What is Kendo?
Kendo is the modern art of Japanese fencing using shinai (bamboo swords). Translated literally “Ken” is the Japanese character meaning sword and “Do” means way or path; together this means “The way of the sword”. This describes a path in life designed to build both character, self-discipline, skill and respect for others through training with the
sword. Supremely elegant and beautiful to see at its highest levels it is both a physical and mental discipline open to practitioners of all ages.
Rooted in the traditions of Japanese samurai swordsmanship, kendo is now a modern Budo – a “martial way” that can lead us not only to technical sporting competence but to a better understanding of ourselves.
Kendo’s origins lie in the great sword schools that emerged during the turbulent Muromachi period (1336-1568) of Japanese history. This was a time of great internal conflict in Japan, with an increased demand for men skilled in the martial arts needed to serve feudal Lords. The many sword schools of this period continued to flourish through the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) and the Ittoryu school is the one that has had the most lasting technical influence on modern kendo.
Training with real swords was an inherently risky business. Therefore many schools in the 18th century adopted techniques and equipment that allowed for safe practice. Thus kendo began to take on its modern appearance with the introduction of protective equipment and the use of the shinai.
After WW2 kendo, along with all other martial arts, was prohibited due to its nationalistic and militaristic connotations. However, in 1952 it was successfully reintroduced into modern Japanese society in a “pure sport” form more in fitting with the needs and values of a post-war culture. Since then it has become an integral part of Japanese culture with a universal message. Modern kendo, whilst having a sporting and competitive element, continues to be steeped in traditions that preserve both its appearance and appeal to generations of
Kendo continues to grow and develop under the guidance the All Japan Kendo Federation, the International Kendo Federation, and federations the world over.
On the first Tuesday and Saturday of the month the Renshinjuku dojo starts a kendo beginners programme. All you need to begin is a desire to learn! In these classes you will train under the supervision of experienced kendo practitioners in a class of students of similar level. You will work on learning the basic kendo body-postures, footwork and sword-cuts, along with proper etiquette, terminology and care of equipment.
No special clothing or equipment is necessary when beginning to study and train – you can wear loose sports/workout clothing and the dojo can supply you with a shinai (bamboo sword). When ready you can purchase training clothes (dogi and hakama) and shinai through the dojo. The first month of training is totally free, so you can get a good introduction to the art before deciding to commit to it. After that dojo fees are due on a quarterly basis.
The minimum age for beginners is 7 years.
If you would like to visit us, please contact the leader of the dojo you would like to attend.
Enrolling as student
If you decide that kendo really is something you enjoy, you can become a member of our dojo. Monthly dues are €22,50 per member. It is also recommended that students become members of the NKR (the dutch kendo association), for insurance and training purposes. NKR membership is €60 per year (or €30 for minors).
During your first weeks or months, all you need are normal sports clothes. A track suit is fine, as are shorts and a shirt. Each dojo has shinai and bokken which can be borrowed for the duration of class. After that, you will want to purchase a basic set of gear:
- A hakama (pleated trousers)
- A keikogi (thick jacket)
- A shinai (bamboo sword, for full-contact practice)
- A bokken (wooden sword, for kata practice)
After a few months of training you may progress to wearing kendo armour (bogu) – firstly the chest and hip protectors (do and tare) and later the wrist/hand and head protectors (kote and men). The time it takes to reach training in armour depends on the frequency of your traning and the speed of your progress. When you are wearing armour you then move on to training fully in the general class.
Things you need to know
Some benefits of Kendo training
- Physical conditioning, emotional and mental maturity.
- Etiquette, courtesy, morality, ethos, respect, empathy.
- Concentration, focus, attentiveness, eagerness to learn.
- Agility, dexterity, co-ordination.
- Endurance, strength, perseverance.
- Learn proper care of equipment and tools.
- Promptness, reliability, accountability.
- Orderliness, neatness.
- Make it a habit to sit in SEIZA quietly at the beginning and end of training.
- Always value the basics.
- Practice repeatedly and many times; practice with someone formidable.
- Practice with a proper attitude.
- Practice with courtesy and respect.
- Be unobsessed with winning.
- Practice with desire to study the principles.
- Have devotion to KENDO and practice with initiative.
- Practice with determination.
- Value graceful, elegant, dignified KENDO.
- Be prepared physically and mentally then practice with eagerness.
- Know your capabilities and practice accordingly.
- Learn by experiencing.
- Always consider ways to improve.
- Be mindful of everyday life.
- Be conscious of safety.
- Be conscious of health and hygiene.
- Do not overextend yourself unreasonably.
- For youths, consider how school work and KENDO can be balanced.
