is the art of Japanese fencing. "Ken" or tsurugi is from the character
meaning sword. The character for "Do" or michi includes the meaning
way or path which translates as "The way of the sword". A path
in life which is followed through the training of kendo.
Origin of Kendo
Kendo bears but faint resemblance to Kenjutsu and to its feudal origins
of sword wielding samurai warriors which are today depicted in movies
and television. Kendo, literally translated, the way of the sword, cannot
be traced to a single founder or given an exact founding date. The story
of the rise of modern Kendo begins with the samurai and extends over the
culture of several centuries.
the end of the 12th century, the authority of the Japanese central government
had declined. Bands of warriors grouped together for protection forming
local aristocracies. Feudalism had come of age, and was to dominate Japan
for several centuries. With the establishment of the Shogun in Kamakura
and military rule controlling Japan, a new military class and their lifestyle
called Bushido, ìthe way of the warrior,î gained prominence. Bushido stressed
the virtues of bravery, loyalty, honor, self discipline and stoical acceptance
of death. Certainly, the influence of Bushido extended to modern Japanese
society and Kendo was also to be greatly influenced by this thinking.
Japanese warrior had no contempt for learning or the arts. Although Kenjutsu,
ìthe art of swordsmanship,î had been recorded since the 8th century, it
gained new prominence and took on religious and cultural aspects as well.
Sword making became a revered art. Zen and other sects of Buddhism developed
and the samurai often devoted time to fine calligraphy or poetry.
next great advance in the martial arts occurred during the late Muromachi
period (1336-1568) often call the ìage of Warring Provincesî because of
the many internal conflicts. This period brought an increased demand and
respect for men trained in the martial arts. Consequently, many schools
of Kenjutsu arose, eventually numbering about 200. Each was taught by
a famous swordsman whose techniques earned him honor in battle. Real blades
or hardwood swords without protective equipment were used in training
resulting in many injuries. These schools continued to flourish through
the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), with the Ittoryu or ìone sword school,î
having the greatest influence on modern Kendo.
began to take its modern appearance during the late 18th century with
the introduction of protective equipment: the men, kote and do and the
use of the bamboo sword, the shinai. The use of the shinai and protective
armor made possible the full delivery of blows without injury. This forced
the establishment of new regulations and practice formats which set the
foundation of modern Kendo.
the Meiji Restoration (1868) and Japanís entry into the modern world,
Kendo suffered a great decline. The Samurai class was abolished and the
wearing of swords in public outlawed. This decline was only temporary,
however, interest in Kendo was revived first in 1887 when uprisings against
the government showed the need for the training of police officers. Later
the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) again
encouraged an awareness of the martial spirit.
in 1895, the Butokukai, an organization devoted to the martial arts was
established. In 1911, Kendo was officially introduced into the physical
education curriculum of middle schools and in 1912, the Nihon Kendo Kata,
a set of regulations for Kendo, was published. In 1939 as Japan prepared
for war, Kendo became a required course for all boys.
the war, because of its nationalistic and militaristic associations, Kendo
was outlawed and the Butokukai was disbanded. However by 1952, supporters
of Kendo successfully reintroduced a ìpure sportî form of Kendo, called
Shinai Kyogi which excluded the militaristic attitudes and some of the
rougher aspects of practice characteristic of prewar Kendo, into the public
schools. Today, Kendo continues to grow under the auspices of the All
Japan Kendo Federation, the International Kendo Federation, and federations
all over the world.
the outward appearance and some of the ideals have changed with the changing
needs of the people, Kendo continues to build character, self-discipline
and respect. Despite a sportlike atmosphere, Kendo remains steeped in
tradition which must never be forgotten. For here lies the strength of
Kendo which has carried it throughout history and will carry it far into
attempt will be made here to present the philosophy of Kendo. Each Dojo
will have similar but sightly different ideas of what Kendo should be.
The student must discover through their Dojo and themselves what this
Kendo equipment consists of the swords, uniform and armor.
There are two types of wooden swords used. First, the bokken or bokuto,
a solid wood sword made of oak or another suitable hardwood. The bokken
is used for basics and forms practice (kata). Second, the shinai,
is made up of four bamboo staves and leather. The shinai is used for full
contact sparring practice.
The uniform or dogi consists of woven cotton top called a keikogi and
pleated skirt-like trousers called a hakama.
The armor or bogu consists of four pieces: the helmet (men),
the body protector (do), the gloves (kote), and the hip
and groin protector (tare). Modern Kendo armor design is fashioned
after the Oyoroi of the Samurai.
Kendo practice is composed of many types of training. Each type has a
different purpose for developing the Kendo student.
like other martial arts requires discipline and a dedication to training.
A new student begins with learning the basics such as: etiquette (reigi),
different postures and footwork, and how to properly swing a sword. The
student progresses through a series of skills preparing them to begin
training with armor (bogu).
a student begins to practice in armor, a practice may be composed of any
or all of the following types of practice and this will depend upon what
the instructor's focus is at a particular time:
successively striking the left and right men, practice centering, distance,
and proper cutting while building spirit and stamina.
technique practice in which the student learns to use the many techniques
of Kendo with a receiving partner.
short, intense, attack practice which teaches continuous alertness,
the ability to attack no matter what has come before, as well as building
spirit and stamina.
sparring practice where the kendoist has a chance to try all that he
or she has learned with a resisting partner.
sparring practice between two kendoist of similar skill level.
sparring practice where a senior kendoist guides a junior kendoist through
competition matches which are judged on the basis of a person scoring
valid cuts against an opponent.