The following is a translation of a note that was sent to every prefectural kendo association in Japan recently and published on the ZNKR website today. It makes for interesting reading, so I thought I’d share it with kenshi 24/7 readers. It starts of harmless enough, then meanders into the …. well, I’ll let you decide. Anyway, please read it and comment if you wish!

Kendo shiai / those involved in refereeing

The following matters should be brought to the attention of all people concerned with running shiai.

1. Shinai compliance.

Please ensure again that everyone involved with shiai is complying with the shinai rules correctly.

2. About the calligraphy style on name tags.

At various shiai recently people have been spotted wearing name tags that are hard to read. Please teach people to use name tags that are legible.

3. Correct vocalisations on a strike.

Some competitors have been making illegible noises when executing strikes. Please teach people to kiai correctly, using “men, kote, do, tsuki” on their attacks.

4. Use of the correct kendo terminology.

The ZNKR has published its uniform terminology in the ‘Kendo shidoyoryo’ manual. Please re-check with this manual and teach the correct terms.


Correct: shiai-jo; incorrect: court
Correct: nafuda; incorrect: zekken, tare-namu
Correct: nakayui; incorrect: nakajime
Correct: kendogi; incorrect: keikogi
Correct: kendogu; incorrect: bogu (the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology may use the term ‘bogu’)

5. During a shiai, what to do when the tsuru is not facing upwards

As a general rule, when someone is spotted using their shinai with the tsuru isn’t facing upwards and cautioned on it, the shushin (chief referee) should not touch the shinai when cautioning the competitor (inform the competitor of their error by pointing towards the area of their tsuba and using gestures; if the competitor is young then its permitted to touch the tsuba or tsuka in order to teach them what the correct position is).

The original Japanese is here.

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Published by George

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  1. Thank you for the information. I will share it here in Canada, as whatever happens there will eventually trickle down.

  2. I´m pretty shocked by the “Correct vocalisations on a strike.” one. I know it´s the proper way to do it, but in this case, the higher level competitors are the first failing to do so. I wonder if shinpan will start to negate ippons because of this.

  3. 1 is nothing new really;

    2 makes sense but I’m sure bogu – sorry – Kendo shops won’t like it.

    3 is of course has always been the preferred method but where do you draw the line? Men-oooo, men–aaa, oooo-men…. are they ok ?

    4 might make sense in some situations, i.e. using Japanese instead of foreign language elements in order to keep the tradition (e.g. court, zekken, men-towel) but when they say ‘bogu’ and ‘keikogi’ aren’t correct they are basically wrong.

    5 is fair enough, but if the rationale is to make the shinai more ‘sword-like’ I think there are better solutions.

    All in all, a bit of a random statement imho.

  4. Kendogu? OK…hmm…I think it’ll be tough to change that. It’s been a while since I was in Japan, but do folks really call it Kendogu?

  5. One more chapter in the “standardization” novel… aren’t there some more relevant issues to be discussed by ZNKR than “keikogi or kendogi”?

  6. Nobody. It will just be the word of choice for officially produced books etc.

    I think that part in particular is some sort of re-branding exercise …. including removing non-Japanese terms from use.

    I really can’t stand the term ‘men towel’ for tenugui…..

  7. hello George, thank you for posting this article. In my opinion, it is of fundamental importance for Kendo/Kendoka to stick to some basic rules, some basic but very important details such as these that the article points out. The small details make the difference.

  8. I agree that small details make the difference, but I think some of the details make no sense in this case, specifically some of the terminology ones.

  9. well, i believe that you are correct concerning your comments about No 4. (keikogi, bogu etc) but i believe that their point is for kendoka to learn/know the original terminology, and after that they can learn other similar words that can/could be used in replacement. For example, i didnt even know the words “nafuda”, “kendogi”, “kendogu” ..

  10. The note begins with the statement: “The following matters should be brought to the attention of all people concerned with running shiai”, so unless you are one of the people running shiai I guess its irrelevant. It will probably become the norm sometime, though.

  11. I think you’ve hit on something here … it might not seem strange to you because you aren’t obviously a Japanese speaker.

    If the ZNKR issued a statement saying that you can’t say “hand protector” or “helmet” anymore but must use “glove” and “face mask” for translations of kote and men, I think people would laugh. This is just an example of course.

  12. Dang, left out wahgi, dogu and I use the kendogi/keikogi inter-change all the time. The nafuda is a pet peeve of mine, people using kanji phonetically, people using their first name, and assuming outside of Japan all the shinpan read katakana which they do not. The purpose of the nafuda is to let the shinpan know that the correct person is out there on the court. It took some arguing to get some folks to understand that you do not want a 6 foot + 15 year old using a 37 shinai so they should add “use common sense” to some of this. Jeff Marsten

  13. Kendogi and kendogu make sense, as they are specific terms to kendo rather than the more general terms of “keikogi” and “bogu,” but I’ve always been taught the other way. It’ll be difficult to switch at first. I’d personally like to hear more good kiai from practitioners myself, and some of the modern kendo irks me a bit (like letting go of the shinai on Do strikes), but that’s because I was taught traditionally, and I respect the idea that they want to get back to that.

  14. 1,2, no comments on those.
    3, there was a sensei who used to say, “you wanna fight, you wanna fight, you wanna fight,” after he struck kote or men.
    5, seems reasonable.
    4, seems kind of reactionary to whatever might be going on in kendo scene in Japan and also in Japanese society. Reminds me of the French with their effort to get rid of anglicization of French. Language is dynamic and changes all the time and efforts to reign that in might be impractical. Recently, I was making a point about the subconscious influence of cultures on Korean society, and using language as an example. I started to go over a Korean advert placing where each terminology came from and about 1/4 were Japanese, 1/3 English, 1/3 Chinese characters (kanji), and the rest were what can be termed Korean. We were at a bar and the advert was about a Japanese beer so mileage will vary, but the point of Korean language going through immense change holds. I would imagine the case is similar in Japanese society in general and kendo in particular. Hence my thought that this seems to be a rather impractical reactionary attempt by ZNKR to what might be an inevitable dynamic quality of language.

  15. Dont know about 4…. as all other sports say ‘zekken’ and ‘court’ so theres little chance of its use in kendo changing soon. Seems a bit random from nowhere!

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