- Grasp the value of watching; humbly learn the merits of others by observing.
- Always do warming up and cooling down exercises.
About the dojo
- The term DOJO comes from Buddhism meaning “place to study.” This originally referred to the platform the Buddha meditated on.
- Commit yourself to sincere training when entering the DOJO;
- Appreciate having a place to practice and people to practice with;
- Maintain cleanliness; take care of your own belongings neatly (eg, shoes, clothes).
- Know the location of KAMIZA, the upper seat. This may be a shrine (SHINDEN), national flag or other symbol. The term KAMIZA can be written in different Japanese characters which mean “upper seat” or “towards the altar.” Beginners line up towards the lower end (SHIMOZA) of the dojo.
- Preliminary steps
- Put on the KENDO-GI and HAKAMA properly (CHAKUSO). If you are just beginning, normal casual sportswear will be sufficient.
- The SHINAI represents a sword (KATANA, KEN) – treat with respect. Do not step over it. When picking it up from the floor or placing it on the floor, drop one knee (the one away from the KAMIZA) to the floor (ORISHIKI) and handle it carefully.
- Check equipment for damage, especially the SHINAI. A splintered SHINAI is dangerous especially to your opponent. If equipment is damaged ask the SENSEI to help repair it. Eventually, learn to repair your own equipment.
- Check your physical condition and health. Hygiene is an important aspect of BUDO – learn how to wash KENDO-GI and HAKAMA.
- Learn the names of SHINAI parts: TSUKA, TSUBA, TSURU, NAKAYUI, KENSEN (SAKIGAWA).
- KENDO is a Japanese culture (BUNKA); KENJUTSU, the medieval warfare technique, became KENDO as moral, ethical and philosophical aspects of SAMURAI training became part of the art. BUTOKU (virtues of the way of SAMURAI) are considered to be beneficial even today. It has been said that KENDO is spread internationally and people are actively living the spirit of KENDO, so it is a civilisation (BUNMEI).
- At first, the physical aspect of KENDO may be encouraged. As one progresses to a higher rank, cultural, philosophical and other cognitive and affective aspects become important.
- It is equally valuable to observe others practice (MITORI GEIKO).
- Pay attention to others and show consideration when others are practising.
- For the very young, exercises without SHINAI may help develop agility, strength, co-ordination: dashing, jogging, jumping, walking in squat position, etc.
- REI is a way to pay respect and show acknowledgement.
- Upon entry to the DOJO, enter then REI to the KAMIZA. This is a way to pay respect to the DOJO and to commit yourself to a sincere practice. Keep the back straight and bow from the hip to about 30-degrees with eyes naturally to the floor. Some DOJO have religious symbols (SHINDEN) which represent deities of BUDO. When exiting, REI to the KAMIZA, then exit.
- Commands may be:
- KAMIZA NI REI (to the upper seat),
- KAMIZA NI REI (to the altar),
- SHOMEN NI REI (to the front),
- JOZA NI REI (to the upper seat),
- SHINZEN (SHINZA) NI REI (to the altar),
- SENSEI NI REI (to the teachers),
- OTAGAI NI REI (to each other)
- Acknowledge the SENSEI (teachers), SENPAI (seniors) and each other with REI. This is to show respect and appreciation. To someone senior bow first and rise last, to each other bow together simultaneously.
- At the start of a class, sit at SEIZA, REI to the KAMIZA, then REI to the SENSEI; at the end, REI to the SENSEI, then REI to the KAMIZA.
- SEIZA is a formal sitting position; sit in this position whenever possible. Sit in the informal legs-crossed posture ANZA (AGURA) if permitted. Written in another Japanese character SEIZA means to sit quietly (as in MOKUSO).
- Overlap the big toes only, not the feet; hands on the lap without flaring elbows out, back and neck straight, eyes forward, sit gently so that a sheet of paper between the heels and buttocks could easily be pulled out.
- When changing direction (e.g., to REI to KAMIZA), move the knees in small increments without putting the hands on the floor.
- MOKUSO: literally means contemplate in silence; a way to calm the mind, focus and regulate breathing. Gently close the eyes, or close them halfway, (HANGAN) by focusing on the floor about 3 feet in front of you. Breathe gently and deeply from the abdomen (KOKYUHO) and focus your KI in the lower abdomen. Place the hands in front with the left hand over the right and the tips of the thumbs touching (HOKKAI JYOIN).
- The teachers may say “think of nothing”, “focus”, “think of something big like the universe”, etc. Alternatively, a command “SEIZA” (sit quietly) may be used since the goal is to focus and remove irrelevant thoughts (MUSHIN) rather than contemplate.