Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts students were treated to the story of the samurai, not as a martial art, but a performing art, on Monday.
Samurai Kembu Theatre owner Auga Magari and fellow performer Ryunosake Magari used swords and fans as part of the demonstration, which also included haiku poetry sessions.
This was the first time the Kyoto-based sister/brother act have performed the Japanese traditional performing art at an Australian school.
It came about after WHSPA history teacher Andrew MacKenzie saw the duo perform in Kyoto while he was on holidays.
“It was a really great performance,” Mr Mackenzie said.
“I got talking to Auga afterwards and she mentioned they were coming to Australia to perform at the Sydney Travel Expo, which they performed at on the weekend.
“I asked if they would be keen to drop by our school afterwards, and they agreed, which was great.
“This is their first school visit outside of Japan. It’s a unique opportunity for our school and our students, particularly as we teach a feudal Japan subject to year 8 history in term three.”
Kembu is said to have originated from a kind of swordmanship performed by samurai to gather mental focus before battle.
This is portrayed in a scene of The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise.
But after it became forbidden for samurai to carry swords in public, they held public sword fights and performed kembu [sword dance] on the spot for entertainment.
Today there are more than 100 kembu schools in Japan.
Auga Magari said kembu expresses a way of life that samurai had cultivated over hundreds of years – this included martial arts, scholarship, behaviour and values.
“We enjoy performing this to new people so they can better understand the warrior and Japanese culture,” she said.
“I’m happy Mr Mackenzie asked us to come to the school. It’s been a lot of fun. I hope the students have enjoyed what we’ve done.”
WHSPA year 8 students Lucy Beale and Thomas Inness said it was a really interesting and exciting experience.
“Just from this day I’ve learned there’s a lot more culture behind the actual samurai’s themselves then what most people think,” Thomas said.
“It was interesting to see how caring the samurai were about their community,” Lucy added.