I’ve recently started reading Geoff Salmon Sensei’s blog and found a mine of information on Kendo.
After reading his post on floors it made me think about whether there is a problem with the floors in the UK for Kendo. Geoff points out that the Dojo floors in Japan are much better suited to Kendo as most of them are purpose built for it and sprung correctly. Here in the UK you tend to get fairly generic sports hall floors that are either tiled concrete, which is a complete no no, or the strange composite. Occasionally you get a good sprung floor in maybe a dance studio or some school gyms. It seems like very few floors in the UK are suitable for Kendo as our own club experiences will echo. Trying to find a decent sprung floor hall with enough roof height to swing a shinai is a pretty tall order. Here in Bedford, out of the many halls we could use, there are are only maybe 3 or 4 that are of the right floor type and big enough. Then you’re onto the matter of cost and most places are just too expensive.
Meirinkan was lucky though. Our first place was just big enough and cheap enough for us to train twice a week and be affordable. The floor was not ideal but it was good enough. It was a former dance studio with a wooden sprung floor that had been covered in some sort of lino like flooring. This was simply because the wood itself was in such a bad shape, full of splinters and raised nails, that the floor itself would have been unusable. A hammer became essential equipment but the floor was very nice for Kendo, bar the odd patch of duct tape. After the heating broke and spilled water all over the floor and other reasons beyond our control, we moved to the basketball court, gym hall at my former middle school. The floor in there is much better maintained but probably not as well sprung as the first place and much harder on the feet.
Lots of people seem to develop Plantar Fasciitis during Kendo training. I went through a rather debilitating bout of it for about 3 months after the venue change and even stopped going to training because of it. I was blaming my technique, the floor, the heavy clutch in my car everything but the answer was something much simpler.
In this country, and others, I think a lot of people are guilty of just buying cheap shoes that look nice. Very little thought is given to wearing something decent to help and support your feet. The number of times I hear people moan about a pair of shoes really hurting their feet but they love them too much. Women are probably more guilty of this than men but we can be just as bad.
Just before my bout of Plantar Fasciitis I had bought myself a very nice looking pair of boots from Brantano that were right up my alley looks wise. It was after the zips on the side broke after only a couple of months and I took them back to the shop to change them that I realised that they were messing my feet up. I asked to change them and they were fine with it.
“Oh yeah, their one of our own brands so we can change them. Sometimes the quality isn’t great as they’re pretty cheap and cheerful.”
In other words, not very well designed to help and support your feet. After this I bought myself a decent pair of North Face walking shoes to wear most of the time and slung the cheap, pretty much brand new pair of boots in the bottom of my wardrobe. Within a few weeks my foot problems had cleared up completely. I trained hard again and had no issues.
The thing I think we should all remember as Kendoka is that Kendo is hard on your feet. When you’re outside the dojo, put something decent on your feet that will support them and look after them. If you wear crap shoes all day and then go home and put your feet up all evening, it’s probably okay, till you’re about 30. If you wear crap shoes and then go and hammer them at the dojo twice or more times a week then you’re probably not giving your feet time to recover. Either way, decent shoes are never too expensive. I also have a pair of Itallian made boots that cost me well over £100. They are extremely well made, lovely to wear and never make my feet hurt even if I wear them for a whole day.
Seriously, get some decent shoes.