KendoBrief History and Background of Kendo

Kendo (way of the sword) is a Japanese sword fighting martial art that was established sometime in the late 18th century. Much of Kendo is taken from Kenjutsu which was a popular way to practise the art of sword fighting amongst Samurai.

The use of bamboo swords and protective armour came about in the late 17th/early 18th century, allowing the practise of full force attacks in many sword fighting martial arts.

Kendo was banned in Japan in 1946, as the government at the time didn’t want fighting or militarialised practise amongst it’s people. However it was eventually reintroduced to the public in 1950 as Shinai Kyougi, but renamed back to Kendo from 1952.

The All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF) was established in 1952 and views Kendo as an educational sport and not a martial art. The International Kendo Federation (FIK) was established in 1970 and is the world governing body of Kendo and has many attached organisations. There are competitive Kendo tournaments just like many other martial arts with a World Kendo Championship which is held every 3 years.

Kendo has a concept and purpose that is set out by the AJKF. Basically the concept is said to be a way to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the katana and the purpose is to mould 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 honour, Kendoto associate with others with sincerity and to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself. Therefore one will 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.

Some of the organisations include:
All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF), British Kendo Association (BKA), European Kendo Federation (EKF) and International Kendo Federation (FIK).

KendoKendo Training

Practitioners of Kendo are called ‘Kendoka or Kenshi’.

Kendo requires a lot of mental and physical strength, the practitioner cannot be led astray by delusions of anger, doubt, fear, or surprise arising from the opponent’s actions, these four are collectively called “the four Kendo sicknesses”.

The practitioner must wear protective clothing and armour, particularly for the head, arms and body when practising full contact moves. Although many can start non contact practise without the protective gear.

Kendo is quite noisy, with lots of shouting and foot stomping. As there’s usually no footwear being worn, dojo’s usually have a good sprung wooden floor, such as a sports hall.

Techniques practised are mainly of a striking and thrusting nature, with specific target areas. There are many techniques to learn and they are all taught in a slow and controlled manner, with speed being developed with experience. The practitioner will be taught how to execute these techniques effectively and how to read their opponents moves to be able to take advantage of their mistakes/weaknesses.

Set sequences of moves are normally set out in kata’s and can include attacking and counter attacking moves.

There is a grading system measured in six kyu’s numbered 6-1, followed by 8/9 dans.

Kendo Equipment/Gear Used

Jacket (Keigoki)
Trousers (Hakama)
Armour (Bogu):
Helmet with grille face guard and neck/shoulder protectors (Men)
Cotton head towel (Tenugui)
Breast plate (Do)
Protective skirt/waist armour (Tare)
Gloves (Kote)

Weapons used in Kendo

Shinai – Bamboo practice swords, usually made from 4 pieces of bamboo and bound together with leather. Some modern shinai can be made from carbon fibre or various woods (Bokken).

Celebrity Kendo Practitioners (or those that have dabbled in it)

Billy Zane
David Lee Roth
Phillip Rhee
Sonny Chiba
Ken Kensei
Arnold Schwarzenegger (for Conan the Barbarian)
Tom Cruise (for the last Samurai)

Movies featuring Kendo or related

Seven Samurai
Samurai Banners
Black Rain
The Twilight Samurai
The Last Samurai
The Hidden Blade
13 Assassins
47 Ronin
4th Dan (short film)