2021 Review

Although things haven’t returned to normal yet, this year – at least for part of it – signalled an ease in the restrictions many of us have been facing since the start of the pandemic. Here in Japan we were never under the (what it looked like from our perspective) often draconian rules that many across the globe have had to deal with, for which I am thankful. Still, Omicron aside, things do look the best they have been in a while. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be welcoming guests from abroad into my dojo here in Osaka and, fingers crossed, I can visit my family and (kendo) friends at home in Scotland.. and perhaps even run a seminar.

Keiko seems to have restarted in many places abroad (surprisingly without masks and shields in some cases) and here in Japan dojo that were closed for a long time have re-opened. This includes my own home-dojo, a police one that had been shuttered since February 2020. I even managed to fit in a small Eikenkai session too!

In March I wrote an article exclaiming Chin Up! to everyone, but I must admit my motivation sunk quite low in the second half of the year, and hasn’t quite rebounded back. Due to all this, I’ve only managed to write a meagre 11 articles this year. Sorry about that. 

(There is also the fact that I have addressed a massive amount of topics in the kendo sphere since the start of this blog in 2008, and kendo really is a niche interest. If you have any ideas for future topics, let me know!)

In the last week alone (Dec 18th-25th), however, I managed to squeeze in 13 keiko sessions – so things do actually seem to be looking up!

2021 review


I attempted to organise all the historical articles on kenshi 24/7 in a single page for convenience. This page can be directly accessed via as well. 

Most popular post

My opinion piece on female gradings back in March generated a lot of feedback, both public and private.

There are two follow-ups to this. The first is, there DOES seem to have been a quantifiable uptick in female passes at kodansha gradings (6th and 7th dan) over the last year, which is good! The ZNKR are doing what they said they would. We need more time to see how this plays out.  

The second the reason for the sudden pivot in regards to female members (practitioners as well as organisational) might be connected to the fact that the ZNKR itself, as a corporation, changed its’ legal status to a “Public utility foundation” during 2020. It’s super complex, and I need to do a lot more research on the matter, but I suspect this has forced change as well. 

Personal favourites (history)

The following historical research articles were fun! 

Shiai changes

In May I talked a little bit about shiai changes here in Japan. Since things are starting to open up abroad, this will probably start to impact a lot more of my readers soon (if it hasn’t already). 

By the way, I have heard zero negative comments about these changes here in Japan, on the contrary most people (including hachidan who run and shinpan shiai) are very happy. Of course, the vast majority of adult practitioners over here don’t bother with shiai, and nobody wasted time in tsubazeriai anyway = any changes are actually moot. The only negative comments I have heard are from abroad. There are many reasons why this may be the case but, like my initial displeasure at having to wear a mask and shield, if you actually try it for a time and see what happens, you might realise it isn’t so bad. In fact, it might be better. Shiai rules have changed over time and will continue to do so. 


I managed to get on the road again! Packing my bogu, shouldering my shiai bag, and heading out the door is something I used to relish. The chance to do so has been severely restricted, so it was with pleasure I managed to get out for some quality degeiko. Not as much as I like, but still.  


Keiko at the Butokuden
A rare pic of yours truly in action


University year-end keiko


Choice pics from instagram:

I’ve actually been taking a lot of video, though I don’t have the time/skill to edit and or make the footage beautiful or cool. Anyway, enjoy:

Quick Butokuden keiko vid
Note the one-armed kenshi doing ai-kirikaeshi … amazing!

So that’s pretty much it for this year!! Hopefully in 2022 we will see things turn to somewhat normal, and I can get back to writing more. Anyway, cheers, and merry xmas!

By George

George is the founder and chief editor of
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7 replies on “2021 Review”

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones as well and hopefully we can meet again sometime soon.

That was excellent and nice to see that things are slowly getting back but I mean slowly, I’m hoping to actually get to Japan and if not then hopefully Edinburgh for your summer seminar, but everything is still up in the air World wide so we can only hope and hang onto that, thanks for sharing the video’s, I wish you well for 2022, best regards from Nova Scotia, Canada.

Dear George,

Thank you, as always, for your posts. They have kept me sane at a time when I do not yet feel comfortable about returning to the dojo.

Sadly, in some countries, the wearing of masks has become a divisive political issue, especially where it is regarded a matter of “personal choice”. This is difficult to comprehend when the science shows that they are beneficial. Fortunately, many other countries have, like Japan, decided to adopt mask-wearing in the dojo.

It’s good to learn that there appear to be steps in the right direction for female practitioners in Japan.

With regard to the temporary changes to the shiai rules, is it really surprising that there have been no dissenting voices in Japan given the hierarchical nature of kendo?

Do you anticipate that, as the changes appear to have been well-received in Japan, the changes might become permanent?

Best wishes,


Thank you for always writing thoughtfully and engagingly. Having re-entered the kendo world after an embarrassingly long break it is nice to discover so much English language content on the internet. I’ve just purchased the digital version of your translation of Noma’s The Kendo Reader and it is simply incredible.

I wish you and your family much peace and happiness in the new year.

@John: Thanks for picking up the book – I hope you enjoy it. And have a good new year yourselves!

@Steve: Thanks for your kind comments. Yeah, the personal choice issue I understand… perhaps had I not been in Japan I wouldn’t have wanted to wear a mask. But, having worn them for longer than most – even in the terrible humidity of the Japanese summer – I can honestly say they aren’t any bother. Safety first. You wouldn’t want to do keiko without kote either I’d assume.
As for the shiai changes, I think most people just realise that it’s practical. Make some sort of compromise or don’t have any shiai. It’s important to also remember that shiai is a young-persons thing over here = it doesn’t impact 99% of adults keiko whatsoever. Where populations start their kendo training later in life, and go through the shiai-phase of their career at an older age, things are different. Will the changes stay? I hope so.

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