At 4th dan, American conquers kendoIt took 14 years of studying in Korea, but an American man has finally earned the rank of fourth dan in kendo, the Japanese art of swordfighting, from the Korea Kumdo Association.
Kendo is known as geomdo or kumdo in Korean.
“I fell in love with kendo, which is a sport that combines strength with discipline. I would like to teach kendo to foreign students in Korea,” said Craig Rugh, 39, a computer teacher at Seoul Academy International School.
Mr. Rugh’s test was administered by the Seoul Kumdo Association. Ninety-nine athletes tried out for the honor; only 19 passed.
Mr. Rugh easily passed the kendo theory exam, which he was able to take in English. He received good scores in sparring and in demonstrating swordsmanship.
Those who rise to the fourth dan are allowed to open an official kendo school. Mr. Rugh is the first foreigner in Korea to achieve the rank.
In the United States, Mr. Rugh had been on his high school wrestling team. He started learning kendo in 1993 when he came to Korea, at the Segeomgwan kendo school in Seodaemun district, northern Seoul.
In the beginning, the language barrier made learning very difficult. Mr. Rugh tried to understand instructions by guessing and practiced the movements thousands of times. He rose to first dan in 1995, second dan in 1997 and third dan in 2000.
But doing kendo helped Mr. Rugh develop many friendships in Korea, particularly by participating in swordsmanship competitions.
“When my husband was bruised by being hit by bamboo swords during practice, I was often angry. But now I’m proud of my husband,” said Park Hee-young, Mr. Rugh’s wife. Mr. Rugh’s eldest daughter, Abigail, 10, has also started training in the sport.
“Although I am qualified to teach, there is still a long way to go. I need to learn more,” he said.
by Jeong Young-jae