Kendo – The Way of the Sword

Kendo means “the way of the sword”. Another in the many forms of Budo, or Japanese Martial Arts.

Around 900 AD, the Japanese developed the curved samurai sword by improving on earlier Chinese and Korean designs. It was the beginning of this, the Japanese style of fencing, called Kenjutsu, which encompassed the traditional Battlefield techniques of Japanese Swordsmanship employed by the Samurai.

From 1100 AD, Kendo developed under the strong influence of Zen Buddhism. Swordsmen who became enlightened through the practice of Kendo established schools of Kendo training which continued for centuries, and which form the basis of Kendo practice today.

Kendo teaches not only physical fencing techniques but also a philosophy which is inherent to Budo. This intense and rigorous training will develop stamina, increase agility, enhance mental concentration and alertness, and promote all-round well-being and above all, respect for others.

Kendo inspires its practitioners to practice hard, to endure against adversity, to stand valiantly against the strong and to show compassion toward the weak.

Fencing was originally practiced using steel or wooden swords, often resulting in serious injury to the fencers. So in the late 18th century, bamboo practice swords and light practice armour was devised. The equipment looks very much as it did then, today.

Practitioners are called kendoka which means one who practices kendo. These Kendoka are practising Iaido, a different form of Sword work. The deft movements of the blade make it look deceptively easy.

Strength and endurance steadily develops thru wielding the specially designed practice sword called an Iaito. Kendoka spend a moment meditating before practice in preparation to spend the next hours of their life concentrating on Kendo

The sword was believed to be the spirit of the samurai. A reverent bow is made to the sword out of respect, for each sword when used, has the power to take or give life.

Kendoka fence using both the edge and point of the sword to hit targets on their opponent’s armour. In modern Kendo, there are two types of attacks – strikes and thrusts. Strikes are allowed against only certain areas on the body

The four main targets are the top of the head, the throat, the abdomen and the wrist. Ranking in Kendo is similar to many other martial arts, ranks can range up to 8th Dan.  However there is no external sign of rank worn on the clothing.

If participating in Kendo, one would practice the formal Kendo exercises, known as ‘kata’. There are 10 basic kata. Many of these exercises were set down several centuries ago. Thus today it is possible to embark on the same quest for spiritual enlightenment and physical training followed by the samurai of old.

So if you have a yearning to transport yourself back in time and step into the shoes of a Samurai, or want to experience this elegant and esteemed form of Japanese Fencing. Kendo can take you out of your comfort zone and into an ancient world.