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Kendo EM 2005 - taiatari 2

European Championships at Bern (CH) 2005

Kendo (剣道 kendō, lit. "sword way") is a modern Japanese martial art, which has evolved from kenjutsu. The basic pieces of equipment used in this activity are shinai and bōgu. Today, it is widely practiced within Japan, and has spread to many other nations across the world.



History Edit

see main article (History of Kendo)

"When looking back into the History of Kendo, there are several fundamental points that cannot be overlooked.

The first point is the advent of the Japanese sword. The Japanese sword that emerged in the middle of the 11th Century (middle of the Heian Era〔794-1185〕 ) had a slightly arched blade with raised ridges (called Shinogi). Its original model was presumably handled by a tribe that specialized in cavalry battles in northern Japan during the 9th century. Since then, this sword was used by the Samurai and production technology advanced rapidly during the period of early Samurai-government reign (end of the Kamakura Era in the 13th Century). In this manner, it is not an exaggeration to say that both its wielding techniques using Shinogi which produced the expression of Shinogi-wo-kezuru, engaging in fierce competition and the Japanese sword were Japanese born products.

After the Onin War occurred in the latter half of the Muromachi Era (1392-1573), Japan experienced anarchy for a hundred years. During this time, many schools of Kenjutsu were established. In 1543, firearms were brought to Tanegashima (Island located off the southern tip of Japan). The Japanese sword was made using the Tatarafuki casting method with high quality iron sand obtained from the riverbed. However, it did not take long before large quantities of firearms were made successfully using this high quality iron sand and the same casting method to produce swords. As a result, the heavy-armored battling style that prevailed up to then changed dramatically to a lighter hand-to-hand battling style. Actual battling experiences resulted in advanced development and specialization of sword-smithing as well as the establishment of more refined sword-handling techniques and skills that have been handed down to the present through the various schools such as the Shinkage-ryu and Itto-ryu.

Japan began to experience a relatively peaceful period from the beginning of the Edo Era (1603-1867). During this time, techniques of the Ken(the Japanese sword) were converted from techniques of killing people to one of developing the person through concepts such as the Katsunin-ken which included not only theories on strong swordsmanship, but also concepts of a disciplinary life-style of the Samurai. These ideas were compiled in books elaborating on the art of warfare in the early Edo Era. Examples of these include: “Heiho Kadensho (The Life-giving Sword)” by Yagyu Munenori; “Fudochi Shinmyoroku (The Unfettered Mind )” by Priest Takuan which was a written interpretation of Yagyu Munenori’s “Ken to Zen (Sword and Zen)” written for Tokugawa Iemitsu, Third Shogunate for the Tokugawa Government; and “Gorin-no-sho (The Book of Five Rings)” by MiyamotoMusashi. Many other books on theories of swordsmanship were published during the middle and latter half of the Edo Era. Many of these writings have become classics and influence many Kendo practitioners today.

What these publications tried to convey to the Samurai was how to live beyond death. These teachings were to be used for everyday life. The Samurai studied these books and teachings daily, lived an austere life, cultivated their minds, and devoted themselves to the refinement of Bujutsu, learned to differentiate between good and evil, and learned that in times of emergency they were ready to sacrifice their lives for their Han (clan) and feudal lord. In present day terms, they worked as bureaucrats and soldiers. The Bushido spirit that evolved during this time, developed during a peaceful 246 years of the Tokugawa period. Even after the collapse of the feudal system, this Bushido spirit lives on in the minds of the Japanese.

On the other hand, as peaceful times continued, while Kenjutsu developed new graceful techniques of the Ken created from actual sword battling skills, NaganumaShirozaemon-Kunisato of the Jiki-shinkage-ryu school developed a new foundation in techniques of the Ken. During the Shotoku Era (1711-1715) Naganuma developed the of Kendo-gu (protective equipment) and established a training method using the Shinai (bamboo-sword). This is the direct origin of present day Kendo discipline. Thereafter, during the Horeki Era (1751-1764), NakanishiChuzo-kotake of Itto-ryu started a new training method using an iron Men (headgear) and Kendo-gu made of bamboo, which became prevalent among many schools in a short period of time. In the Kansei Era (1789-1801), inter-school competition became popular and Samurai traveled beyond their province in search of stronger opponents to improve their skills.

In the latter half of the Edo Era (beginning of the 19th Century), new types of equipment were produced such as the Yotsuwari Shinai (bamboo swords united by tetramerous bamboo). This new Shinai was more elastic and durable than the Fukuro Shinai (literally, bag-covered bamboo sword) which it replaced. Also, a Do (body armor) that was reinforced by leather and coated with lacquer was introduced. During this time, three Dojos that gained great popularity became to be known as the “Three Great Dojos of Edo.” They were: Genbukan led by Chiba Shusaku; Renpeikan led by Saito Yakuro; and Shigakkan led by Momoi Shunzo. Chiba attempted to systematize the Waza (techniques) of bamboo sword training by establishing the “Sixty-eight Techniques of Kenjutsu” which were classified in accordance with striking points. Techniques such as the Oikomi-men and Suriage-men and other techniques that were named by Chiba are still used today.

