Edinburgh Kendo Club (Edinburgh Kendokai)
Manual v1.5 July 2004

The Dojo

Dojo is the Japanese word that means training hall or "place of the way". Originally in Japan, this place was part of a shrine or a large annexe to the house of the guiding teacher. For this reason it is customary when entering the dojo to bow in the direction of the joseki, generally a small shrine or banner.

Sensei means teacher and is used as respectful form of address for instructors and Kendoka of very high rank. They generally sit on the joseki side. Whatever he/she says overrules any other prescribed regulations. It is for this reason that when visiting another dojo it is courteous and part of customary etiquette to follow the directions of the sensei regardless of what you have been told somewhere else. This does not infringe upon your rights and beliefs, indeed you are considered as one of his/her guests.

Sempai generally indicates the senior member who sits first in the line opposite to the teacher. You should always be listening for what he/she says as he often shouts out most of the commands. In reality sempai means "senior/elder" and indicates anybody with more experience than you. You will be kohai (junior) to some people and sempai to others. This apparently rigid hierarchy is often misunderstood and some people take advantage of it to dominate others. These individuals show very little understanding of kendo and command very little respect from the kendo community. To be sempai does not mean you command automatic respect, but places great responsibilities upon you and requires patience, maturity, knowledge and discipline. Indeed the sempai is a leading example, he is required to show the basics and it is his duty to take care of the kohai and their safety. Therefore, if you feel you can learn from somebody sit further away from the joseki than him or her as a pure form of respect, they will not fail to notice and soon they will pay particular attention to you. The sooner you start to respect others the greater will be your achievements.

As already mentioned kohai is anybody with less experience than you, literally it means " junior." Please help anybody who seeks your attention, not with the manner of someone who knows more and arrogantly lectures, but as an example, with the simplicity and modesty of one who is passing on some knowledge he acquired through real work, hardship and strife. Remember, however high in grade you will be one day, there will always be someone higher than you. It shows good disposition and attitude to behave as a learner on any occasion.

Reigi-saho (Etiquette)

Etiquette in the dojo is not designed to give airs and graces to senior members. Nor it is designed to contribute to the mystique of the martial arts. Etiquette is common sense, discipline and manners on the whole, and is an integral requirement for self-awareness and development. If the procedures outlined below are not conducted with the reverence they require and deserve, you cannot hope to gain respect by your actions.

A Kendoka should:
1] Bow respectfully when entering or leaving the dojo. Bow from the waist. placing hands on the front of the thighs, eyes looking to the floor, facing joseki.
2] Enter the dojo with bare feet. Place personal belongings in a neat pile where one is advised and check equipment thoroughly.
3] If one is late, request permission to join the practice to the senior member in charge, rei in seiza and warm up before joining the session. Similarly if you have to be excused before the end of the practise. However these should be rare occasions. A zarei (bow from sitting position) is performed if the sensei is in seiza position, ritsurei (standing bow) if sensei is standing.
4] Do not allow your attention to wander during instruction. Do not chat with other students. Make the most of every practice.
5] Stand in shimoza (opposite of joseki), holding the shinai in yasume or rest position when in line waiting for your turn or when a senior grade is instructing.
6] It is customary etiquette to walk behind a Kendoka wearing armour and standing in position. If for any reason the contrary is unavoidable stretch your right arm in front of you, bow slightly and excuse yourself while passing.
7] While in seiza you are instructed:
"men (wo) tsuke" have your men and kote on before your sensei.
"men (wo) tore" wait for the sensei to take off his men and kote before you do. Remember if you are slow everyone will have to wait for you to finish.
8] If at any time you wish to take off your men and kote while practising, request permission from the sensei first.
9] While instruction is being given by the sempai or visiting teachers, do not contradict or be uncooperative.
10] After final rei, if you wish to give special thanks to your opponent, a senior member or the sensei, do not shout from position, but rise to your feet, walk to the person, sit in seiza and rei.
11] Generally shoshinsha (beginner) or Kendoka of lower rank will sit or stand opposite the yudansha or to their left. The senior of the two will take the joseki side. A Kendoka should rei to this opponent or teacher before and at the end of each practice.
12] Never sit or rest without permission. Do not lean against the wall or on a shinai, using it as a cane. The shinai represents your sword, be proud of it and handle it as a precious possession. Also do not smoke in the dojo, or wear a hat, or speak loudly, or use abusive language.
13] Never step on or hit a shinai, the men or the kote with your feet when placed next to a seated Kendoka but treat them with respect.
14] Never touch part of the bogu or equipment of another Kendoka unless requested or invited to do so.
15] Help your fellow fencers before and after the practice. Assist in the cleaning of the dojo.
16] Always bow respectfully to your opponent and to the joseki before and after a keiko or a shiai contest. It is customary etiquette to say loudly and clearly, "onegaishimasu" while bowing before engaging for practise and "arigaro gazaimashita" at the final bow.
17] If your armour becomes loose or untied, raise your right arm to signal you need to stop, after you do osame to, return to your position or to the closest available place to the entrance, re-tie your armour, then start again with a standing bow. It is important that during this operation you do not obstruct other people around you causing delay or worse be a hazard to them. Always place safety first.
18] Make the most of the opportunity by practising, whenever possible, with higher ranks than yourself, and never allow a yudansha to stand idle.
19] To the samurai their katana was their most valuable possession. In a similar fashion you must treat your shinai or bokuto with respect. Whenever you leave your shinai make sure it is out of the way, where others cannot stumble over or step on it. If it rests against the wall make sure it is turned upside down.
20] Shotachi is the first strike. When fighting with a senior Kendoka it is good etiquette to strike first. This allows the senior person to appraise your level and cater for your needs. Never waste your Shotachi, but strike positively from issoku-itto-no-maai with a loud kiai, positive Kamae and a careful and accurate strike.
21] Last but not least, remember to use correct reigi (etiquette) and shisei (attitude) all through the practice wherever you are, and exhibit some kigurai (pride). All this shows what you are made of and the club where you have been training will gain in lustre.

