Kendo’s Healing Message for May

In May, Japan celebrates Tango-no-Sekku, one of several “children’s day” festivals which occur during the year.

Specifically, Tango-no-Sekku is a celebratory day for boys, and, unsurprisingly, themes of power, endurance, and dominance are prominent. These strengths are symbolised by the carp, a fish considered by the Japanese to be the most spirited, which fights its way upstream against any current however swift. Such determination to overcome any obstacle is considered an example of courage, and the determination to reach the highest levels of achievement. Success is considered to be the result of such determination to overcome life’s setbacks and difficulties; whilst not only being qualities upon which to call in the face of any challenge, such traits are also considered manly, and are consequently encouraged in Japan’s male children.

The example of the courageous and indomitable carp is given symbolic life in the many carp streamers that can be seen blowing in the wind in Japan during May, one per boy-child per family. The carp streamers are often accompanied by long streamers which first saw use after the Hojo clan’s victory over invading Mongols in May 1281, repelling none less than the great Kublai Khan. Subsequently, Samurai families erected the flags and streamers in celebration of the victory.

Kendo Nagasaki encourages the use of any symbol which inspires the warrior nature, and May’s carp streamers are a fine example. An even stronger connection exists between Kendo and the Hojo who defeated Kublai Khan and his invading forces (twice) – Kendo Nagasaki lived and fought in the Hojo dynasty, so May’s streamers of courage have a special significance to him.

With spring having arrived, the cherry trees in bloom and in the warmth of the sun, May is a month of inspiration to action, courage, determination. Whilst one need not fly one’s own carp streamers and banners, even imagining them dancing in the wind calls to mind the determination of the carp, and, just as in Japan, Kendo would enjoin all his followers to be empowered by that mental image. Just as in nature itself, we, too, can fight to “overcome any obstacle” in our pursuit of health, excellence, and success, and once so motivated, just recalling the image re-energises the determination.

Kendo Nagasaki’s healing message for May is to follow the indomitable example of the carp, and overcome any and all obstacles.

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