You know that thing that happens in theaters or ballparks when one person looks back at something and then others get curious and crank their heads around to see?
Well, a similar sort of chain reaction took place Sunday afternoon at NorthTown during the mall’s Japan Day observance. An area by the interior entrances to Sears and the Emporium had been roped off. And even before three members of the Spokane Kendo Club began to put on their helmets, chest protectors and distinctive blue martial arts attire, shoppers passing by could tell something was about to happen. So by the time the demonstration of Japanese fencing started, maybe 60 people looked on.
Drawn by the loud samurai-like yelling and clack-clack-clacking of the wooden swords, the crowd of spectators grew quickly.
Kendo is a time-honored sport practiced around the world. But to the uninitiated, Sunday’s exhibition might have seemed a bit like a 3-D “Shogun” rerun.
You just don’t hear that particular brand of spirited shouting in day-to-day American life. It’s both vibrant and exotic. No wonder comedian John Belushi loved imitating it.
As for the swordplay, not everyone was impressed. “I could do that,” said a girl who looked to be about 5.
But several kids in strollers were flat-out awed. In fact, one little boy couldn’t have generated a more wide-eyed expression if an alien spaceship had landed right there next to Village Shoes.
Because the kendo headgear features a metal mask concealing the face, latecomers had no idea what the club members looked like until the conclusion of the demonstration.
“Hey,” said one woman, sounding disappointed. “They’re not Japanese.”
Nope, said perspiring club member Eric Bruton a few minutes later. “We’re just a bunch of white guys.”
But they take kendo seriously. And they endorse its appeal. “It’s loud, it’s fast, it’s fun,” said Bruton, an adviser at City University. “And it’s great stress relief.”
The tiny club, formed in part by guys who found each other on the Internet, is looking for new members. Call 326-9456 or 455-9685 for details.
As Bruton packed up his uniform, a twentysomething guy walked up and explained to his female companion what was going on.
“That dude, he’s putting on his kimono and getting ready to dance out in the middle there.”
Sometimes the urge to whack someone with a wooden sword is great. But one of the many things kendo teaches you is restraint.
, DataTimes MEMO: Being There is a weekly feature that looks at gatherings in the Inland Northwest.
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