Gage Hoase, left, and Angela Fisher square off during the first meeting of the newly-formed Blacktip Island kendo club Wednesday afternoon (photo courtesy of Harald Hofer)
A group of sporting enthusiasts Wednesday announced they have created Blacktip Island’s first kendo club, hoping the Japanese sword-based martial art will give islanders a safe way to vent their frustrations.
“It started with James Conlee and Dermott Bottoms, drunk as skunks, whacking each other with broomsticks outside the Ballyhoo,” club president Angela Fisher said. “We figured there’s no way to stop this kind of thing, so we might as well make it safer and offer training.
“Got the basics off internet videos, and Eagle Ray Cove’s letting us use their deck, which is handy, since their bar’s right there for post-practice drinks,” Fisher said. “We tell everybody to bring their own broomsticks, plus bicycle helmets, leather gloves and whatever body armor they can scrape together and we walk ‘em through the basics.”
Participants say the first class was a success.
“People on the island are wound pretty tight, being confined for so long, so this is a great way to let off steam safely,” Gage Hoase said. “It was pretty straightforward—they showed us some stances and attacks and parries, then let us go at it.
“At first, Joey Pompano went all Luke Skywalker and whacked me hard,” Hoase said. “Good thing I had that plastic garbage can lid strapped to my chest. I got him back, though, with a katsugi-waza upside the head that laid him out flat. It was great fun!”
Some questioned the benefits of the club.
“All I know is we got a broom shortage now, with everyone sawing off the handles to use as samurai swords,” Chrissy Graysby said. “Lots of places going unswept lately, and dust and leaves are piling up everywhere. I got my broom locked up inside where nobody can get at it.
“Not sure about the wisdom of it, either, big-picture wise,” Graysby said. “Folks get riled up and drunk, and you’re gonna give ‘em sticks to whack each other with? Me, I’m steering clear of that nonsense.”
Others saw the activity as a business opportunity.
“I’m completely sold out of brooms and helmets,” Blacktip Island store owner Peachy Bottoms said. “I have two cases of each coming tomorrow to meet the demand. Plastic rubbish bins are flying off the shelves, too, but I had a ton of those in the back room.”
Some participants experienced unexpected secondary benefits.
“Angela said to wear baggy clothes, and the only thing I had was the SpongeBob jammies my mom sent me for Christmas,” Dermott Bottoms said. “I don’t wear pajamas, and was gonna throw ‘em out, but now I got a use for ‘em.
“Lee Helm made fun of ‘em, so I whacked him good,” Bottoms said. “He won’t do that again, laughing at something my mamma gave me.”