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Tsurugi Bashi Kendo Kai

Kendo

Kendo is, literally, the way of the sword. It is a modern martial art derived from the centuries-old swordsmanship tradition of the samurai. The All Japan Kendo Federation says:

Kendo is a way to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the katana.

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Why practice kendo? We quote again from the All Japan Kendo Federation:

The purpose of kendo is to mold the mind and body, 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 honour, to associate with others with sincerity, and to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.

Thus one will be able to love one's country and society, to contribute to the development of culture, and to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.



Terminology

The terminology of kendo is, obviously enough, based on Japanese terms. A web search will return word lists of various degrees of usefulness and accuracy but the authoritative reference is the Japanese-English Dictionary of Kendo published in 2000 by the All Japan Kendo Federation. Hard to get hold of, but well worth obtaining if you are serious about kendo.

To get you started, a brief word list is included in our page ofinformation for beginners.



Equipment

Kendo is practiced with a shinai (bamboo sword), which is a shock-absorbing weapon made of four slats of bamboo held together by leather fasteners, suitable for full-contact free sparring against an adversary wearing armour. Kendo is also practiced with a solid bokuto (wooden sword), shaped like a katana; this type of sword is used in the context of kata (forms), which are performed without armour. Repeated practice of the kata is important to master the techniques of kendo. Experienced high-ranking practitioners have such a great control of their techique that they can practice kata with real swords.

The aforementioned beginners' page has further information on the kendo swords and armour.

Like most kendoka, we have an interest in Japanese swords.

We organized a seminar on Japanese swords and the proceedings are available for download here.



Ranking

Modern kendo uses the dan-to-kyu grading system originally introduced by Kodokan Judo in the 19th century, with the difference that there is no external indication of one's grade such as a differently coloured belt. The kyu grades start from 6th (lowest) up to 1st and are followed by the dan grades, corresponding to "black belts" in other martial arts, from 1st (lowest) up to 8th.

There are restrictions on how soon one can attempt a grading after having passed the previous one. These requirements go up with the grade: you need to practice for at least one year between 1st dan and 2nd dan, two between 2nd and 3rd, three years between 3rd and 4th, and so on.

There is also a system of honorific titles known as sho-go which, in addition to one's technical level (mental elements included) as indicated by the dan grade, indicates one's level of achievement with respect to leadership and judgement as a kendoka. There are three levels: renshi (must be at least 6th dan), kyoshi (at least 7th dan) and hanshi (at least 7th dan). Hanshi swordsmen are the absolute highest level of authority in kendo.

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