Date Posted
29th Mar 2017

Kendo instructor first in NZ to grade fourth dan with two swords

Source: Monique Steele, The Press

A Christchurch Japanese fencer has scored a unique coup for the local kendo club.

Christchurch man Eynon Phillips is the first New Zealand kendo player to be awarded his fourth dan grading in Nitto-ryu (two-sword fighting) in kendo.

Phillips coaches kendo and has trained for around 12 years at Sei Tou Ken Yu Kai Canterbury Kendo Club on Blenheim Rd.

"I started kendo back in 1995," he said.

"I really liked the swords and I was quite attracted to the Japanese aesthetic, like the architecture, and sushi."

Self-taught in two-sword fighting through watching Youtube videos and reading magazine articles, Phillips began using two swords after getting his third dan, three years ago. 

"Ninety-nine point nine per cent of kendo is done with a single sword.

"I wanted to try something different. I thought I'd give two swords a go... As if kendo wasn't a challenge to start with," he said.

He sat his fourth dan grading in late February in Auckland.

"Eynon is the first New Zealander to pass fourth dan using two swords," said New Zealand Kendo Federation president Graham Sayer.

Sayer said although practising with two swords was "reasonably unusual", it was a legitimate type of competitive kendo.

"The significance of Eynon's achievement is that he did that with two swords which is a little bit unique, it's usually done with one sword," said Canterbury Kendo Club president Blake Bennett.

"He is one of the very few people in New Zealand to get that rank.

"It's quite a cool wee thing for the club," said Bennett.

Phillips said there were several other people around the country practising with two swords.

"I'm the only one doing it full-time."

Phillips started kendo through university and went on to teach English in Japan.

Phillips said kendo was a unique sport, different to team sports like rugby or football.

"It's a mental challenge as well as a physical challenge, so that's where the real appeal is. You're going as hard out as you can and you're still having to think, 'how can I beat this person?'"

The 39-year-old said in kendo, unlike other major sports, age was not an issue.

"I'm almost 40. [In rugby] we'd be hanging up the boots and relaxing. This is a lifetime pursuit. All the top senseis are in their 80s.

"You can pick it up at any age and keep doing it for the rest of your life."

Phillips plans to "keep going and improving" with kendo, tackling his fifth dan grading with two swords next.