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Japanese kendo fighter with with shinai

What is Kendo?

                     What is Kendo?

                     The word Kendo literally translates to "the Way of the Sword".

                     Kendo is a form of Japanese fencing: a martial art based

                     on the traditional sword fighting techniques of kenjutsu.

                      While its battlefield roots are preserved

in kata (technical forms) executed with a bokuto

(katana-shaped wooden sword), kendo mainly

involves full-contact one-on-one sparring using

a bamboo sword (shinai) and lightweight armour (bogu).

The armour consists of the men (helmet),

do (lacquered breastplate), kote (padded gauntlets),

and tare, which protects the thighs and groin.

Points are scored by strikes to the head, wrists or waist,

as well as by thrusts to the throat. 

Kendo training is energetic but perfectly safe and can be

practiced by participants of any age, gender, or level of fitness.

Kendo focuses on the principles of Japanese etiquette

and zen philosophy, allowing practitioners to cultivate themselves

and make lifelong friends.

The All Japan Kendo Federation defines the concept of kendo as follows:

"The concept of kendo is to discipline the human character through the application

of the principles of the katana."


The History of Kendo

The origins of Kendo reach back hundreds of years. Following Japan's Warring States period, the country entered an era of peace. The samurai worked to preserve their combat techniques, leading to the development of a variety of schools or ryuha.

In the early 1700s, a number of these schools introduced the use of bogu and shinai, allowing swordsmen to practice without risk of injury.

During the Meiji era, the samurai class was dissolved and the use of swords outlawed. However, the surprising effectiveness of the katana-wielding Battotai during the Satsuma Rebellion sparked a renewed interest in kenjutsu, and members of the police force came to integrate kata into their training.

During this time, unemployed samurai found a new calling as contestants in public fencing matches known as gekkiken. The practice became hugely popular and helped solidify many of the rules and regulations seen in modern kendo.


At the turn of the century, the Dai-Nippon Butokukai was formed, establishing kendo as a martial art. The Butokukai devised the Nihon Kendo Kata from select schools of kenjutsu, linking kendo to its past. Inspired by the Olympian philosophy of the founder of judo, Kano Jigoro, the organisation envisioned kendo to be a spiritual discipline that could combine Japanese martial virtues with a respect for life and peace. 

These ideals were quickly undercut as the government appropriated kendo in service of army and empire. It was made a compulsory part of schooling, both at home and in occupied territories. This pre-war kendo was brutal, with leg sweeps, groundwork and chokeholds – all a part of training for the soldiers and soldiers-in-waiting.

Following the Second World War, kendo was prohibited by the Allies, but it was kept alive in secret and, for a brief period, in the form of shinai kyogi, a denationalised and westernised sport. In 1952, the All Japan Kendo Federation was established, reviving kendo as a martial art. Modern kendo recognises its cultural history while allowing practitioners to cultivate open hearts and honest spirits through serious practice. 

In recent decades, kendo has been gaining global popularity. The International Kendo Federation was created in 1970 and currently has over 70 member states. The number of kendo practitioners is estimated to be 1.66 million within Japan, with over 6 million worldwide.

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