Today I will write about the beautiful sports or martial art called Kendo
Kendo 剣道 means the way of the sword, ken剣 means sword and do道 means the way of. I started practicing Kendo 5 years ago and I had the wonderful chance of learning and training in Japan for 3 of those years. Kendo for the non initiated would be referred as Japanese fencing.
The origins of Kendo dates back to the early 1100’s which would have being the Kamakura period in feudal Japan. Back then samurai used to train in kenjutsu, horse riding and archery. Kenjutsu 剣術 means the art of the sword, but jutsu can also mean a life dedication. It was not the primary art that samurai would train but with time and the role of the samurai changed and kenjutsu became the main focus of samurai’s studies. Famous samurai’s established schools of kenjutsu which continued for centuries and which form the basis of kendo practice today. The names of the schools reflect the essence of the originator’s enlightenment. Thus the Ittō-ryū one sword style indicates the founder’s illumination that all possible cuts with the sword emanate from and are contained in one original essential cut. The Mutō-ryu (swordless school) expresses the comprehension of the originator Yamaoka Tesshu, that “There is no sword outside the mind”. The Munen Musō-ryū (No intent, no preconception) similarly expresses the understanding that the essence of kenjutsu transcends the reflective thought process.
In the Edo period the role of the samurai changed from warrior position to a more political figure. The Tokukawa shogunate band the use of sword and the practice of dueling with swords. But the samurai’s could not stop this tradition. Rapidly they started to duel with boken ( woden swords), but even if there was no swords envolve the rate of death due to combat was still really high. A man named Naganuma Sirōzaemon Kunisato is recognized to be the one that introduce the use of bamboo swords and protective armour in the years 1700’s and kendo was born.
In 1895 Dai Nippon Butoku Kai was established it’s role was to standardize all Japanese martial art. Kendo finally got its name in 1920 because before that it was still referred to as kenjutsu or various names. In 1946 kendo along with other martial arts were banned in Japan by the occupying powers. This was part of the removal and exclusion from public life of militaristic and ultra nationalistic persons in response to the wartime militarization of martial arts instruction in Japan. Kendo was allowed to return to the curriculum in 1950. From there the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF or ZNKR) was founded in 1952, immediately following the restoration of Japanese independence and the subsequent lift of the ban on martial arts in Japan. In 1970, the International Kendo Federation (FIK) was founded and kendo could finally be introduce to the world out side of Japan.
Kendo training is quite noisy in comparison to other martial arts or sports. This is because kendōka use a shout, or kiai, to express their fighting spirit when striking. Additionally, kendōka execute fumikomi-ashi, an action similar to a stamp of the front foot, when making a strike. Like some other martial arts, kendoka train and fight barefoot. Kendo is ideally practiced in a purpose-built dōjō, though standard sports halls and other venues are often used. An appropriate venue has a clean and well-sprung wooden floor, suitable for fumikomi-ashi. Modern kendo techniques comprise both strikes and thrusts. Strikes are only made towards specified target areas: on the wrists, head or body, all of which are protected by armour. There is also one thrusts which is tsuki, but it is only allowed to the throat. However, since an incorrectly performed thrust could cause serious injury to the opponent’s neck, thrusting techniques in free practice and competition are often restricted to senior dan graded kendoka.
Kendo is a really beautiful sport and it is a fun activity to practice. Of course there is major differences in training in Japan or outside of Japan but over all the road to understanding kendo and mastering kendo can be done anywhere in the world. You can find really nice videos about kendo on the internet. Most major cities around the world have kendo dojo’s and are open to new comers. If you’re looking to practice one of the oldest form of Japanese martial art I would say Kendo is for you.