A few days ago (on the 19th of March to be exact) the ZNKR released a memo regarding changes in stipulations regarding kendo equipment. As it was only written in Japanese, today I’ve decided to briefly translate it so you can know what’s going on. Although the proposed changes are only concerned with Japan, it follows that changes here will naturally affect people living outside of Japan… eventually.
Seeking public comments on proposed changes to rules regarding the safety and fair-use of kendo equipment (inc. shinai)
The background of the proposed changes
With aim of making kendo armour and shinai easier to move in and use, over the past few years we’ve seen a lightening of and a change in shape of said equipment. Of course, we welcome new development and ideas. However, when we consider safety and fairness factors, some of these changes make us anxious. Due to these factors, we have decided to look at reviewing a portion of the current rules regarding equipment.
Specific rule changes
(Here I will not fully translate the entire missive, only the proposed changes)
The proposals specifically deal with the protection of the forearm and shoulders.
Shinai should not have large gaps between the bamboo slats, be obviously damaged, or have a strange shape.
Men(dare) should be long enough to protect the shoulders, and also have enough padding to withstand impact.
Kote should protect at least 1/2 of the distance between your wrist and elbow and have enough padding to withstand impact.
The depth of the cut in the kote cuff should be no longer than 2.5cm (see image below).
The sleeves on keiko-gi must be long enough to cover the elbows when in chudan.
From now on
From this year the following shiai will use these new rules: the Todofuken taikai (ladies), the Tozai taiko, and the All Japan Championships (mens and ladies).
We plan to amend the rules based on how things go at these shiai and on the comments we receive.
Accordingly, the official start of these rules will be in April 2019.
First, before I start, if you want to officially write a comment please do so here. I’m not sure if they will accept messages in any language other than Japanese, but you can try.
I haven’t practised kendo for that long – nearly 25 years – yet in that time I’ve seen quite a few rule changes. When I was younger and competing actively, these changes meant something but, now that I’m older and I don’t compete, they have nothing really to do with me (and I suspect, most practitioners). Aside from super-official shiai (i.e. the World, European, or All Japan level ones), when do officials inspect your equipment anyway? Even then, it’s only your shinai, not your bogu, so, on the face of it, these changes are mostly meaningless.
However, there is a definite problem they are attempting to address that I think is important: super-lightweight bogu and men with really short mendare.
I have two men that look nice but I simply cannot use for day-to-day keiko. I have tried, but they are just too light = painful. I have one set of kote that I had to retire in good condition because I was afraid my wrist or forearm would be injured during keiko if I used it more than I already had. The men and kote I had were super light, flexible, and easy to use, but they offered almost no protection.
When it comes to the mendare discussion I am completely bias: I think short mendare look ugly. Not being a kendo fashion leader, however, the short mendare craze continues despite my opinion!
Anyway, this was just a short post to let you in on these proposed amendments.
Please note I made an error in translation regarding the last kote point and have updated it with a picture to clarify.