kendo theory

The concept of kendo in action

The following is a translation of an extremely interesting hand written note given to Jim Gucciardo (NYC kendo club) by Nishino Goro hanshi in 1998.

Nishino Goro hanshi was born in 1923 in Kochi prefecture. After graduating from Tokyo Normal Higher School he became a school teacher in Hokkaido. After the war he returned to his home prefecture and worked as a high school teacher. He has taken part in the Senshuken Taikai (“All Japans”), the kyoshokuin taikai (All Japan teachers championshop), kokutai, etc. He is the honourary kendo teacher of Kochi Prefectures Medical University.

Putting the concept of kendo into practise

This can be found in the pursuit of yuko datotsu.

(The steps to this run sequentially as follows:)

  1. Getting an ippon by hitting (striking);
  2. Getting an ippon by cutting (cutting, thrusting, evading);
  3. Cutting cleanly with clarity (a cut that leaves little doubt);
  4. Cutting your opponents heart/mind (a cut that strikes at the psychological or spiritual weakness of your opponent);
  5. Wielding the sword harmoniously (accepting defeat and feeling gratitude at the same time);
  6. Wielding the sword with compassion, being able to close into your opponent through strength of spirit alone.


  • Dont express winning or losing through your physical manner, remain calm.
  • Both yourself and your opponent must be in unison.
  • The beauty of kendo can be found in choosing not to cut even when you can.

– Nishino Goro, 1998.


As you can see by the image emblazoned in the header (written in the traditional Japanese style of right->left), the steps towards deeper understanding of the Concept of Kendo as understood by Nishino hanshi progress from 1-6 and parallel the movement from reliance on waza/technical ability (技) towards the more mental/psychological aspects (心).

As any practitioner of kendo can imagine, these stages are not always uniform in length nor does the change between one to another happen as smoothly as we would like them to…. if we are even cognisant about them at all. For most of us its a struggle just to get to step 3. If that is the case, then how much harder is it then to continue to aim towards a more complete understanding of the Concept of Kendo?

In this short note I can see that not only is my kendo experience shallow at best, but It reminds me that kendo indeed is not a race, but a lifetime endeavor*. I hope readers can also take something away from this short message.

* See “Lifelong Kendo” in the “The Mindset of Kendo Instruction


Thanks again go to Jim for passing this note to me and allowing it to be translated and made public to the readers of As small a note as it is, I think its a very personal one. Cheers!

By George

George is the founder and chief editor of
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25 replies on “The concept of kendo in action”

Thank you very much for posting this. I am very happy to share with your readers what Nishino Sensei has graciously shared with me. I do believe that any insight into the mind of a Hanshi Hachidan is an extremely valuable thing. The only correction I have to ask to make is that I am a member of the New York City Kendo Club ( Kataoka Sensei) and not Ken-Zen dojo.

Thanks again

Very nice and I would like to say my thoughts exactly but I’m afraid I’m not that deep.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the design put on a tenegui or something? From waza to kokoro a life long struggle to remind us everytime we put on our men. I would like to have one like that and I assume others as wel. Just an idea.
Thanks for sharing this with us.

This article has drawn attention of the Russian kendo community and the following question has arisen: How would you comment on the significance of the choice of verbs “hit/strike” in (1) vs. “cut” in (2)-(4)? As far as I understand, the Japanese text also has “ateru”(?) vs. “utsu”.

@arefiev: if I may comment on this, I believe that the term translated as “hit/strike” (当て・叩きあい) refers simply to the shinai making contact with the target. The term translated as “cut” (打つ) meanwhile refers to a deliberately executed technique.

If I remember correctly, the difference between 打つ and 当たる is described in Go Rin no Sho, but unfortunately I don’t have the book on hand right now to give you an extract from it.

Hey Andrei, I am glad that we have some Russian readers and that this small article has “drawn attention of the Russian kendo community” !!