After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the Samurai class was dissolved and the wearing of swords was prohibited. As a result, many Samurai lost their jobs and Kenjutsu declined dramatically. Thereafter, the Seinan Conflict which occurred in the 10th Year of the Meiji Era (1877) was an unsuccessful resistance movement of Samurai against the Central Government that seemed to give an indication of Kenjutsu’s recovery mainly among the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. In the 28th Year of the Meiji Era (1829), the Dai-Nippon Butoku-Kai was established as the national organization to promote Bujutsu including Kenjutsu.  At around the same time in 1899, “Bushido” was published in English which was considered a compilation of Samurai’s thoughts and philosophy. It was influential internationally.

In the First Year of Taisho (1912), the Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kendo Kata (later renamed to Nippon Kendo Kata) was established using the word Kendo. The establishment of the Kendo Kata provided for the unification of many schools to enable them to pass on to later generations the techniques and spirit of the Japanese sword, and to remedy improper use of hands which had been caused by bamboo sword training and to correct inaccurate strikes which were not at the right angle to the opponent. It was thought that the Shinai (bamboo sword) was to be treated as an alternative of the Japanese sword. And, in the Eighth Year of Taisho (1919), Nishikubo Hiromichi consolidated the original objectives of Bu (or in other words Samurai) under the names of Budo and Kendo since they conformed to them.

After the Second World War, Kendo was suspended for a while under the Occupation of the Allied Forces. In 1952, however, when the All Japan Kendo Federation was established, Kendo was revived. Kendo presently plays an important role in school education and is also popular among the young and old, men and women alike. Several million Kendo practitioners of all ages enjoy participating in regular sessions of Keiko (Kendo training).

Furthermore, Kendo is gaining interest all around the world, and more and more international practitioners are joining the Kendo world. The International Kendo Federation (FIK) was established in 1970 and the first triennial World Kendo Championships (WKC) was held in the Nippon Budokan in the same year. In May 2015, the 16th WKC was held in Tokyo Japan. Kendo practitioners from 56 different countries and regions participated."[1]

Practitioners Edit

Practitioners of kendo are called kendōka (剣道家), meaning "someone who practices kendo",[18] or  kenshi (剣士?), meaning "swordsman".[19] The old term of kendoists is sometimes used.[20]

The "Kodansha Meibo" (a register of dan graded members of the All Japan Kendo Federation) shows that as of September 2007, there were 1.48 million registered dan graded kendōka in Japan. According to the survey conducted by the AJKF, the number of active kendōka in Japan is at 477,000 practitioners, 290,000 of whom have at attained at least shodan. From these figures, the AJKF estimates that the number of "kendōka" in Japan is 1.66 million, with over 6 million practitioners worldwide, by adding the number of the registered dan holders and the active kendo practitioners without dan grade.[21]

Concept and purpose Edit

In 1975, the All Japan Kendo Federation developed then published "The Concept and Purpose of Kendo" which is reproduced below.[22][23]

Concept Edit

Kendo is a way to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the katana.

Purpose Edit

To mold the mind and body.
To cultivate a vigorous spirit,
And through correct and rigid training,
To strive for improvement in the art of Kendo.
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honor.
To associate with others with sincerity.
And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.
Thus will one be able:
To love one's country and society;
To contribute to the development of culture;
And to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.

Equipment and clothing Edit

Kendo is practiced with wearing kendogi, hakama, bōgu, and using shinai.[24]

Equipment Edit

The shinai is meant to represent a Japanese sword (katana) and is made up of four bamboo take, which are held together by leather fittings and a tsuru. A modern variation of a shinai with carbon fiber reinforced resin take is also used.[25]

Kendōka also use hard wooden swords (木刀 bokutō) to practice non-contact kata.[26]

Kendo matches employs strikes involving the shinai hitting designated target areas of the bogu.

Protective bōgu is worn to protect specified target areas on the head, arms and body. The head is protected by a cloth helmet, called men (面), with a metal grille (面金 mengane) to protect the face, a series of hard leather and fabric flaps (突垂れ tsukidare) to protect the throat, and padded fabric flaps (面垂れ mendare) to protect the side of the neck and shoulders. The forearms, wrists, and hands are protected by long, thickly padded fabric gloves called kote (小手). The torso is protected by a breastplate (胴 ), while the waist and groin area is protected by the tare (垂れ), consisting of three thick vertical fabric flaps or faulds.

