Your Ad Here


Filed under: , by: Donny


Focus Weaponry
Hardness Semi-contact
Country of origin Flag of Japan Japan
Creator Naganuma Sirōzaemon Kunisato (長沼 四郎左衛門 国郷), attributed
Parenthood Kenjutsu
Olympic Sport No

Kendo (剣道 kendō), or "way of the sword", is the Japanese martial art of fencing. Kendo developed from traditional techniques of Japanese swordsmanship known as kenjutsu.

Kendo is a physically and mentally challenging activity that combines strong martial arts values with sporting-like physical elements.

Practitioners of kendo are called kendōka (剣道家), meaning "one who practices kendo", or kenshi (剣士), meaning "swordsman".

Kendo is practised wearing traditionally styled clothing and protective armour (bōgu), using one or two bamboo swords (shinai) as weapons. Kendo may be seen as a Japanese style of fencing. The movements in kendo are different from European fencing because the design of the sword is different, as is the way it is used. Kendo training is quite noisy in comparison to other martial arts or sports. This is because kendōka use a shout, or kiai, to express their spirit, and when a strike or cut is performed, the front foot contacts the floor in a motion similar to stamping.

There are estimates that about eight million people world-wide practice kendo with approximately seven million in Japan. However, the "Kodansha Meibo" (a directory of high-ranking members published by the All Japan Kendo Federation) states that as of January 2003, there are 1.3 million registered kendo practitioners in Japan. In Korea, there are about 500,000 practitioners of kendo (known as kumdo in Korea) as of 2005, according to the Korean Kumdo Association.

Kendo is one of the modern Japanese budō and embodies the essence of Japanese fighting arts.

The concept and purpose of kendo

In 1975 the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF) developed then published The Concept and Purpose of Kendo.

The concept of kendo

Kendo is a way to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana (sword).

The purpose of kendo

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.
This will make one be able:
To love his/her country and society.
To contribute to the development of culture
And to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.

Equipment and clothing

Kendo is practiced using a shinai (竹刀 しない). One, or more rarely two shinai, are used. The shinai is the practice "sword" and is made up of four bamboo staves, which are held together by leather fittings. Kendoka also use bokken/bokuto (wooden swords) to practice more formal, set forms known as kata.

Protective armour bōgu (防具 ぼうぐ), is worn to protect specified target areas on the head, arms and body. The head is protected by the helmet-like men ( めん), the forearms and hand by gauntlets called kote (小手 こて), and the body by the ( どう) and tare (垂れ たれ). The clothing worn under the bogu comprises a jacket, or kendogi/keikogi and a hakama, which is a trouser-like garment with wide legs.


Since the earliest samurai government in Japan, during the Kamakura period (1185-1233), sword fencing, together with horse riding and archery, were the main martial pursuits of the military clans. In this period kendo developed under the strong influence of Zen Buddhism. The samurai could equate the disregard for his own life in the heat of battle, which was considered necessary for victory in individual combat, to the Buddhist concept of the illusory nature of the distinction between life and death.

Kendō at an agricultural school in Japan around 1920

Kendō at an agricultural school in Japan around 1920

Those swordsmen established schools of kendo training which continued for centuries, and which form the basis of kendo practice today. The names of the schools reflect the essence of the originator’s enlightenment. Thus the Ittō-ryū (Single sword school) indicates the founder’s illumination that all possible cuts with the sword emanate from and are contained in one original essential cut. The Mutō (swordless school) expresses the comprehension of the originator Yamaoka Tesshu, that "There is no sword outside the mind". The 'Munen Musō-ryū’ (No Intent, no preconception) similarly expresses the understanding that the essence of kendo transcends the reflective thought process. The formal kendo exercises known as kata, were developed several centuries ago and are still studied today.

The introduction of bamboo practice swords (shinai) and armour (bogu) to kendo training is attributed to Naganuma Sirōzaemon Kunisato (長沼 四郎左衛門 国郷, 1688–1767). This is believed to be the foundation of modern kendo. Kendo began to make its modern appearance during the late 18th century. Use of the shinai and armour (bogu) made possible the full force delivery of strikes and thrusts without inflicting injury on the opponent. These advances, along with practice formats, set the foundations of modern kendo.

Concepts such as mushin, or "empty mind" as professed by exponents of Zen, are an essential attainment for high level kendo. Fudoshin, or "unmoving mind", is a conceptual attribute of the deity Fudo Myo-O, one of the five "Kings of Light" of Shingon Buddhism. Fudoshin, implies that the kendoka cannot be led astray by delusions of anger, doubt, fear, or surprise arising from the opponent’s actions. Thus today it is possible to embark on a similar quest for spiritual enlightenment as followed by the samurai of old.

The Dai Nippon Butoku Kai was established in 1895 to solidify, promote, and standardise all martial disciplines and systems in Japan. The DNBK changed the name of Gekiken (Kyūjitai: 擊劍; Shinjitai: 撃剣, "hitting sword") to kendo in 1920.

