Health and Fitness
What Is Kendo
You may be wondering, "what the heck is this kendo thing?"
- the short answer: kendo is Japanese fencing
- the long answer: kendo is a Japanese martial art which trains the mind
and body and cultivates one's character through one-on-one combat using a
bamboo sword while wearing traditional clothing and protective equipment
- a junior answer: kendo is fun! You get to run around wearing cool armor,
beating each other on the head, arms, and sides, while yelling loudly to call
your points and show your spirit
- a senior answer: kendo is a lifetime commitment to a way of
self-discipline, technique, etiquette, responsibility, and fellowship
The real answer: kendo is all of these things, and more!
- Shinai, literally "bamboo sword." Made of 4 slats of bamboo, the tip,
center, and handle are wrapped in leather and held together with a string. The
shinai is held with two hands, with the right hand on top (nearest the sword
- Keikogi. Upper garment, similar to a heavy shirt or light jacket.
- Hakama. Lower garment, similar to very long culottes.
- Tare. Hip and groin protector.
- Do. Torso protector, made of lacquered bamboo slats.
- Men. Head, shoulders, and throat (tsuki) protector; the face is protected
with metal bars.
- Kote. Hand and forearm protector.
A scoring point is defined as an accurate strike or thrust to a correct area
of the opponent's protective equipment using the proper area of the shinai,
with high spirit and correct posture, and followed by physical and mental
alertness. This is much harder than it sounds :-).
- the valid strike areas of the protective equipment are shown below.
- the valid strike area of the shinai is the top one-third of the shinai
on the "blade" side of the shinai (the side opposite the string).
- kiai is the vocalization of one's spirit, concentration, and
attack. For a strike to be valid, you must call out the name of the point at
the same instant it is struck, with spirit and intensity. Another type of
kiai is kakegoe, in which you vocalize your spirit and willingness to
do combat against your opponent.
- posture. In kendo, the normal posture is with the right foot in front, the
left heel slightly raised, the body facing squarely to the front, and the back
and neck straight. When striking, at the moment of impact the arms should be
straight, the hands should be "snapping" the shinai into the point, the foot
should be landing, and the body should be straight and "into" the strike.
- zanshin refers to mental and physical focus completing an attack.
A scoring point is the combination of ki-ken-tai-ichi
, meaning the
spirit, sword, and body are one. Before being allowed to wear protective
equipment, a beginner spends many months or even years practicing valid
strikes from the proper distance to the various targets.
Note: I posted the above article almost 20 years ago
(it ended "to be continued..."), where it languished
on my inactive website at
I've been writing more about kendo
after becoming head instructor at
Norwalk Kendo Dojo
and establishing its website in 2006.
And I've finally updated my alumnus page... it now forwards to Seeking42!