Personal Attention

Your own person and your equipment should be always be kept clean; mainly as a form of respect towards your teacher and your fellow Kendoka.

1] Toenails should be clipped for neatness and safety's sake
2] Jewellery should be removed and long hair tied back before the practice starts
3] Maximum care should be given to your own equipment. The keikogi should be washed often and a minimum of two are recommended for rotation. The hakama should be washed as often as necessary. Both should be hand washed in cold water to avoid excessive fading, discolouring and fabric wear. These garments should be pressed and always worn with pride about their appearance
4] Any trace of sweat should be promptly wiped out from the inside of your men and kote at the end of every session; while at home the entire Bogu should be opened up and placed in an airy place to dry
5] One aspect of cleanliness is also achieved in looking after one's body. Hands and feet play a very important part in your everyday training. Look after them; use cream to soften them up and to avoid dry skin and calluses.
6] If your Achilles, heels , elbows or other parts of your body ache stop training until they are back to normal. Look into the cause(s) with other senior members and try to solve them. It is better to come to keiko to watch (mitorigeiko) than not attend at all.

An unclean Kendoka indicates slackness and lack of discipline and self respect - for others as well as yourself.


The word "Dogu" means equipment (gu) for use on the way (do). Kendo-gu is also an acceptable term.

What follows is a description of the equipment used in the study of Kendo - the buki, dogi, and bogu.

** Section not completed for Manual v1.1 **
Still to add Bokuto/Kodachi, Dogi, and Bogu sections

Buki - Shinai

In ancient Japan a Samurai’s most valued possession was his sword, handed down from one generation to the next. A Samurai’s sword was all that stood between him and death. Naturally a Samurai would spend a great deal of time and effort ensuring that his sword was maintained to a faultless condition.

Nowadays, as then, it is important to maintain your weapons. A damaged shinai can cause serious injuries. It is a mark of respect (and good etiquette) to other Kendoka and your club to ensure your weapons are safe at all times. This is a guide designed to help the owner of a shiny new shinai prepare it for use in the dojo. Shinai are usually not ready for immediate use

First, a note on safety. When handling shinai be aware of the risk of splinters. Bamboo splinters are particularly unpleasant. Also when using sharp implements always work away from your body.

Take (bamboo Staves)

The first thing to do is to remove the shipping ties from the shinai. These are usually red or gold bits of thread tied around the shinai to prevent damage in transit.

After this has been done the next part is to dismantle the shinai to its component parts. Undo the Tsuru (string) at the Tsukagawa (Hilt) making sure you only untie the Tsuru at this point not the leather knots. Once the Tsuru is untied you can now remove the Tsukagawa. Once done mark up the base of the Take so you know how to reassemble the Take. The Nakayui (centre leather) and Sakigawa (Tip) can now be removed being careful not to lose the Sakishin (A Plastic / Rubber spacer used to keep the Take separated at the end.) The take can now be dismantled into the four staves, again being careful not to lose the (Chigiri) (metal square) This little square helps keep the take in alignment when re-assembling.

If you (carefully) feel the edge of a take, you should feel a sharp edge. This should be removed so the take can move smoothly against each other when a strike occurs. If this ridge were left in place it would encourage splinters. It can also cause a shinai to ‘Jam’ in position instead of deform when striking the target. This sanding will prevent longitudinal cracking i.e. splinters.

