Womens kendo in Japan: a survey

The following is a very brief synopsis of questionnaire results that were featured in an article by Kendo Nippon (Dec 2008) entitled “女性剣士の現状と「これから」” (The present condition of womens kendo and its future). I will list the questions and there results but will leave you to draw your own conclusions from there or to discuss in the comments. If you want to find out more then please buy the magazine!

Q1. Do you feel its necessary to have a “female quality” in kendo? (剣道において、「女性らしさ」の必要性を感じるか?)

Feel that it is: 66%
Feel that it isn’t: 22%
Other: 12%

Q2. Are there times when you feel that practising kendo as a woman is inconvenient? (女性は剣道を行なう上で、どのような時に不便を感じるか?)

12 respondents – Family doesn’t support me
9 respondents – Can’t ensure the Keiko time/place
7 respondents – No or few keiko partners
6 respondents – In the evening/holidays I can’t go to keiko
6 respondents – Its incompatible with my job
5 respondents – Feel a difference between the level of the mens keiko
4 respondents – Easily get sick
4 respondents – Period / period pains
3 respondents – Can’t take part in a shiai (can’t make a team)
2 respondents – I have other things that are more important
8 respondents – Others

Q3. When it comes to kendo techniques, what are the areas that women are worried about? (女性の技術面の悩みとしては、どのようなことが多いか?)

10 respondents – Not enough muscle strength (筋力)
5 respondents – Not enough physical fitness (体力)
5 respondents – Not enough speed
3 respondents – Striking power is weak
3 respondents – Difference between men and women
1 respondent – Difference in height
7 respondents – Others

Q4. How many women are there in your kendo club/dojo? (所属の会、道場の女性の人数は何人か?)

1-2 people: 2 respondents
3-4 people: 5 respondents
5-6 people: 6 respondents
7-8 people: 5 respondents
9-10 people: 4 respondents
11-12 people: 1 respondent
13-14 people: 0 respondents
15-16 people: 2 respondents
17-18 people: 3 respondents
19-20 people: 2 respondents

20 people : 2 respondents

Q5. How many times do you practise a week? (一週間の稽古の数は?)

2 days: 31%
3 days: 28%
4 days: 9%
5 days: 0
6 days: 0
7 days: 6%
No answer: 6%

Q6. Practise areas. (稽古場所。)

12 respondents – School gym
7 respondents – Sports Centre
6 respondents – City/town Budokan
6 respondents – Company dojo
5 respondents – Private dojo
3 respondents – Other
2 respondents – No response

Q7. Breakdown of the grade of female members of your dojo. (女性会員の段位取得者の内訳。)

Shodan-sandan: 42%
Yondan-godan: 44%
Rokudan: 6%
Nanadan: 2%
No respondents: 6%

Q8. What about the environment you do keiko in? (稽古の環境について。)

Normal mixed male/female keiko: 40%
Keiko that includes childrens lessons: 34%
Female only keiko: 15%
Others: 11%

Q9. Have you ever had a break in practise? (稽古を中断していたことは?)

About 30 percent answered YES.
[Editor: the format of this in the magazine is hard to read, so I simplified it here]

Q10. If you have, what was the reason. (中断していた理由。)

22 respondents – Being pregnant / child care
8 respondents – Getting married
7 respondents – Work
2 respondents – Graduated from school/university
3 respondents – Health problems
2 respondents – Injury
7 respondents – Others

Q11. Breakdown of mother and daughters that practise together. (母子ともに剣道をしている人の割合。)

Together: 46%
Not together: 54%

Q12. As a woman, what are the merits of kendo, and your aims? (女性にとって剣道の価値・目標。)

16 respondents – To grade
8 respondents – To take part in shiai
6 respondents – To keep good health
5 respondents – To polish technical skills
4 respondents – [Editor: sorry, can’t read the kanji!]
4 respondents – To do beautiful/correct kendo
3 respondents – To enjoy it
2 respondents – To lower stress
2 respondents – For spiritual/mental reasons
2 respondents – To help educate my children
2 respondents – To help me communicate with my children
2 respondents – To meet people
5 respondents – Others

This was only a small survey taken at a couple of shiai back in 2006 and in no way can be seen to represent the entire female kendo population of Japan. However, these types of surveys seem to be few and far between, so I think its useful to reproduce here. What you make/think of it is up to you.

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  1. Leiv Harstad
    January 7, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Where did you find that rediculous photo?

  2. Kapplow
    January 7, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I call the one on the far right.

  3. George McCall
    January 7, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I can’t remember where I found this photo, but its priceless!

    The woman on the far left looks like a cross between Wonder Women and Xena.

  4. Leiv Harstad
    January 7, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Kapplow, she’s all yours mate. I’m with George on this one.
    They all look like Russian mail order brides.

  5. George McCall
    January 8, 2009 at 12:29 am

    And I was hoping for some insightful comments….. ( ̄ii ̄)

  6. Eliza
    January 8, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Thanks for sharing this George! What an interesting to read. Wish I could come up with something more insightful to say….too tired right now though. 😉

  7. H.Sandsleth
    January 8, 2009 at 4:57 am

    It is sad that so many report lack of support from the family

  8. Alphons Metselaar
    January 8, 2009 at 5:18 am

    The girls are a Dutch Group from the eighties. They are called the Dolly Dots.They quit after being world famous in Holland and apparently were in Japan. They even made a movie, maybe this is from the movie? The one in blue is nowadays on TV as a fashion cop. She checks out your wardrobe and then finds fault with it. A make over is the result. 2nd from the left continued singning and is now a judge in TV talentshows. The others I don’t know. Russian mail order brides? You’ve been too long in the inaka I guess.
    Here some recent pics.
    Insightful info indeed. I wonder how the percentages would be in Europe?

  9. George McCall
    January 8, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Thanks for the info Alphons…. youve solved an ancient puzzle!!! (I’ve been watching Dolly Dots videos on youtube)

    With regards to European ladies kendo, a survey of just numbers vs dan (vs country) would be interesting in and of itself.

  10. Aleka Mor
    May 23, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    Yes, I’d like to see a similar survey -or even better- expansive research done on the topic in other European countries. Having faced some these issues myself. Interesting when I took a kendo ‘break’, I was dismissed largely by male dojo peers as having packed it in. While that took it, it was a ‘sabbatical’.

    Ridiculous photo! Do you hate women?

    Ganbatte kudasai. (Not cultural appropriation)

  11. M
    May 24, 2018 at 3:58 am

    Second one from the left for me. Thanks!

  12. George
    May 25, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    Aleka, no I don’t hate women. And yes, the photo is silly.

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