kendo shiai

Rule change: Tsubazeria version 2.1

The rules changes had been in essentially an experimental stage since Autumn 2020 and now – after using them at various shiai over the past year – there has been a slight massaging of them. The information about the change started to disseminate to local federations about six weeks ago or so but the ZNKR didn’t release their official instructional video on YouTube until yesterday, hence the timing of this article.

Check out the instructional video here (in Japanese, but you can get the gist): 

Essentially, what has changed is minor:

In May 2021 I wrote an article discussing shiai rule changes for tsubazeriai that were implemented due to the pandemic and the (immediate and measurable) impact of said changes. That article had actually been my fourth one on this general theme (see articles from 2009, 2013, and 2018), and I guess today is my fifth.

- Once you have arrived in tsubazeriai you have "one breath" to execute a technique. Not a set amount of time, but "a moment." 

- When separating from tsubazeriai it should be quickly in one action rather than small, careful steps backward. This is basically to reduce time wasted moving back.

The ZNKR video shared above includes actual high school shiai where you can see the changes in action. 

Other rules that are being applied related to this in high school shiai are:

- Violation of the separation rules doesn't immediately mean a hansoku. The first time you get a warning, from the second time onwards a hansoku will be applied.

- Moving into tsubazeria to avoid getting hit (i.e. as defence) warrants a hansoku (in practice this can be difficult to judge).  

Another new rule for high school kendo not connected with tsubazeriai is this:

- When a shinai breaks, or the nakayui is loose, etc., you have to immediately change to another shinai (already prepared with a tsuba and tsuba-dome attached) rather than waste time re-tying things or swapping tsuba etc. 

Outside of Japan

I heard that the tsubazeria changes (not the slightly modified ones I am talking about today, but the ones introduced last year) are being used abroad, including at this months European Kendo Championships. I didn’t manage to catch so much of the EKCs live stream but of what I did, it didn’t seem like things were being executed in quite the same way as over here (yet). For example one person would back out of tsubazeriai and the other person would almost immediately follow them – this would be a hansoku under the current rules.

Also, my impression was there was still lots of hikiwaza being scored, which isn’t happening so much over here now. 

Bonus: changes in basic practice in my high school club 

Up until the pandemic started here at my club hikiwaza was an essential part of kihon training, and we also had some drills that incorporated taiatari and/or hikiwaza. For most of the last two years we did almost zero hikiwaza and very little taiatari, but lately we have re-added a modified hikiwaza element to kihon practice. Let me give you a short textual description here.

1. From a far distance kenshi X and Y start their seme-ai, closing distance as they do so. 

2. Both either attack men (the best situation) or fumikomi-in and close distance rapidly while defending themselves.

3. In tsubazeriai (or almost in tsubazeriai) Y pushes Xs kote (push in for men, down or up for dou, or"punch" to the left / push to the right for kote) and immediately executes a hikiwaza. Note that after entering tsubazeria (if they indeed enter it) Y can immediately start the hikiwaza process or take "a moment" before doing so. 

4. X chases Y as they move back, but keeps just out of distance while Y moves back into chudan.

5. Next X and Y start seme-ai again (1), close distance (2), but this time X executes a hikiwaza (3). 

Like this X and Y practice executing hikiwaza turn-about until each has done three strikes. 

Note that in (3) above I use the term “almost” tsubazeria – you can still practise hikiwaza without going into tsubazeria proper.

This is just one example of how to practice hikiwaza within basic training with these rules in mind. I hope it helps. 

(Personally I don’t care for this run-in-run-out type of kendo, but it is good for the students). 

By George

George is the founder and chief editor of
For more information check out the About page.

8 replies on “Rule change: Tsubazeria version 2.1”

“Note that in (3) above I use the term “almost” tsubazeria – you can still practise hikiwaza without going into tsubazeria proper. This is just one example of how to practice hikiwaza within basic training with these rules in mind.”

Yes, I believe it’s “chukan no ma” as the term being used for these new “rules” in mind. With my own experience with top H.S. kendo here, many of the points are taken here now and other schools are trying to catch up and study this method of hikiwaza strategy. However to be good at it, those with good footwork are at an advantage. Well, in the end, it’s always footwork (anyway) and not your upper body. Feet first, rest follows.

Is the intent to return to as was once the epidemic is classed as under control?

@Miguel – thanks for that. I guess introducing new rules right before a shiai was always doomed to fail!

@Paul – as explained before, everyone is happy about the results so I guess (I assume) there is no going back.

I found most of the rule change regarding separation clearly is not related to COVID(prohibit defense, hitting shinai, hooking, reverse crossing and etc). The new rules are confusing and lack of further explanation of the rationale from the authority. I wound not say everyone is happy.

If you have been following the discussion here you’ll see that the pandemic situation was used as an excuse to re-jig something that has been an issue since at least the 1970s. Although some people might not be happy, you have to remember two things: 1. that the people who run and teach kendo in Japan across all age ranges are very happy; 2. that the vast majority of active competitors in Japan are children = it doesn’t really have any effect on adults kendo at all.

All in all, the competition changes are probably here to stay.

It’s obvious make shiai a separate and run competition. Actually, it already happened.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.