A Shinai when being constructed seasons for at least a year before sale. This means the bamboo is dried and relatively inflexible. If used this can cause transverse i.e. crosswise cracking. In order to prevent this the bamboo needs to be oiled to make it more supple. Any type of oil can be used, personally I use light machine oil (or gun oil without blueing) although you can use vegetable oil if required. First rub in the chosen oil into the take both inside and outside. Once all four Take have been rubbed down place the Take in an out of the way area. And pour some oil into the concave surface of the Take. Leave overnight. The next day rub in any remaining oil and re-fill the hollow. If you are using a heavy oil like mazola let the Take soak for three days only. Oversoaking with heavy oil can make your shinai heavy and soggy, plus they are not very pleasant to be hit with. Light oils like machine oil can soak up to five days. Over soaking with light oils is not as much of a problem as with heavy oil. A rule of thumb is when the Take stops absorbing oil, it’s done. (This can vary depend on the oil used.)

Now the Take have been oiled it’s time for the fun bit - assembling and re-tying all those complicated knots. But first another word of warning. Some components’s come from the manufacturers with incorrect knots so you need to check they are assembled correctly. The first part is the Sakigawa (Kensen or Tip)


Look at the picture above. If your Sakigawa looks like the second one it is incorrect and will need to be re-tied. This is easily fixed…. Untie the knot and thread it around as indicated in the follow images, Leaving enough loose to tie the knot shown in the second picture.


If your Nakayui looks like anything except this Figure… its wrong. Take it off.

Tie a knot about 2 centimetres (or 8/10 ths of an inch) down from the first knuckle in the take. Attach the nakayui as Shown in the following pictures.

Wrap around as shown and finish by tying as shown. It is usually easier to tie the Nakayui when the Tsuru is taut. Try it and see which you find easier.


Pull the tsukagawa onto the tsuka (hilt). You may need a rubber glove or similar to get a firm grip. Make sure the tsukagawa is on firmly as if it isn’t you’ll have to retie the Tsuru. If you are fitting a new Tsuru the knot should look like the first image about 10 cm from the leather loop of the tsukagawa. Thread the Tsuru as shown in the follow images. Pull taut. When fully tensioned the Tsuru should not be able to be pulled past the side of the Shinai. The tsuru should follow a straight line from Tsukagawa to Sakigawa, the Nakayui should not cause a ‘kink’.


Without maintenance your Shinai will break, costing money to replace and possible injury if it is continued to be used. In order to prevent this here is what you can do:

  • Sand out dents and impact marks from the take

  • Get into the habit of inspecting Shinai before, during and after each class. Small splinters can be sanded out. Larger splinters and most cracks should not be repaired. Ask if you are unsure. If unrepairable, dismantle the Shinai, discard the broken Take and keep the remainder for future repairs

  • If you are practising regularly you should have more than one shinai at practise. Use all of them in rotation to avoid overuse. I would advise having three good shinai available at all times

  • Oil the Take regularly

  • Every couple of classes (Or every class if you are a heavy hitter) lossen the tsukagawa and rotate all the fittings clockwise to distribute wear even over the suface of your shinai

  • Try to develop a light touch with the shinai, don’t try to break it over a fellow kendokas head. This causes heavy wear on Shinai’s (and heads)

As always the best way to learn is by doing. If you have a problem with any of the knots ask your sempai.

Basic movement and Bowing

This is a natural standing position. Stand relaxed but straight, with your heels barely touching and your toes slightly spread apart. Both arms should hang to the sides and the chest should be held high as the stomach and buttock muscles are pulled in. Muscles in the shoulder, neck, hips and limbs should be relaxed and not tense. The centre of gravity should be at a point just below the navel. The chin is pulled in slightly, eyes should look straight ahead.

Rei is the formal way of salutation among Kendoka of any rank. From the Shizentai position bend from the waist at approximately a 30-degree angle. If bowing to an opponent, keep your eyes on him. If bowing to sensei or joseki, let your gaze fall forward. Do not let your neck bend. If rei is done with a shinai, hold it loosely in your left hand. Do not break eye contact with your opponent. The bow should show respect for the opponent and pride in oneself.

Seiza is very important. It is the customary way of sitting for Japanese during ceremonies or important events.

Sitting down
Put your hands on your thighs, bend your upper body slightly forward. Take half a step I back on your left leg, bend the knee, start descending. When the left knee touches the ground it should be in line with the right leg, your upper body straight. Now place your right knee in line with your left (where your right foot was), cross your feet slightly I inward and sit on them.

Standing up
When standing up the process is reversed, what came last is first. From the seiza position, stand up on your knees first, then take your right leg from undemeath your buttock and place it in line with left knee. Start to rise bringing your left leg in line with the right. Now you should be on the same line where your knees. Note that your right foot should not come in front of your left knee in the standing up motion as this will be seen as a threatening move by the people who sit opposite you.

Beginners might experience some pain at first but when the muscles become fully stretched you will be able to sit for hours without any problem.