Modern practice

Kendo is ideally practiced in a purpose-built dōjō, though standard sports halls and other venues are often used instead. An appropriate venue has a clean and well-sprung wooden floor, suitable for the distinctive stamping footwork used by the bare-footed practitioners.

In modern kendo, there are strikes (or cuts) and thrusts. Strikes are allowed only to be made on specified target areas, or datotsu-bui on the wrists, head or body, all of which are protected by bogu. The targets are men (top of the head), sayu-men or yoko-men (upper left and right side of the head), the right kote, or wrist at any time, the left kote when it is in a raised position (such as jōdan-no-kamae also known as jōdan) and the left or right side of the or torso. Thrusts are only allowed to the throat (tsuki). However, since an incorrectly performed thrust could injure the neck, thrusting techniques in free practice and competition are often restricted to senior dan graded kendoka.

Once a kendoka begins to practice in bogu, a practice session may include any or all of the following types of practice.

  • Kiri-kaeshi: successively striking the left and right men, practice centering, distance, and correct technique, while building spirit and stamina.
  • Waza-geiko: waza or technique practice in which the student learns to use the many techniques of Kendo with a receiving partner.
  • Kakari-geiko: 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.
  • Ji-geiko: undirected practice where the kendoka has a chance to try all that has been learnt, against an opponent.
  • Gokaku-geiko: practice between two kendoist of similar skill level.
  • Hikitate-geiko: practice where a senior kendoka guides a junior through practice.
  • Shiai-geiko: competition practice which may also be judged.


In shiai, or competition, a point is only awarded when the attack is made firmly and properly to a target point with ki-ken-tai-ichi, or spirit, sword and body as one. This means that for an attack to be successful, the shinai must strike the specified target, the contact by the shinai must happen simultaneously with the attacker's front foot contacting with floor and the kendoka must vocalise an expression of kiai that displays good spirit. Additionally, the top third of the shinai must make contact with the target and direction of movement (hasuji) by the shinai must also be correct. Finally, zanshin, or continuation of awareness, must be present and shown before, during and after the strike, then the player must be ready to attack again.

In a tournament, there are usually three referees, or shinpan. Each holds a red flag and a white flag in opposite hands. To signal a point, the shinpan raise the flag corresponding to the colour of the ribbon worn by the scoring competitor. Generally, at least two shinpan must agree, for a point to be awarded. The match continues until a pronouncement of the point that has been scored.

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 tie, there are several options:

  • The match may be declared a draw.
  • The match may be extended (encho), and the first competitor to score a point wins.
  • The winner may be chosen by a decision made by the shinpan, or hantei, in which the three referees vote for their choice. This is done simultaneously, by show of flags.


Technical achievement in kendo is measured by advancement in grade, rank or level. The kyu and dan grading system is used to assess the level of one's skill in kendo. The dan levels are from sho-dan (1) to ju-dan (10). There are usually 6 grades below sho-dan known as kyu. The kyu numbering is in reverse order with ikkyu (1) being the grade immediately below sho-dan.

In the AJKF the grades of kyu-dan (9) and ju-dan (10) are no longer awarded. However, FIK grading rules allow national kendo organisations to establish a special committee to consider the award of those grades.

There are no visible differences between kendo grades; beginners may dress the same as higher-ranking yudansha.

All candidates for examination face a panel of examiners. A larger, more qualified panel is usually assembled to assess the higher dan grades.

Kendo examinations typically consist of a demonstration of the applicants skill and for some dan grades, also a written exam. The hachi-dan (8 dan) kendo exam is extremely difficult, with a reported pass rate of less than 1 percent.


There are 10 nihon kendo kata (Japanese kendo forms). These are performed with wooden swords (bokken/bokuto), the kata include fundamental techniques of attacking and counter-attacking, and have useful practical application in general kendo. Occasionally, real swords or swords with a blunt edge, called kata-yo or habiki, may be used for a display of kata.

Nihon Kendo Kata

Nihon Kendo Kata

Kata 1–7 are performed with both partners using a daitō or tachi (long sword) style bokutoh of around 102 cm. Kata 8–10 are performed with one partner using a daitō and the other using a kodachi or shoto (short sword), style bokutoh of around 55cm. During kata practice, the participants take the roles of either uchidachi (teacher) or shidachi (student). The uchidachi makes the first move or attack in each kata. As this is a teaching role, the uchidachi is always the 'losing' side, thus allowing the shidachi or student to learn and gain confidence.

Nihon kendo kata were drawn from representative kenjutsu schools and tend to be quite deep and advanced. In some areas the regular training curriculum does not include nihon kendo kata.

In 2003, the introduction of Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho, a set of basic exercises using a bokuto, attempted to bridge this gap. This form of practice, is intended primarily for kendoka up to ni-dan (2), but is very useful for all kendo students.

Outside Japan

Kendoka at the 2006 World Fencing Championships in Turin, Italy.

Kendoka at the 2006 World Fencing Championships in Turin, Italy.

The International Kendo Federation (FIK) was established in 1970 and in December 2006 admitted their 47th national or regional federation as an affiliate. The World Kendo Championships have been held every three years since 1970.

Taken from: