Like father, like son

Tess Guan, Web Editor

Following in his father’s footsteps, Diamond Bar High School junior Chris Lee has been practicing kumdo since middle school. Kumdo, a Korean martial art, is derived from the Japanese sport of kendo.

Lee began practicing kumdo in seventh grade but became competitively involved a year and a half ago. His father, a former competitive kumdo player, showed Lee Japanese films, piquing his interest in the sport.

Lee has competed in local competitions and will attend his first large competition this fall. In the past, he has had to miss out on major competitions due to scheduling interferences with marching band.

As a beginner, Chris was taught the basics of kumdo by his father. Prior to practicing kumdo, Lee did taekwondo for a year but quit and is now solely focused on kumdo. Lee practices kumdo weekly at a dojo in Rowland Heights.

“There’s three parts to the sport. One part is the spirit of it, the way you act and the etiquette. Second is the sport, like competitions, if someone hits, they have to do something in particular to get the point; even if you hit first you don’t get the point. The third part is skill,” he said.

Unlike in martial arts, where different colored belts distinguish different ranks, kendo uses numbers as rankings. Beginners start at rank ten and advance to rank one. Players receive armor at rank eight or nine. At ranks two or three, players switch from using bamboo swords to using wooden swords. At rank one, players take a test to move up to another ranking system. After passing the test, the additional ranking system goes from one to eight. Testing into the latter ranking system is also an admission process, in which a group will accept you into their organization. The standard ranking progress usually takes two to three months to prepare and test for.

Lee is currently a rank two, and will be taking taking the advancement test this month. Four months after that, he will be able to take the test to be admitted into an organization.

In competitions, Lee is required to use both the wooden and bamboo swords. Typically, bamboo swords are used because they are less dangerous. However, wooden swords are better for posture and form.

“Bamboo swords are really heavy, and [the dojo masters] make you jump around with it and do tons of pushups and squats,” he said. “They try to make you strong and fast.”

Kendo matches are one on one. Matches are played within a ring, which is divided by a line. Stepping out of the ring twice will cost you a point. Typically, there are three judges; to get a point, two of the judges must agree on the scoring.

“You have to incorporate your shell, your hits, and your footwork to get a point,” he said. “If you fail to do one of them, you don’t get a point.”