Throughout our continual research, we’ve come across a few people that know a few things that are related to samurai. Two of those people are Jeffrey and Elizabeth Marsten. Jeffrey Marsten is a kendo instructor. Kendo means “the way of the sword” in Japanese (when “kendo” is written in kanji, it creates the character “tsurugi” which means sword and the character “michi” which means the way of). He is apart of an organization named All United States Kendo Federation (but more appropriately Pacfic Northwest Kendo Federation) which is dedicated to bringing the teaching of kendo to the United States.
Elizabeth Marsten is Jeffrey Marsten’s daughter. She is currently the kendo instructor for the kendo club at the University of Washington. They both have been kind enough to answer a few questions about kendo. Below are the interviews of both Jeffrey and Elizabeth.
- Why did you decide to become a kendo instructor?
Jeffrey’s Response: I did not; it was thrust upon me by the necessities of the club.
Elizabeth’s Response: I became and instructor because I had reached the rank when a kendo practitioner has been around long enough that it's time they started sharing their knowledge and giving back to kendo by providing quality instruction to people new to kendo. I also do enjoy teaching and coaching, in particularly teaching beginners as it forces me to demonstrate and strive to improve my own basic kendo so that I'm setting a good example.
- When did your interest kendo begin?
Jeffrey’s Response: When I was a student at the University of Washington.
Elizabeth’s Response: My interest didn't really begin until I was 12 years old, but I started when I was 7 years old, just going because my parents said I had to.
- How did your interest in kendo begin?
Jeffrey’s Response: I always wanted to learn swordsmanship and kendo just happened to come my way.
Elizabeth’s Response: It occurred to me one day that if I really applied myself and tried hard I could be successful (winning). I liked being successful and able to increase my skills, speed and stamina. From there on I was hooked,
- Were there any specific people that inspired you? If so, who?
Jeffrey’s Response: Some people inspired me to be better because they were really good.
Elizabeth’s Response: My father, who is also a kendo instructor. He's persevered and overcome so much to get kendo in the Pacific Northwest and the USA to where it is today, it's hard not to be inspired. Not only does he work to promote, improve and spread kendo, he does so without sacrificing his own personal kendo related goals.
- How long have you been a kendo instructor?
Jeffrey’s Response: 30+ years.
Elizabeth’s Response: My first lesson was given when I was 13 years old. So 15 years from then, but regular instruction started after college at age 21, official answer is 7 years.
- Do you see a connection between kendo and the way of the samurai?
Jeffrey’s Response: All sorts of ways, basically kendo takes the good parts of the samurai philosophy and leaves behind the negative aspects.
Elizabeth’s Response: Definitely. Kendo gets its roots from the way of the samurai, the shinai [wooden sword used in kendo practice] is meant to be a modern representation of the katana. While we may not practice in a way these days that resembles more art (more sport today) we still very much uphold the same ideals, etiquette and spirit that the samurai did. Minus the seppuku.
Combat: Koryu | Gendai Budo | Weaponry | Philosophy/Strategy | Interview
References: Marsten, Jeffrey. Educational interview. 15 Jul 2008.
Marsten, Elizabeth. Educational interview. 22 Jul 2008.