Mokumoku shugyo 黙々修行

I picked up my first nama-kiji dou in 2015, as a sort of present to myself. Up until that time – unbelievably – I’d never had a bamboo dou. There were a couple of reasons why I didn’t get one: the main one being economic, and the second that I thought that (somehow) a bamboo dou would be really heavy (not necessarily true).

With these reasons in mind I never really thought about buying one until one day I walked into my local kendo shop and – boom – there was a beautiful bamboo dou-dai sitting on top of the counter. Within about 3 minutes I said “I’ll take it!” It was pure impulse buy.

Continue reading Mokumoku shugyo 黙々修行

Old style #2 (KendoStar) 古めかしい (その2)

Takano Sasaburo
Takano Sasaburo looking snazzy

So, even relatively new kenshi 24/7 readers probably realise that I’m a bit old-fashioned when it comes to kendo/budo things, perhaps you could even call me a bit of an antiquarian (though kendo stuff isn’t really that ancient!). My passion for old kendo things falls mainly in four areas: books, equipment, dojo, and people. A fifth area – my classical swordsmanship background – I have yet to discuss in detail on kenshi 24/7. Maybe in the future.

Anyway, today’s post is an introduction/review of two pieces of kendo equipment that were 100% custom made for me with my penchant for the old-fashioned in mind.

Continue reading Old style #2 (KendoStar) 古めかしい (その2)

Leather Tsuba (review #2) 革鍔

In December 2013 I wrote a review piece about a small one-craftsman-operated company that hand makes beautiful leather tsuba (for both bokuto and shinai). In the three plus years since then many people have stopped me and commented on the tsuba as they are so unique and well-crafted that they catch the eye immediately.

Recently, I custom ordered another smaller-sized tsuba (I prefer using super small tsuba) and, as a bonus, I received another gorgeous wave decorated one as well. Looking at the pictures below, I’m sure you’ll agree they really are works of art.

For more information please visit

2017 Tsuba gallery

These are the new tsuba I got:

2013 Tsuba gallery

These are the tsuba I got back in 2013:

Shinai placement 竹刀の置き方

The following is a slightly revised and renewed essay from kenshi 24/7’s now unavailable mini-publication “Kenkyu and Kufu” originally published in 2014. Current publications can be viewed at

If you watched the final of the All Japan Kendo Championships last November (2013) you might have watched the two finalists put on their bogu and stand up prior to the match. Did you notice that – soon to be 3rd time winner – Uchimura Ryoichi picked up his shinai with his right hand first before switching it to his left as he stood? Years ago I was told that the Tokyo Metropolitan (Keishicho) police kendo squad did this to deliberately differentiate themselves from others, sort of like saying “we are special, better than you.” Of course, this is not the reason at all.

In almost every kendo club you attend, whether that be here in Japan or abroad, everyone places their men and kote on their right hand side when sitting in seiza, and their shinai on the left. The direction the kote point differ depending on the dojo, but in general things are orientated in this manner. There is nothing explicitly said about which way the tsuru on the shinai should be facing, but most people tend to point it down.

As some may have already realised, this is completely different to the way we are taught to handle bokuto (or kata-yo katana) in kata training: in seiza, bokuto are placed on our right hand side with the blade facing inwards. The reason often given for this is that it’s a non-threatening posture and, indeed, seemingly it was common that samurai did this with their weapons when sitting.

If the shinai is meant to represent a conceptual sword, why then do the majority of kendo practitioners sit in the way they do? Why don’t we place the shinai on the right (with the tsuru facing outwards) and our bogu on the left?

I’ve read two anecdotes about how this situation occurred. The first is that the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR) first made it standard to place the shinai on the left hand side and the bogu on the right after World War 2. It was deemed less difficult for young kids to master, which of course may be true (confusingly, the child-orientated Bokuto Ni Yoru Kihon Keiko-ho that was introduced in the 2000s uses the standard bokuto-on-the-right arrangement). Another story is that it became an issue during the 3rd World Kendo Championships. When the Japanese team lined up 2 members were from Keishicho, the other 3 were teachers. Naturally the 2 Keishicho kenshi placed their shinai on the right whereas the teachers placed it on their left. “Shouldn’t we all be doing it the same way?” one Japanese competitor asked the manager. “Well, just for now place the shinai on your left.” After the competition was over the issue was raised back home and the ZNKR sensei took a vote. It was decided – by a margin of a single vote – that the shinai should be placed on the left.