Clothing Edit

The clothing worn under the bōgu comprise a jacket (kendogi or keikogi) and hakama, a garment separated in the middle to form two wide trouser legs.[27]

A cotton towel (手拭い tenugui) is wrapped around the head, under the men, to absorb perspiration and provide a base for the men to fit comfortably.

Manners and Etiquette Edit

see main article (Reiho)

Practice Edit

Kendo training, or keiko, is loud in comparison to some other martial arts or sports. This is because kendōka use a shout, or kiai (気合い), to express their fighting spirit when striking, which echoes indoors. Additionally, kendōka execute fumikomiashi (踏み込み足), an action similar to clapping the front foot on the ground, when making a strike.

Kendōka train barefoot. Kendo is ideally practiced in a purpose-built dōjō, though sports halls and other venues are often used. An appropriate venue has a clean and well-sprung wooden floor, suitable for fumikomiashi.[22]

Kendo techniques comprise both strikes and thrusts. Strikes are only made towards specified target areas (打突-部位 datotsubui) on the kote, men, or , all of which are protected by bōgu. The targets are mensayumen or yokomen (upper, left or right side of the men), the right kote at any time, the left kote when it is in a raised position, and sides of the . Thrusts (突き tsuki) are only allowed to the throat. However, since an incorrectly performed thrust could cause serious injury to the opponent's neck, thrusting techniques in free practice and competition are often restricted to dan graded kendōka.

  • Kendōka perform sonkyo after combat. 
  • Two kendōka in tsubazeriai
  • Kendo target areas, or datotsubui
  • Two kendōka, one (left) is playing in nitō (two sword style) and the other (right) is playing in ittō (one sword style).

Once a kendōka begins practice in bōgu, a practice session may include the following types of practice.


Kirikaeshi (切り返し)
Striking the left and right men target points in succession, practicing centering, distance, and correct technique, while building spirit and stamina. (see Kirikaeshi for more information)
Waza-geiko (技稽古?)
Waza or technique practice in which the student learns and refines that techniques of Kendo with a receiving partner.
Kakari-geiko (掛稽古)
Short, intense, attack practice which teaches continuous alertness and readiness to attack, as well as building spirit and stamina.
Ji-geiko (地稽古)
Undirected practice where the kendōka tries all that has been learned during practice against an opponent.
Gokaku-geiko (互角稽古)
Practice between two kendōka of similar skill level.
Hikitate-geiko (引立稽古)
Practice where a senior kendōka guides a junior through practice.
Shiai-geiko (試合稽古)
Competition practice which may also be judged.

Techniques Edit

See main article (Waza)

Techniques are divided into shikake-waza (to initiate a strike) and ōji-waza (a response to an attempted strike).[22] Kendoka who wish to use such techniques during practice or competitions, often practice each technique with a motodachi. This is a process that requires patience. First practising slowly and then as familiarity and confidence builds, the kakarite and motodachi increase the speed to match and competition level.

Shikake-waza Edit

These attack techniques are used to create suki in an opponent by initiating an attack, or strike boldly when your opponent has created a suki. Such techniques include:

Oji-waza Edit

These counter-attack techniques are performed by executing a strike after responding or avoiding an attempted strike by your opponent. This can also be achieved by inducing the opponent to attack, then employing one of the oji waza.

Rules of Competition Edit

A valid point (有効打突 yūkō-datotsu) in a competitive match (shiai) is defined as an accurate strike or thrust made onto a datotsu-bui of the opponent's kendogu with the shinai making contact at its datotsu-bu, the competitor displaying high spirits, correct posture and followed by zanshin.[28][clarification needed]

Datotsu-bui or point scoring targets in kendo are defined as:[29]

  • Men-bu, the top or sides of the head protector (sho-men and sayu men).
  • Kote-bu, a padded area of the right or left wrist protector (migi kote and hidari kote).
  • Do-bu, an area of the right or left side of the armor that protects the torso (migi do and hidari do).
  • Tsuki-bu, an area of the head protector in front of the throat (tsuki dare).

Datotsu-bu of the 'shinai' is the forward, or blade side (jin-bu) of the top third (monouchi) of the shinai.[29]

Zanshin (残心), or continuation of awareness, must be present and shown throughout the execution of the strike, and the kendōka must be mentally and physically ready to attack again.

In competition, or shiai, there are usually three referees (審判 shinpan). Each referee holds a red flag and a white flag in opposing hands. To award a point, a referee raises the flag corresponding to the color of the ribbon worn by the scoring competitor. Usually at least two referees must agree for a point to be awarded. The match continues until a pronouncement of the point that has been scored.

Kendo shiai are usually a three-point match (三本勝負 sanbon shōbu). The first competitor to score two points wins the match. If the time limit is reached and only one competitor has a point, that competitor wins.