The Mokuso position is taken from the seiza position. It aims to allow the Kendoka to relax and concentrate for few seconds before and after practice. Prize those moments because they are those that make a difference. Sitting in seiza close your eyes or relax your gaze. Rest your hands in your lap, with the right hand under the left and the palms turned upward. The thumbs touch at their tips forming a circle. Breathe in slowly through your nose with a feeling of filling your entire body and out with the feeling of emptying yourself - concentrate on your aims for the day.

This is a form of rei taken from the seiza position. Again only the chest is bent forward, but the neck must not bend and eye contact never be lost. While going forward the left hand is positioned on the floor first, in front of your knees, in line with your forehead. Than your right hand, next to the left, index finger and thumbs barely touching, shaping a triangle. When coming up, start by lifting the right hand first and then the left, and rest them on your thighs with your fingers closed.

Sonkyo is the squatting position one takes at the beginning or at the end of practices, jigeiko and matches. From the basic kendo stance turn your left heel in, then slowly sit on your heels. It is customary to do this just a moment behind your senior.

Ki-ken-tai no Ichi (Spirit, Sword and Body as one)

An old kendo saying describes vision as the most important thing in kendo, but says footwork certainly comes second. The movement of the hands (body), spirit and sword must be coordinated together. This is the principle of Ki-ken-tai no Ichi: that the Ki loud yelling of target cut, foot stamping; the ken - the sword reaching the target; and the tai - the body posture, footwork etc - all should happen at the same moment, like a big explosion. In order to achieve this there are several things that must be mastered first: footwork, hand position, and body stance.

Ashi Sabaki (Footwork)

Foot position
The kendo posture is very important. In this stance the feet arc about one foot apart with the right foot leading and the left foot behind. The toes of the left foot toes are in line with the heel of the right foot. Both feet point straight forward and the heels are slightly raised, the left heel higher than the right. In trying to achieve this position one should be aware of individual variations due to differences in build and weight, but in any case it is important that the weight is equally distributed on both feet and that the knees are slightly bent and not tense. This position seems rather uncomfortable and unnatural at the beginning but it is soon naturalised, and it is one that assures swiftness of movements in any direction, good balance and fewer injuries.

In this kind of footwork your feet hover or skim over the floorboards. Great effort should be spent in mastering this technique as it is vital for a correct kendo presence.

This is the foot technique that is mostly employed in kendo. Right foot leading. The first foot to move is the one nearest to the direction of motion.

Is basically a natural walking motion. It is mainly employed in the kendo-no-kata with a Suri-ashi movement.

In kendo fumikomi means to stamp one's foot. Literally it comes from the union of the two Japanese verbs, to stamp and to go inside, so its deep meaning is: to penetrate your opponent's mind by means of a loud stamping.

Hips and Hands

The Position of the Hips
This area is often neglected. Hips should be always kept straight, with the buttocks well tucked in, and the belly out. Incidentally these two and the last fingers holding the shinai should be the only parts of the body contracted at any time. All the rest should be relaxed but ready to move. This position should be well mastered as it assures that the weight is equally distributed. The tucking-in of the buttocks lowers the centre of gravity assuring greater stability and balance in movement. This in turn has two beneficial effects a fast return to position of the left leg ready for the next move is possible so that the body can quickly move in any direction. Finally, it allows a good posture (Kamae) with the head held high, trunk (koshi) solidly settled and shoulders back but not tense. Once this position is mastered it should be clear that while doing kendo the spine is always fixed (no back aches are possible) while the feet and hands do all the work.

Hand position
The grip of the shinai might seem a little cumbersome at first but as soon as it is mastered it is only a matter of developing the right muscles. The right hand, as in the footwork, leads, holding the shinai near to the tsuba while the left grips the shinai at the very bottom. Adopt a "V" grip with the thumbs pointing down to the ground. The tsuka should be gripped mainly with the little and ring fingers of each hand. The distance between your hands should approximately correspond to the length of your forearm (from elbow to wrist).


Chudan no Kamae is the most frequently used Kamae in kendo. The right foot leads with both feet pointing straight forward. The tip of the shinai should aim directly to the throat/face of your opponent, while the bottom rests four fingers below the navel and a fist away from your body. The weight is equally distributed on both feet with the shoulders and knees slightly bent and ready to move but relaxed.

This is where the shinai is held above the head. There are two types of jodan: migi jodan-no-kamae and hidari jodan-no-kamae. The former is with the right (migi) foot forward and the shinai held straight up in the air. In this kamae your body is square like chudan-no-kamae. The latter leads with the left (hidari) foot forward and sees the body in hanmi position. The shinai in this kamae is angled back to the right. Both of there kamae are utilised in kata ipponme.

This is the kamae where the shinai is lowered directly down. It is used in kata sambonme.

This kamae is very similiar to hidari jodan-no-kamae except the bokuto rests in a much lower position, with the tsuba in line and about one fists distance from your mouth. It is used in kata yohonme, and is not used in shinai kendo.

