A brief look at the Samurai of Concordia.
On a crisp fall evening, Concordia students and alumni alike slowly filter into Le Gym on Concordia’s Loyola Campus. As they enter, they take off their shoes, bow in respect, lace up their Bōgu, then engage in a tradition that spans across the centuries and continents.
This September marked the beginning of the season for Concordia’s Shidokan Kendo and Iaido Club. The modern Japanese Martial Arts have been steadily growing in popularity in Canada since the late seventies.
Sensei Santoso Hanitijo has been teaching martial arts at Concordia for nearly three decades. Originally graduating from Concordia with a degree in finance, sensei Hanitijo returned to his alma mater a decade later to co-found the Shidokan Kendo and Iaido Club.
Ceremonial sparring masks lined up at the end of practice, each mask is unique to the student’s personality.
“After I joined the kendo club, we [co-founders of the club] met,” he said. “He was a judo instructor who tried to promote Iado at Concordia. So that’s why we talked and were brought into the Kendo club.”
Practice times are divided between Kendo, which involves two opponents armed with bamboo sparring swords engaging in sparring matches, and Iaido, the act of practicing form and balance with a blunted katana.
Both martial arts can trace their origins back to the Kenjutsu school, the fighting technique that was practiced by Samurai of the Edo period. However, the modern practice of Kendo and Iaido grew in popularity during the early 1950’s, when restrictions on traditional martial arts in Japan were lifted following the end of the American occupation.
Shidokan culture then spread to Montreal in the 1970’s, with Japanese immigrants such as Sensei Funamoto bringing the sport with them.
“He was one of the Sensei’s that started Kendo in Quebec,” said Sensei Hanitijo. “I [was] the next generation. I’ve been his student and since then, we carry on and spread.”
Sensei Hanitijo said the club has been able to persist and grow over the years due to their dedicated group of practitioners.“Fortunately, I think my students over the years have been very devoted to making this happen,” he said. “Of course, most of them started coming to Concordia as a student.”
While the club remains open to people outside of the university, the majority of the club’s practitioners are Concordia alumni, such as Evleen Hanitiju. Like Senesi Hanitijo, Hanitiju started practising kendo in 2009 while she was an undergrad student at Concordia, seeing both the physical and emotional benefits that the sport has to offer.
Two students engaging in a sparring match called katas.
“It’s great for not only the physical aspect but also the spiritual aspect as well,” said Hanitiju. “And it’s just a wonderful community. It’s more like a family, rather than just a club.”
This community is based on principles of respect and persistence, Hanitiju said, which is the reason she keeps coming back after all these years.
“From the moment you enter into the dojo, you start with respect, not only just for your peers but also for yourself,” Hanitiju said.“And then when you are fighting even if you come across a defeat, you just have to have a respectful mindset”.
Sensei Hanitijo overseeing the training of new kendo students.
The Shidokan Club meets every Thursday evening and Saturday morning at Le Gym on Concordia Loyola Campus. Concordia students can register for classes through the club page or can find further information on the club’s website.
ALL PHOTOS BY LUCAS MARSH