In the case of a draw, there are several options:

  • Hiki-wake (引き分け?): The match is declared a draw. This is common in team matches.
  • Enchō (延長?): The match is continued until either competitor scores a point. This is more common higher up on individual competition brackets.
  • Hantei (判定?): The victor is decided by the referees. The three referees vote for victor by each raising one of their respective flags simultaneously.[30] This is more common in the first or second round of individual competitions.

International Kendo Competition Edit

See also: World Kendo ChampionshipEuropean Kendo Federation, and World Combat Games

The World Kendo Championships have been held every three years since 1970. They are organized by the International Kendo Federation (FIK) with the support of the host nation's kendo federation.[31] The European championship is held every year, except in those years in which there is a world championship.[32] Kendo is also one of the martial arts in the World Combat Games.

Advancement Edit

See Dan/Kyu Rank System, or Dankyūisei (段級位制)

Grades Edit

The kyū (級) and dan (段) grading system, created in 1883,[33] is used to indicate one's proficiency in kendo. Starting from the beginning, kyu are numbered in descending order with the lowest grade being sixth kyu (六級 rokkyū) and the highest grade being first kyu (一級 ikkyū). The next level up from first kyu is first dan. Dan grades then ascend in skill from first dan (初段 shodan) to tenth dan (十段 jūdan).

All candidates for examination face a panel of examiners. Kendo examinations typically consist of jitsugi, a demonstration of the skill of the applicants, Nihon Kendo Kata, and a written exam.

Titles (称号 shōgō) can be earned in addition to the above dan grades by kendōka. These are renshi (錬士), kyōshi (教士), and hanshi (範士). The title is affixed to the front of the dan grade when spoken, for example renshi rokudan (錬士六段?).

Kata Edit

Main article: Kendo Kata

Kata, are fixed patterns that teach kendoka the basic elements of swordsmanship. The kata include fundamental techniques of attacking and counter-attacking, and have useful practical application in general kendo. There are ten Nihon Kendō Kata (日本剣道形). These are generally practiced in pairs with wooden swords (木刀 bokutō or bokken?)

In 2003, the All Japan Kendo Federation introduced Bokutō Ni Yoru Kendō Kihon-waza Keiko-hō (木刀による剣道基本技稽古法?), a set of basic exercises using a bokuto. This form of practice, is intended primarily for kendōka up to second dan (二段 ni-dan?), but is very useful for all kendo students which are organized under FIK.[37]

Kata can also be treated as competitions where players are judged upon their performance and technique.[40][41]

National and International Organisations Edit

See also: Kendo around the world

Many national and regional organisations manage and promote kendo activities outside Japan. The major organising body is the International Kendo Federation (FIK). The FIK is a non-governmental international federation of national and regional kendo organisations. An aim of the FIK is to provide a link between Japan and the international kendo community and to promote and popularise kendo, iaido and jodo. The FIK was established in 1970 with 17 national federations. The number of affiliated and recognised organisations has increased over the years to 57 (as of May 2015).[42] The FIK is recognised bySportAccord as a 'Full Member'.[43] and by the World Anti-Doping Agency.[44]

Other organisations that promote the study of Japanese martial arts, including kendo, are the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (DNBK) and the International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF). The current DNBK has no connection to the pre-war organisation, although it shares the same goals. The International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF) was established in Kyoto in 1952 and is dedicated to the promotion and development of the martial arts worldwide, including kendo.[17]

See also[edit] Edit

Martial arts portal
Japan portal
  • Gendai budō modern Japanese martial arts
  • Iaidō Sword drawing
  • Jōdō A martial art using a short wooden staff, or stick
  • Kumdo Korean kendo
  • Naginata A martial art using a halberd-like weapon

References[edit] Edit

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  6. Jump up^ (in Japanese)
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  13. Jump up^ Matunobu, Yamazaki and Nojima (1989), 剣道 (Kendo), Seibido Sports Series (27), Seibido Publishers, Tokyo (in Japanese)
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  16. Jump up^ International Kendo Federation
  17. ^ Jump up to:a b
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  20. Jump up^ Sasamori & Warner 1989, p. 69
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  22. ^ Jump up to:a b c
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  25. Jump up^ Sasamori & Warner 1964, p. 70
  26. Jump up^ Sasamori & Warner 1964, p. 52
  27. Jump up^ Sasamori & Warner 1964, p. 71
  28. Jump up^
  29. ^ Jump up to:a b FIK Regulations 2006, p. 6
  30. Jump up^ FIK Regulations 2006, p. 94
  31. Jump up^ World Kendo Championships
  32. Jump up^ European Kendo Championships
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  35. Jump up^ Asahi Picture News, February 1958
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  37. ^ Jump up to:a b c d
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  39. Jump up^ Budden 2000, p. 9
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