This is the kamae where the bokuto is placed behind the body in a gedan position, and the hands rest on the hips.It is used in kata yohonme, and is not used in shinai kendo.

This Kamae is very similar to chudan but is taken when your opponent is in Jodan-no-kamae. The only difference is that this time the kensen does not point towards the throat of your opponent but to the nearer left kote, resulting in a slightly raised shinai position. It is used in kata gohonme.

Maai (Distance / Interval)

The distance (Maai) is possibly one of the most important and delicate elements in a match. There are three main physical distances:

Issoku-itto-no-maaii (uchima)
Literally one step one cut. At this distance the kensen are barely louching and one should be able to cut in one step forward or avoid a cut with one step backwards. This is the most important distance in kendo as you are both protected and in position to attack.

Toi-maai (toma)
The long interval. The kensen here are at a wider interval. The distance to cover lo strike your opponent requires more than one step. It is a position of safety but also one from which it is difficult to strike.

Chikai-maai (chikama)
The near interval. Shinai cross in the nakayui area making the strike particularly difficult. If you are a novice beware of this distance as it is dangerous for the inexperienced but secure and advantageous for the expert.

There are not only physical distances but mental ones.

Datotsu-no-kihon (basic hits and thrust)

In kendo there are four main target areas: head, hands, chest and throat. In all the cases one must accompany the strike with a loud shout (kiai) naming the particular area, stamping the right foot and hitting the named target. All these must be carried out at the same time. Ki-ken-tai-no-Ichi. Each cut should end with both arms extended forward. Arms in any other position will only put you off balance. Do not use your heel to stamp, but use your right foot very much like clapping but instead of using the hands you use your right foot and the wooden surface of the dojo floor. To achieve perfection in this you can try to clap the floor with the sole of your right foot while standing on your Ieft. Kiai should always come from your belly and not from your throat. In doing so you effectively lower the centre of gravity of your body achieving more stability and speed.

Waza (Techniques)

In kendo there are three types of Waza - kihon-waza (basic techniques), shikake-waza (offensive techniques), and oji-waza (reacting techniques). The following is a brief explanation of the most common techniques, those ones that a beginner is most likely to encounter. However one must be aware that there are some more advanced and elaborate techniques. Here we give only the name and a brief explanation.

Kihon-waza (kihon-uchi)

These are basic cuts. From these all the other techniques stem. It is extremely important therefore that these techniques are appropriately mastered before one passes onto the other ones.

Men-uchi (Shomen-uchi)
From chudan no Kamae, using the shoulders boldly, raise the shinai above the head in a straight arc without wavering. Visibility should not be hampered by your left hand. Stretch your arms out as the shinai swings down, taking care not to put strength in the shoulders. This might cause the upper part of the body to lean forward. As you strike, the right foot steps (or leaps), using the left foot to push and follow the right foot. Both up and down strokes should be executed in one flowing motion without pausing in the middle. As the shinai is about to touch the men, a whip-like movement is caused by the 'wringing of the towel' movement mentioned earlier. This motion is done by rotating both hands inwardly with the right hand extended.

A strike on the right kote (migi kote) is always a valid point no matter where is the hand positioned when is struck. However the left kote (hidari kote) is struck only when it is positioned above the shoulder as in the jodan position.

The do can be cut on both sides, hidari-do and migi-do.

Tsuki is the only thrust technique in kendo. This is a particularly difficult technique and consists of thrusting one's opponent in the throat. In order to do this a strong centre must be won and consistently maintained. Tsuki is a potentially dangerous thrust and it is not advisable for the beginner to exercise such a technique without the direct supervision of a senior member.


Shikake-waza are offensive techniques and as such they take full advantage of a momentary distraction, lack of balance or unguarded moment of the opponent. These are the most important complex techniques as in kendo there is defence only in attack.

Harai-waza and uchi-otoshi-waza
These techniques consist of breaking the posture of the opponent by warding off his or her shinai.

This technique consists of attacking as soon as the opponent decides to attack you and is just about to move. It is very difficult to master but once you have achieved mastery of it you will achieve speed and develop a good eye for timing.

A very useful technique when in tsuba-zeriai. You should study your opponent's posture and body movements to look for an opportunity such as an unguarded part and immediately step back delivering an accurate stroke. When stepping back raise the shinai as much as you can to give yourself extra lift and push it up on the side so to come out sideways avoiding a possible straight counter-attack.

These are a sequence of techniques consisting in two (ni) or three (san) consecutive cuts. The most often mentioned is kote-men. The first cut is delivered only to break the posture and/or surprise the opponent, it is the second or third cut that is relevant. This must therefore be delivered with a big fumikomi and loud kiai to clearly distinguish it from the other(s).


These are techniques by which you meet your opponent's attack and immediately counteract.

