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.

Kendo Uniform

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


To compete

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




Makoto Hachiya, Ikki Kato, Sota Mori

 About Kyudo

At the present time, many people know about some of the more famous Japanese martial arts, such as karate or judo, but here we want to tell you about another not so well known Japanese martial art called kyudo. Basically, it can be said to be a form of Japanese archery. When you hear this, we are sure you can imagine what you need to do it, right?  Yes! A bow and arrows are what you need. However, it is not really that easy, as there are actually 8 steps required before you can shoot at the target.

1st:  You have to prepare for the shock of the release, so you have to place your feet outward at a 60 degree angle from each other, a stance which is called Ashibumi.

2nd:  You must keep your body very straight in a position called Dozukuri.

3rd:  You need to do Yugamae, which is to grip the bow and arrow. The left hand has to grip the bow, and the other has to grip the bowstring. Then you gaze at the target.

4th:  To prepare to draw, raise the bow above your head. This action is called Uchiokoshi.

5th:  Next you must draw the bow with the feeling in your bones, not your muscles. And the arrow must be parallel to the ground. This step is called Hikiwake.

6th:  Stretch your arms to the right and left as much as you can. This step is called Kai.

7th:  This step is the release, and is called Hanare.

8th:  The final step is called Zanshin when the body and mind remain still.

If you do the 8 steps correctly, your arrow will naturally hit and go through the target. Nowadays we don’t use our bows and arrows for war or hunting, but we do enjoy kyudo. Playing kyudo and hitting the target is really exhilarating!  It’s hard to hit the target, but when you manage it, words cannot express how great you feel. Don’t forget though, if you don’t follow the 8 steps, your arrow will never hit the target.


KUFS Kyudo Club members


About “Seijin-Syakai”

What is the age of adulthood in your country or other foreign countries? In major countries such as Germany, China, Italy, Russia, France, the U.K, 18 years old is when a person reaches adulthood, and also in 45 states in the United States. This means, there are many countries which recognize that 18 years old is adulthood in the world.On the other hand, in Japan, it is at 20 years old that a person becomes an adult, and there is a coming-of-age ceremony to celebrate this called “Seijin-Shiki”. Women usually participate in “Seijin-Shiki” in a gorgeous kimono, and men generally wear a hakama.

In Kyoto, people who reach adulthood sometimes gather in Sanjusangen-do Temple, and shoot arrows in “the memorial ceremony of shooting on Coming -of-Age Day” called “Seijin-Syakai”(national Japanese long-distance archery meet of the Sanjusangen-do Temple). In the Edo era, there was a “long-distance archery” event for samurai to compete in that challenged them to see how many arrows they could shoot over the course of the day under the eaves (approximately 120 meters in length) of Sanjusangen-do Temple. This was the origin of this great event, and used to be held on the old Coming-of-Age Day, on January 15th, but is now held on the Sunday closest to the 15th every year.

In the current “Seijin-Syakai” meeting, competitors aim at a mark one meter in diameter, set at a distance of 60 meters ahead. The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. under a wintry sky in the depth of winters. Just as in “Seijin-Shiki”, the women compete in a gorgeous kimono, and the men in a hakama. Players shoot just two arrows, and do so without warming up. If these two arrows don’t hit the target, they cannot pass the qualifying stage. The size of the target becomes 50cm in the final, and the skill needed to hit the mark with an arrow from 60m is incredible and very cool! Would you like to watch “Seijin-Syakai” and see the gorgeous kimono and Japanese cool budo “Kyudo”?


Looking good at “Seijin Syakai”

About Kyudo at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies (KUFS)

KUFS Kyudo club has reached the 50th year since its foundation this year. The style of shooting an arrow with a bow must follow the rules of “Ogasawara”. “Ogasawara” is basically the head of a school of good manners. Therefore, there are many arts related to “Ogasawara”: for example, tea ceremony, art of flower arrangement, Kyudo and so on. The master of KUFS Kyudo club is Mr. Ueno. He is a master and supervisor. He has practiced Kyudo for fifty years and holds the rank of 7th dan.

Next, we’ll explain how to practice in our Kyudo club. At first we have to follow the form (the 8 steps needed to shoot an arrow from a bow called “Shahou-hassetsu”) in mind and practice that allows the hands to move freely. In the beginning, we are only allowed to use a rubber bow to acquire a sense of shot with resistance, in order to go on to shoot an arrow from a bow more easily. As we get to the stage where we can shoot an arrow to some degree, we are allowed to have a bow and use it. However, at this step, we are still not allowed to shoot an arrow. We can only use the bow in order to practice the form of a shot, as we have to the learn the feel of resistance from a real bow. Next, we are allowed to shoot an arrow with a bow not at a target, but at a block of straw. Up to this step, it takes us about three months of hard practice. Finally we are allowed to shoot an arrow with a bow at a target. The distance between an archer and the target is 28m in the “Kinteki” style. There are three days for regular practice:  Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. During practice, we make the correct form for a shot and improve on it. The master gives us advice and his assistants, called “Kaizoe”, also help us improve. We can also enter the Dojo at any time if we want to practice.
Our purpose for practicing Kyudo is to win prizes in some competitions; “Kyoto Student Kyudo Championship”, “Kansai Student Kyudo Championship”, and “All-Japan Student Kyudo Championship”. We also aim to be promoted to a higher league. Kyodo is very complicated but student’s Kyudo is simple. We all always practice to win.


A KUFS student in competition