Female Martial Artists to Compete at North American Women’s Kendo Tournament

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Seattle to host the Sixth North American Women's Kendo Taikai & Seminar

Women compete at a kendo tournament

“There is nothing more terrifying than a Bellevue woman with a stick in her hands,” said a man from the Bellevue Kendo Club, who wished to remain anonymous.

“There is nothing more terrifying than a Bellevue woman with a stick in her hands,” said an anonymous man from the Bellevue Kendo Club. The Seattle area is home to a growing number of women who study kendo, the Japanese way of the sword. “I always feel in the minority,” says Mary DeJong, a second-degree black belt at the Highline Kendo Club. To promote women’s participation in kendo, DeJong is part of a team of volunteers that will host The Sixth North American Women’s Kendo Taikai & Seminar in Seattle, Washington, from July 9th to July 16th 2016.

The celebrity guest instructor will be Chinatsu Maruyama, the five-time all-Japan women’s kendo champion, who is also a seventh-degree black belt. Jeff Marsten-sensei says, “They will definitely learn from one of the best in the world who actually teaches kendo beginners.” Participants who plan to attend the seminar and tournament must hurry to apply. Registration ends on June 17th at http://womenskendo.com.

Like European-style fencing, kendo is a competitive sport, especially in Japan, Korea, Canada, and the USA. Modern practitioners use bamboo swords to strike the skull, wrist, chest and throat. Students finish each class with plenty of bruises even though they wear protective armor.

The inaugural women’s kendo event in 2001 was the brainchild of Jeffrey Marsten, a seventh-degree black belt, and former US National Champion. While some fathers teach their daughters soccer, Jeffrey Marsten taught his children kendo. Elizabeth Marsten, a 5th degree black belt says, “My dad is the ringleader. And then we’ve had, over the years, more and more ladies pitch in.”

DeJong, who attended the event in 2013 says, “I remember several people, last time, telling me that they were the only woman in their dojo; and how refreshing it was for them to practice with other women.” The event only occurs every three years, but it draws more than 80 competitors, and hundreds of spectators from as far away as Hawaii, Boston, Vancouver, Mexico City, Dallas, Montreal and Florida. Elizabeth Marsten says, “So, we have this women’s tournament. We have women judges now, pretty consistently. We have women’s role models. The evolution of women’s kendo over the past few years has been exponential and we need to keep promoting it.”

While men aren't allowed to compete, they do serve as judges, court coordinators, scorekeepers, etc. Elizabeth Marsten says, “They get to go to the party afterwards. They think it’s a solid event, you know, free lunch, that kind of thing, but they also are big supporters of women in kendo, and want to see the program grow. They have been working with the ladies who come with them to participate from their own dojos and federations. So, there is a cheerleader aspect there as well.”

“The Pacific Northwest has a strong presence of women in kendo, but I think that is due, in large part, to Marsten-sensei’s promotion of it," says Mary DeJong. "...and it is through his work that we see the numbers move. In his dojos we have lots of women.” When asked why he has been a long-time coach of women’s teams and individuals, Marsten-sensei says, “Because I believe in the level of effort and spirit that women bring to kendo. They are a pleasure to coach and teach.” Asked about The Sixth North American Women’s Kendo Taikai & Seminar, Marsten-sensei says he hopes that, “We have more teams from different parts of North America,” that and a, “…smooth balanced taikai with no complaining about point calling, and all the women going home with a smile on their face.”

The Sixth PNKF North American Women’s Kendo Taikai & Seminar
July 9th through July 16th 2016
Price $50 for the full seminar;
$25 for Saturday and Sunday only; and/or $10 per day.
Entry forms and information available at:

Media Contacts:

Noelle Grimes
5th Degree Black Belt in Kendo
Cell Phone: 425.770.2009
Email: noelle.e.grimes(at)gmail(dot)com

Jeffrey Marsten
7th Degree Black Belt in Kendo
Phone: 206.246.2239
Email: jmarsten(at)comcast(dot)net
Website URL: http://womenskendo.com


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