This is often an all time favourite technique of beginners. It consists of timing the opponent's cut, waiting until the very last second to step back evading the cut and then immediately counter-attacking.

Kaeshi-waza This is a technique used to block the opponent's attack with the side of your shinai, simultaneously shifting your body either to the left or right and responding with a counterattack.

If you feel it is your opponent's intention to deliver a cut raise your shinai starting your cut in a way that it slides against his. In so doing you throw him off centre, and can take advantage of his unbalanced posture to strike him at once. Suriage-waza differs from harai-waza as you do not ward off and then deliver a cut but while warding off the opponent's shinai you are already committed to your stroke e.g. men. Make sure that the kensen never comes out of the opponent's bodyline and the shinai checks the opponent's cut within these boundaries.

These techniques are performed from the jodan position.

Keiko (Practice)
There are many different kinds of keiko in kendo. Here we have explained the most important ones.

There are many kind of suburi exercise, one is joge-suburi. From the chudan-no-kamae as described earlier, swing the shinai in a large arc overhead until it touches the back, then bring it forward, with arms extended, until the left hand almost touches the lower abdomen. At this point, both hands turn inward as though to wring out a wet towel. Care must be taken so that the shinai does not waver or go out of alignment.

Kiri-kaeshi is an exercise that comprises all the basic actions of kendo. Kiri-kaeshi starts from the chudan position with one loud kakegoe with kiai and a correct, straight hit to the opponent's shomen followed by four strikes, going forward, to the yokomen (cut to the side of men) starting on the right hand side and five backwards, for a total of 9 strikes, done twice. It ends with a large, neat shomen with again an appreciably loud kiai; this time motodachi (receiver) will not stop attacker from going through, he will turn around and both should find themselves in chudan position again in the middle of the designated area, with motodachi ready to start again as attacker.

The receiver should allow the shinai to lightly touch his men and the parry action should be performed with the shinai straight in a sort of semicircular motion. All 9 strikes should be done within one breath. Please study this exercise hard as indeed it is the most fundamental of all the basics of kendo.

The motodachi (receiver) open target for the beginner allowing good chances in order to give him or her experience of attacking with good distance and coordination.

In kakari-geiko the beginner attacks of his or her own volition while the motodachi impedes ill chosen or incorrectly executed cuts - this way the beginner learns with the body and mind.

Ji-geiko is free practice you should try to use all waza you know and demonstrate correct posture and spirit. Ji-geiko is not a competition.

This is watching practised. If you are injured you should still come to practise and watch, or if a Sensei is visiting you should sit respectfully and watch his/her Kendo.

This training is conducted just before a match, and includes everything you have learned. You should try to win the match which is refereed by a sempai or the sensei of the dojo from an objective standpoint. A mock shiai (competition).

Practise of kendo no kata.

In order to improve your kendo further there are few things you can do. First remember than you can practice also by looking at someone else's kendo. Once in a while it might be a good idea to go to a practise and sit and learn by watching. Another useful suggestion is to write down everything you have leaned in one session, than at a later date review to see if you have really improved. There are also physical exercises that can be done at home to improve your kendo. The most important one is suburi.

Kendo No Kata

There are ten kata studied within Kendo and they are all performed without armour. The first seven forms are performed bokuto vs bokuto and are called: ippon-me, nihon-me, sanbon-me, yonhon-me, gohon-me, roppon-me and nanahon-me. The final three are bokuto vs kodachi and are called: Kodachi ippon-me, nihon-me, and sanbon-me.

Kata are performed by two participants:
Uchidachi - This is the motodachi who starts the attack. He is on the joseki side of the dojo. He is the senior of the two participants.
Shidachi - Counter the attacks. He starts from the shimoza side of the dojo.

While sitting in Seiza with bokuto, the bokuto are laid down on your right hand side, edge facing inwards. The kodachi is placed innermost.

Dan-i (Grades)

Kendo is arranged in grades, from 6th kyu too 8th dan. Nowadays adults tend to try for Ikkyu on their first attempt.


Minimum Delay

Minimum Age

1st Kyu


12 years

1st Dan

3 Months after 1st Kyu

14 years

2nd Dan

1 year after 1st Dan

3rd Dan

2 years after 2nd Dan

18 years

4th Dan

3 years after 3rd Dan

5th Dan

4 years after 4th Dan

6th Dan

5 years after 5th Dan

7th Dan

6 years after 6th Dan

8th Dan

8 years after 7th Dan

45 years

On top of this system of grading there lies the Shogo system of teaching licenses - Renshi, Kyoshi, and Hanshi.

Grades are important indications not just of your increasing Kendo ability, but to your experience and obligations.

