The protective gear alone is impressive but just wait until you witness two opponents go at each other. With fluid sword movements reminiscent of the ancient samurai, competitors shout and strike. Such is kendo. And such is a student of the Faculty of Medicine of Charles University in Hradec Králové, Nikol Eichlerová. The European Champion.
Before Nikol had time to learn and try different sports as a child, she was captivated by kendo, which her father introduced her to when she was seven years old. Before long, the martial sport grew on her and she didn’t need to try any others, not even fencing. “I didn’t find it very action-packed, and compared to kendo it’s a bit too neat,” she says. Match-ups in kendo are very fast-paced, with opponents striking at designated parts of the body. Their fierceness is accompanied by loud shouts as their swords clash.
“Each strike has its own name in Japanese, and that should be shouted during the lunge. You shout to intimidate your opponent, and you shout the name of the strike you performed,” Nikol explains.
The kendo blade, known as a shinai, is a bamboo sword constructed specifically for practice and competition. It’s made with several bamboo staves bound together to form a flexible yet durable weapon. Its correct size and weight are carefully checked at tournaments. Protective equipment consists of a helmet, gloves, torso protector and hip protector. Kendo competitors wear a keiko-gi coat and wide hakama trousers, usually dark blue in colour, but sometimes white or black.
Could her championship gold lead her to become a professional athlete? “No, you can’t make a living with the sport here. I would have to live in Japan,” Nikol admits. Kendo has over a million members in its home country and is even a compulsory sport in primary school. “In the Czech Republic there are about three hundred of us,” the champion says with a laugh.
|Nikol Eichlerová is a student at the Faculty of Medicine of Charles University in Hradec Králové. She has been practicing the Japanese martial art of kendo for almost 15 years and is a national team member. After winning a bronze team medal at the Junior European Championships (2016), she won a historic gold for the Czech Republic in the senior category in 2023 in Beauvais, France.