September 8, 2014
by Megumi Itakura
What is Kendo?
Kendo is a one-on-one kind of sport, or martial art, that uses a bamboo sword and a special uniform. As Kendo is included in the martial arts its purpose is to build character and develop a strong mind and body. It is a way of learning to understand the rules of Katana use (Japanese sword), and the way of Bushi.
The All Japan Kendo Federation established the concept of Kendo through this mantra in 1975:
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.
Extracted from The All Japan Kendo Federation web site
The origins of Kendo lie in the Bushi art of fencing. A long time ago, a great scramble for territory brought civil wars to Japan. During battles, Bushi (soldiers) developed some special techniques to protect themselves. In these can be found the basis for Kendo. From the Kamakura era onward, there were many Bushi and they fought mainly with Katana (swords). In the Edo area, the basics of Kendo were laid down, as students swapped their katana for bamboo swords, in order to protect themselves when training. From this, many people could engage in the practice and Kendo culture began to spread. After its loss in World War II, Kendo and all Budoh (martial arts) were prohibited in Japan. However, after entering into the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the equipment used was improved to add more safety, and Kendo changed into a kind of sport like fencing. Now, the Kendo World Congress is gaining a presence in more countries every year, and Kendo has been recognized as a cultural heritage of the world, not just in Japan.
The Kendo uniform consists of a hakama (bottom part), and Keikogi (top part) with protective plates over it. The areas of the body that receive the most strikes in an attack are particularly well protected, and the equipment for these are the “Men” (head), “Tare” (waist/abdomen), Kote (hands/wrists) and “Dou” (chest).
Men (head protector/mask) The head is protected by this kind of helmet with a visor, and also by winding a towel around the head beneath it.
Tare (waist/abdomen) The waist protector part has a nameplate with the training hall name or team name on it. Kendo doesn’t allow strikes to the lower half of the body, and this allows combatants greater ease of movement.
Kote (hands/wrists) These are like very tough cloth gauntlets to protect the hands and lower arms from direct strikes.
Dou (breast plate) This protector for the chest and abdomen is covered with tough cowhide.
Shinai (bamboo sword) Kendo players uses a sword made of bamboo called a Shinai. There are different sizes for men, women, and age groups.
|Gender||Junior high school student||High school student||Adult|
|Length||Less than 114cm||Less than 117cm||Less than 120cm|
|Weight||Men||Over 440g||Over 480g||Over 510g|
|Women||Over 400g||Over 420g||Over 440g|
|Diameter||Men||Over 25mm||Over 26mm||Over 26mm|
|Women||Over 24mm||Over 25mm||Over 25mm|
In competition, players compete to get points. Points are awarded for strikes to the head, hands, and abdomen, under rules judged by the referee. Players have to put in an all round good performance though, and not just attack. The competition takes place on an area of nine or eleven meters square. The duration of one bout for elementary school age students is two minutes, for junior high school students, three minutes, and for adults and high school students, four minutes. Extra time is basically three minutes. Since 2007, the final bout of a public tournament is restricted to ten minutes.
Victory is awarded to the player who gets the most points in a one-game match or a two-out-of-three game match. In extra time, the person who gets the first point is the winner, or it can be decided by the referee. Attacks to the throat and chest are very dangerous, so this is prohibited in student tournaments. Kendo has very strict rules and code of conduct on how players must enter and leave the arena, and these must be followed very carefully.
Kendo goods shop
If you want to see Kendo goods or buy them, you can go to certain specialist Kendo shops. Here is a very good one:
On the first floor, there are many Kendo goods, as well as some for other martial arts. The third floor is a show room solely for protectors, and there is also an artisan’s atelier.
Address: Shinsuimaru-cho 451-1 Kamikyo-ku, Kyoto
Take Kyoto City bus No 50 and get off at the Omiyanakadachiuri( 大宮中立売) bus stop. Walk east for about 100m