Shiai / Taikai (Competition)

Kendo is a natural evolution of the old, codified, fencing systems of Japan. To teach these sytems in a safer and more realistic manner, experimental weaponary and protection was devised. This allowed simulated combat to take place more easily i.e. without or with reduced chances of serious injury. It wasnt until the formulation of the Dai Nihon Butokukai in 1895, that there was a single national body that looked over the development of kendo. Part of their job was the standardisation of kendo and the introduction of the art to schools and to the police. A large part of the former was the systemisation of competition rules, e.g. the length and weight of the shinai, valid target areas, pernalties etc.

Competition nowadays is obviously much different than what occurred in the time of the Samurai. It is frantic, fast paced, beautiful, and highly styilised. It has, however, kept its fundamental sense of nobility which few other martial sports have managed. Take a look at modern european fencing or judo, for instance.

A successfull competition not only imparts a sense of trust in ones ability. but exposes ones weaknesses also; it is not measured in medals.

All kendoka sbould read Kendo Shiai Regulations & Refereeing Rules, studying how to be a competitior as well as a judge, and should seek to participate in shiai whenever possible.


Keikogi / Kendogi / UwagiPractise Top
HakamaDivided Skirt
Zori / SetaSandals
Bo-gu / Do-gu / Kendo-guArmour / Equipment
MenFace Mask
Men-ganeFace grill
Nodowa / Tsuki-dareThroat protector
KoteWrist protector
DoChest protector
TareHip / waist protector
ZekkenName tag
HimoString e.g. Men Himo, Kote-Himo, etc
Ashi SabakiFootwork
AshiFoot / feet / legs
Fumikomi-ashiStamping footwork
Suri-ashiSliding footwork (used in all below)
Ayumi-ashiWalking footwork
Okuri-ashiNormal kendo footwork
Hiraki-ashiSideways footwork
Tsugi-ashiWhen the left foot comes up slightly before going forward on the right
Ken / ToSword
Katana / Dai-toLong sword (the "Samurai Sword")
Sho-toShort sword
Boku-to / BokkenWooden practise [Long] sword
Kodachi / Sho-toWooden practise short sword
ShinaiBamboo sword used in kendo
TsubaHand guard
Ken-sen / KissakiPoint of the sword
MonouchiThe top 1/3 portion of the sword
HaBlade edge (represented by the Jin-bu on a shinai)
MuneBack of the blade (represented by the Tsuru on a shinai)
OmoteThe left side of one's own shinai
UraThe right side of one's own shinai
Gedan-no-kamaeLow-level posture
Chudan-no-kamaeMid-level posture
Seigan-no-kamaeModified mid-level posture
[Hidari / Migi] Jodan-no-kamae[Left / Right] High-level posture
Hasso-no-kamaeMid-high posture where Tsuba is at chest height
WakigamaeLow-level posture where Sword is almost behind body
Kamae-o-tokuA relaxed kamae used to break during kata
SonkyoSquatting posture used while drawing shinai
TaitoSword at hip level at side, thumb on tsuba
SagetoSword relaxed at side
Shizen-taiNatural standing posture
ChushinThe center line
Ma-ai / MaInterval (Temporal) / Distance (Spatial)
Chikai / Chika-ma-aiNear distance
Issoku-Itto-no-ma-aiOne Step one sword/cut distance
Toi / To-ma-aiFar distance
Kiri-kaeshiA fundamental kendo exercise
Uchikomi-geikoMotodachi opens area for attack
Kakari-geikoAll out attack practise
Mawari-geikoRotating practise
Ji-geikoFree Practise
Shiai-geikoCompetition practise
Kata-geikoKata practise
Mitori-geikoWatching practise
Reiho / SahoEtiquitte
SeiretsuLine up
Chakuza / SeizaSit down
Mokuso-yameStop mokuso
Sensei(-gata)-ni-reiBow to the instructor(s)
Otagai-ni-reiBow together
Kamiza / joseki -ni-reiBow to the high place in the dojo
Men-o-tsukePut on bogu
Men-o-toreRemove bogu
Kamae-toTake kamae (draw sword)
Osame-toSheath sword
Jo-sekiWhere the higher ranked Kendoka sit
Shimo-zaWhere the lower ranked Kendoka sit
KendokaKendo Practitioner(s)
MudanshaNot graded, or below shodan
YudanshaDan graded Kendoka
KodanshaVery high ranked/skilled Kendoka
SempaiSenior in relation
KohaiJunior in relation
KyoshiAdvanced instructor
HanshiSenior instructor
Kenshi / KenkyakuSwordsperson
Kihon-wazaBasic techniques
Oji-wazaResponsive techniques
Shikake-wazaOffensive techniques
Shiai / TaikaiCompetition
Dantai-shiaiTeam competition
Kojin-shiaiIndividual competition
Kendo no KataForms
UchidachiThe attacker (and loser) in kata-geiko
ShidachiThe reciever (and winner) in kata-geiko
Ippon-meNumber 1
Nihon-meNumber 2
Sambon-meNumber 3
Yohon-meNumber 4
Gohon-meNumber 5
Roppon-meNumber 6
Nanahon-meNumber 7
Ki-ken-tai-no-ichiSpirit (Ki), Sword (Ken), Body (Tai) as One (Ichi)
Enzan-no-me-tsukeTo look at a far mountain
FudoshinImmovable mind
HeijoshinCalm / normal mind
Ichi-gan-ni-soku-san-tan-shi-riki1-eyes-2-footwork-3-mind-4-technique with strength
Ken-chu-tai / Ken-tai hyoriAttack and defense as one
Mu-shin / Munen-musoEmpty mind
SumimasenExcuse me
OnegaishimasuThank-you / please [for what you are about to do]
Arigato [Gozaimashita]Thank-you [for what you did]
RenmeiFederations / Associations
Kokusai Kendo RenmeiInternational Kendo Federation (IKF)
Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR)All Japan Kendo Federations (AJKF)
Eikoku Kendo RenmeiBritish Kendo Association (BKA)
Europa Kendo RenmeiEuropean Kendo Federation (EKF)
Zen Beikoku Kendo RenmeiAll United States Kendo Federation (AUSKF)
Kake-goe / Ki-aiShout
Datotsu-buCorrect striking area
Yuko-datotsuCorrect strike
Ai-uchiSimultaneous yuko datotsu
Tai-atariBody attack
Te-no-uchiOverall use of the hands with the shinai