I’m not sure of the extent of the truth behind either anecdote, but the fact of the matter is that we seem to have different reigi depending if you are holding a shinai or a bokuto. I think it would not only be less confusing (for all involved) but also in line with the shinai-as-a-sword concept if we handled our shinai as we do our bokuto, assuming of course that this concept is indeed important.

Practice bogu (KendoStar) 稽古用防具

Earlier this year I was delighted (jealous!) when my friend Andy decided to break free of the shackles of Japanese company life and go independent. Out of his new projects, his new online bogu company with a super cute name – KendoStar – is what interests me the most. The idea behind KendoStar is to provide Japanese-made bogu tailored specifically for the international kendo community (rather than for the domestic Japanese market).

KendoStar’s flagship Kaisei model looks delicious but, since I don’t reaaaaaally need something of this quality at this time, I couldn’t justify picking up a set (maybe later!). The more reasonably priced Shinsei model, however, I could.

As the website description stated that it is designed “to be a functional and practical armour set… with a simple, yet elegant design” and “a fantastic option for experienced Kendoka, who need a second set for travel, or as a good-value main set to replace a borrowed, or worn-out armour” I had a couple of jobs perfect for the Shinsei model:

1. to act as a rotation-set for my work keiko sessions;

2. to use sometimes when I travel directly from work to a degeiko session.

I used to keep two full sets of bogu at work for these reasons, but I was forced to retire one after it fell apart after 10 years of abuse (that men was also very heavy and not conducive to lugging around). So with these two excuses in mind I ordered myself a set.

After using the set for the past two weeks here are my thoughts.

(Note that I got the men, kote, tare value set, no dou)

KendoStar: Shinsei (men)

I had two immediate impressions of the men when I unboxed it at first, first that it looked really nice (as you can see on the picture above), and second that it was super light. Putting it on that first day it basically felt like I wasn’t actually wearing anything it was that light. At first this was quite disconcerting, but eventually I forgot about it and got on with keiko.

Despite being so light the men stood up to getting struck repeatedly during hard kihon sessions over the past two weeks easily. I think this is the 6mm tighter stitching working it’s protective magic. Off-target strikes on the mendare also benefited from extra protection/durability due to the use of gunome-zashi (check the description on the website).

I do have one aesthetic caveat about the men, which is complete personal preference – I prefer longer mendare. It is the fashion here in Japan nowadays to have shorter mendare, and I do know many people that have taken their old men and cut them down, but I personally prefer them long. YMMV.

KendoStar: Shines (kote)

The kote are excellent: the wrist area is super flexible, they felt comfortable from the get-go (they fitted snuggly into my hand after about 10-15 minutes of practice), and the 6mm tighter stitching and extra padding/cushioning protect you from overly heavy strikes.

But what I actually like best about the kote was the shape when holding a shinai. Some kote are kind of inflexible around the wrist area which leads to an uncomfortable or compromised grip position, these kote didn’t have that problem. Happy George!

KendoStar: Shines (tare)

The tare is basically a tare. It does it’s job! One thing of note is that the obi is of a less thicker material than normal, making it easier to tie and to tuck-in in front of your abdomen.


A nice, no-frills set that does exactly what it sets out to do: offer a reasonably priced yet good quality (and nice looking) bogu that either beginners or advanced people will be happy to use. I plan to use this bogu mainly at my work dojo over the next few years (where I do my most intensive keiko sessions) but I can also see myself using it when I travel due to it’s lightness.

In the future (as soon as I can justify it!) I’m looking forward to picking up one of the more fully customisable sets from KendoStar, but at the moment I’m happy with this one!