Japanese style of fencing derived during the
Meiji period in Japan (1868-1912), from the ken (two-handed sword)
fighting techniques of the samurai.
Today kendo, which means "way of the sword", is practiced
with shinai (bamboo swords), and fighters wear protective equipment.
The bogu (protective gear) consists of a men (face mask), a do
(breastplate), kote (fencing gloves), and the tare, a kind of
apron to protect the stomach and hips. Under the protective gear,
(students of kendo) wear a hakama, or wide split skirt, reaching
the ankles. The shinai is made of four lengths of seasoned bamboo
bound by waxed cord. Contestants are barefoot and fight on a
The main cuts or thrusts
that may be delivered in kendo are limited as follows: (1) oshomen -
a downward cut aimed at the center of the forehead; (2) hidarimen - a
diagonal cut to the left side of the face mask; (3) migimen - a diagonal
cut to the right side of the face mask; (4)migido - a diagonal cut to
the right side of the breastplate; (5)gyakudo - a diagonal cut to the
left side of the breastplate; (6) kote - a cut at the right wrist or
lower forearm; (7) hidari kote - a cut at the left wrist or lower forearm;
and (8) tsuki - a thrust at the throat.
An important part of
training is the use of the kiai, which is an explosive sound, a kind
of controlled and personalized yell intended to inspire courage and determination
in the utterer and fear in the opponent, and to upset the concentration
of the opponent as a cut or thrust is made.
A shiai (match) is
normally known as a "3-point" match, lasting three to five
minutes. Kendoka bow to the opponent and prepare for the shiai by placing
right foot forward with the left heel slightly raised. The shinai is
raised in both hands with the tip aimed at the opponent's throat. When
a blow is delivered, the attacker must yell out the type of blow in
order for it to be evaluated by the judges. The first fighter to score
is the winner. If a match is tied at the time limit, it is either declared
a draw or continued, with the first fighter to take a point the winner.
were divided into two ranks: student and teacher. In modern schools,
however, kendoka advance in rank from tenth kyu (student level) to first
kyu. Shodan (first degree, expert level) can be achieved in approximately
two to three years. There are nine expert levels. No outward indication
of rank is usually worn, although some federations give small colored
patches to sew on the shoulders of younger kendoka. Before a practice
begins, kendoka sit according to level of proficiency and face the sensei
(teacher), who leads them in a moment of meditative silence (mokuso).
Kendo practice is repetitive and a move must be repeated thousands of
times and mastered before a new technique may be learned. The purpose
of such discipline is not only to learn new skills but to build good
character and a sense of harmony in the student.
earliest known reference to swordsmanship in Japan is AD 789,
when sword exercise was part of education for the sons of noblemen.
With the unification of Japan in the 16th century, however, the
need for highly skilled swordsmen diminished because the country
was at peace. Modern kendo is the result of ryu-ha-kenjutsu,
or the academic study in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
of swordsmanship pursued by the samurai class. After World War
II (1939-1945), all martial arts, including kendo, were banned
in Japan during the American occupation of the country, which
lasted until 1952. In that same year the All-Japan Kendo Federation
was founded. Kendo is now practiced in Japan by more than two
million people, and it has some following in the United States,
Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, and
Australia. The international governing body is the International
Kendo Federation (IKF), which was established in 1970, the same
year of the first world championships. Japanese kendokas have
won the individual and team titles at all world championships.
(Taken from MSN Encarta)