The choice between HIT, STRIKE, and CUT in the English is – for me – a hard one to make. Based on my own prejudices and experiences, I tend to think that (in kendo terms at least) that hitting or striking is inferior to cutting. Cutting implies a stronger, more solid strike (!!) than simply hitting. Like many things in kendo (and budo in general) some things are very hard to explain verbally. Those that are involved in doing the arts often have the same experiences and somehow manage to communicate them to each other… usually physically. Its kind of mystical and makes writing about it hard!

Many people who do kendo are just slapping the shinai into the men or kote with a kind of pushing action (and with no thought about hasuji). Sure, you hit your opponent, but experienced people will not feel that they have been cut… simply hit. An easy example for me is: imagine hitting a drum with a drumstick vs chopping some wood for the fire. You don`t hit wood and you dont chop a drum.

I translated the piece with the caveat that I am not a professional translater. I also deliberately left the original Japanese in place so that speakers/readers can read and refer to it themselves.

Richard, George, thanks for the comments!

In the meantime we got a translation directly from Japanese (into Russian) by a Japanese kendo yondan who is living in Moscow for the present. I believe, your comments correspond directly with what he’s written!

>I am glad that we have some Russian readers and that this small article has “drawn attention of the Russian kendo community” !!

Actually, while you might not get much feedback from them, there are many more than just me who are reading this website.

Privyet Andrei ( and George)

If I may elaborate on this. In a conversation I had with Nishino Sensei he described to me 3 different types of ippon.
1- When your shinai hits the opponent in the correct place.
2- When you make correct yuko datotsu and the point is awarded.
3- (and true ippon) When you make yuko datotsu and touch the opponents heart ( kokoro).

hmmmmm… something to think about.


My regards to all at MosKenKai. I do miss Moscow.

I don’t know if you remember me, but I believe we’ve met at one of the Russian Kendo Championships in Podolsk. I don’t often see people from MosKenKai, but I’ll pass your regards to them when I do.

I’d be happy to repay my debt (in beers!), except I’m not sure I’ll be in Japan in any foreseeable future. How about England? 🙂

I have plans to come to England for seminars twice this year, but between Stevenage, Birmingham and Brighton I’m afraid I won’t have a chance to get to Scotland!

thanks for posting this.
I feel sorry for the departure of Nishino Sensei as he gave the name to the dojo I belong to in Italy (Koshikan).

can I ask if you could post an Hi-resolution image of the paper?

I would really appreciate


Hello, this is my first time posting here.

I was wondering if someone might be able to explain the third point made:

“The beauty of kendo can be found in choosing not to cut even when you can.”

Perhaps I’m reading more into it than is there, but could someone shed some light on what they think this is referring to? Is this referring to a situation in which a senpai or sensei is teaching a younger student, or is it one in which there are two peers -or is it a universal statement?

In the first situation it seems to be a matter of courtesy or sensitivity, but what of the other two?

If between two peers, could it be a situation in which one kenshi knows he has the initiative and “defeats” the other without striking, or is it some sort of compassion? But I believe it is also possible to strike with compassion too, as is best exemplified in an article from KW:

“I couldn’t do anything against that men. It wasn’t a destructive blow that smashed into my head, but a gracious and caring strike.”
– Kurozumi Sensei regarding a match with Ogawa Sensei (in 2.2 Hanshi Says)

I’m really trying to piece this all together, but am falling short. I’ve never been instructed to let an opportunity pass (indeed usually it leads to me getting a good couple whacks to the men.)

Any thoughts?

Maybe you are over analysing a little bit? For me its pretty straightforward and I believe it refers to a senior-junior situation. Its possible to completely and utterly defeat your junior at times, but what value is there in that? There is more worth in choosing not to put them down, but to bring them up…. by allowing yourself to be struck.

Sorry for the short reply… I’m on holiday at the moment!!!!

Hello Mr. MCCall:

as a student of him I fell the duty to tell you, that Nishino sensei did at Aug. 5th, 2012.

Jörg Potrafki

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