Japanese Art Martial Arts

Kendo (Japanese fencing)

Hi everyone  how are things going?  Today’s theme is one of “Cool Japan” Martial Arts “Kendo” (Japanese fencing), in other word, Bushido( the Way of the Samurai).

What’s “Kendo“?

Actually speaking, Kendo reminds me of painful moments and days when I was a member of Kendo club in my high school days, say, about 55 yeas ago where I had been hit severely to nearly death by opponent’s bamboo sword as I was delinquent at Kendo practice during the lessons.

Therefore I don’t have good memories about Kendo, but I’d like to talk about it today.


What’s Kendo?

Kendo, if we say it literally “Way Of The Sword” which is the traditional Japanese style of fencing that today is a modern martial art practised throughout the world.

As the roots of kendo can be traced to early Samurai time and later on to the studying of Bushido (the “Way of the Samurai”) – knowledge of the past is a determining factor to really understand the meaning of it.

Blows are exchanged with bamboo swords, accompanied by fierce yells. Two swordsmen attack one another. Their movements are too quick and agile to follow.

This is one of Japan’s martial arts,  kendo.

Kendo is a one-on-one martial art.

Practitioners wear protective gear modelled after samurai armour, and fight with bamboo swords. Landing a perfectly coordinated blow on the opponent scores one point. The first to score two points wins the match.


There are several ways of earning a point.

The first is a blow to the head-a technique called “men” in Japanese.

The second one is “kote“-an attack aimed at the opponent’s padded gloves.

The third one is “do“. This requires swinging the bamboo sword down obliquely to strike the opponent’s chest protector.

The last one is”tsuki“. This requires the sword to be thrust forward, so that its tip hits the opponent’s throat protector.

However, simply landing one of these blows is not enough for a point to be awarded. There are three conditions that must be met.

These are known as “ki”(full of spirit), “ken”(swordsmanship), and “tai”(having the correct form).


Why three conditions are necessary to be awarded to win?

“ki”(full of spirit)-when you attack, you must give a high-spirited shout to indicate the target point on the opponent’s body.

Then, “ken”(swordsmanship)-to score a point, the correct part of the sword must strike the target with exact precision.

And, “tai”(having the correct form)-having landed the blow, the attacker must assume the correct stance, without losing concentration.

Kendo is a sport in which the objective is not simply to defeat your opponent, but also to train your own mind.

What’s the ultimate goal of Kendo?

By striving to achieve a unity of body and mind, Kendo is both a sport and an art and a way to coordinate the physical-emotional-mental dimension.

The ultimate goal in practicing Kendo is to make the art thoroughly a part of your self.

Like breathing that is independent of our will, the goal in kendo is to achieve a state wherein you can respond with the best of tactics unconsciously.

You shall never allow your soul, your inner spirit, to link itself to the technique. For many Kendokas Kendo is not only a sport but also a way of living and building a character.

For many practitioners Kendo is first of all a kind of cultural expression and secondly a mental and physical sport.

Kendo embodies the essence of Japanese fighting arts and like some other Japanese martial arts, to understand Kendo and what it really means is a lifelong and amazing journey.

Kendo.com is not only a tribute to Kendo and Bushido but also to old traditions in a modern and future-oriented society. These traditions still in many ways permeate Japan on all levels.

The mental aspect of kendo that prevails amaong today’s practitioners is thought to have originated, for the most part, in the 17th century, Master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi is regarded as one of the leading figures in the development of the “Way of the Sword”.


What’s The Book of Five Rings?

In “The Book of Five Rings”, Musashi not only described the essence of combat, but also laid out his philosophy for living.

It says The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Perseverance in traing is essential.

Be better today than you were yesterday, and then strive to become better still.

Continue training so as to develop unwavering self-discipline”.

Musashi philosophy is still very relevant in the world of kendo today, where emphasis is placed not just on technical refinement but also on the training of the mind.

About the author

古林 茂樹(Shigeki Furubayashi )