Recommended Reading

Title Author Description Where to get it
Kendo : The Definitive Guide Ozawa Good Basics Book Amazon, Nine Circles
This is Kendo : The Art of Japanese Fencing Sasamori + Warner Good Basics Book Amazon, Nine Circles
Looking At a Far Mountain : A Study of Kendo Kata Budden Good Kata + History book Amazon, Nine Circles
Nippon Kendo Kata : Instruction Manual ZNKR Official Japanese Kata Manual Nine Circles
Japanese - English Dictionary of Kendo ZNKR Brilliant Kendo Dictionary Nine Circles

By Teruhiko Kurasawa (Hanshi Kendo 9th Dan)
Translated by Kiyo Kamata and Robin Tanaka

Koji Tawigawa, who is the highest ranking master in Sho-gi, says “Sho-gi is a battle between an individual and another. If you are not refined as a person you will not be able to win.” He is a young man in his mid-thirties and I will never forget how he is full of great confidence with a heart on a greater scale.

When you transpose that thought to our essence of character development in Kendo, I look back to when I was in my thirties until now; I feel that I have not reached his level of accomplishment.

From the outside, Kendo can be seen as an expression of combat where one must train to beat the opponent. However, one must also train their inner self to become pure hearted. To the untrained person the blows to the head and jabs to the throat may seem like a form of violence. At times it is easy for our emotions to get the better of us and we may develop violent intentions. This is a shameful thing and it is vital to keep a straight and pure heart.

When doing keiko, we must keep in mind that first we require an opponent. Because we have an opponent, we are able to enjoy and better our Kendo. This requires mutual respect. Thus, we must care for the opponent and appreciate their help in our training. This should then develop into mutual respect.

Great people in the past say that if you beat each other from the beginning to the end by vengeance and determination, it is no different from a brawl. A shallow act of barbarism. Just improving on ones ability to hit is sword technique. However, this is not the way of Kendo. Basic important human attributes such as caring, appreciation, and respect would not be formed.

Ones heart should be dedicated, half to the development of the opponent and half to ones self.

So it goes without saying that utmost care must be taken when training children, beginners, and people of lower rank. By only caring about hitting, winning and not losing, with glory or victory in our minds, it is not possible for our hearts to care for each others well being. The attitude to hope for your opponents development is all a function of the heart, we must heighten our sense of caring. It is wrong to say we have to win at all costs and our efforts will mean nothing if we don’t.

In Kendo training, results are important, however the true importance and value is in the path we take to achieve a pure form of Kendo. If you practice with a tainted heart, you too will become tainted. If we are pure hearted the goodness of our character will be further improved.

In closing, I would like to say that I hope that everyone will endeavor to train their heart and I hope for your further development in Kendo.

Note: In the late 1600’s a great swordsman by the name of Shimada Toranosuke said, “The sword is the heart. If you wish to learn the sword, first you must make your heart pure.”


Kino no ware, kyo wa katsu beshi
The person I was yesterday, I must beat [better] today
Yagyu Kaken, 16th Century.

Shiki zoku ze ku, ku soku ze shiki
From form comes emptiness, from emptiness comes form
Buddhist Sutra

Toku wa shiru no yorazu okono ni ari
Virtue lies not in knowing, but in doing

The path of life is discipline, and he who ignores correction goes astray
Proverbs 10:17

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