in bogu. A new world opens up – albeit with some tunnel vision – but the feeling is a bit more…bizarre than the first time you learn to swing a shinai. For the kendoka, it is the next step into a new dimension, one from which there is no return. In many dojos, the sensei will determine whether or not his/her students are ready to take this step. However, as BU is not a dojo, this is determined a little differently: with a test.
The Bogu Exam is given annually to beginners in the club. During the first semester, new members are trained in all of the basic aspects of kendo with the intention of preparing them for this Exam. It is historically given the weekend before Thanksgiving, therefore allowing beginners to train during the semester with the older members and allow them to witness tournaments such as Cornell and Goyokai. During the Bogu Exam, the beginners are tested on their level of comfort with the techniques they have been practicing throughout the semester.
Kendo stresses many aspects, but the main focal points for ippon (“one full point”) are as follows: kiai, tenouchi, fumi komi, and zanshin. The kiai is – for lack of a better term – a “battle cry” that showcases the warrior’s spirit; weak kiai demonstrates a weak resolve and little commitment to defeating your opponent. Tenouchi is the way in which you grip your shinai. Your tenouchi changes during an attack – it tightens as you swing, producing a sort of POP! sound when you complete your hit. Fumi komi is a stomp that is performed in unison with your strike. It is the result of the kendoka rapidly shifting their weight forward and catching that weight with their front foot; fumi komi and tenouchi together produce the POP! Lastly, the zanshin is the completion of the strike and one’s physical and mental readiness to move on to the next opponent. Proper zanshin demonstrates that you have defeated your opponent. The Bogu Exam stresses these- as well as proper posture and swings – as the beginners demonstrate their ability to strike three of the four kendo targets: men, kote and do.
The 2013 Bogu Exam will be taking place on Saturday, November 23 at 11 am. On that day, new stories about BU Kendo will begin.