The kendo equipment

The ones that practice kendo can not be confound: the swords, the uniform and the armour distinguish them to other practitioners of martial arts. The swords are of two kinds: bokken (bokkuto) and shinai. The first in made of oak or other strong wood and is used in pre-estabilished exercises named kata. The second is made from four slats of bamboo or carbon fiber and it is used for all the other parts of the training, including competitions. The uniform is composed of hakama (a pair of very large trousers) and keikogi. The protection is ensured by an armour named bogu that has four elements: helmet (men), protection for the abdomen (do), the one for the hips and thighs (tare) and thickly gloves (kote).

Modern kendo practice

The most appropriate places to practice kendo are the purpose-built dojos, but the gyms or other locations are used constantly. An appopriate location has a wooden floor clean and flexible, suitable for the distinctive stamping footwork used by the bare-footed practitioners.

In modern kendo, there are strikes (or cuts) and thrusts. Strikes are allowed only to be made on specified target areas, or datotsu-bui on the wrists, head or body, all of which are protected by bogu.

[lighbox=images/kendo_lovituri.png] The main strikes and cuts in kendo are: osho-men (or men) – a verical strike that starts from the top of the head and theoretical ends in the area of the chest; hidari-men – a cut on the diagonal that starts on the left side of the opponent's head; migi-men – a cut on the diagonal that starts on the right side of the opponent's head; migi-do – a cut on the diagonal applied on the right part of the opponent's body; hidari-do - a cut on the diagonal applied on the left part of the opponent's body; kote – a cut on the right wrist; hidari-kote – a cut on the left wrist when it is on rise position (for example jodan-no-kamae or jodan, when the hands are rise over the head) and tsuki – a poked strike on the base of the neck. However, since an incorrectly performed tsuki can injure the neck, the thrusting techniques in free practice and competitions are often restricted to 1 dan or more kendoka.

Once a kendoka begins to practice in bogu, a practice session may include any or all of the following types of practice.

Kiri-kaeshi: successively striking the left and right men, practice centering, distance, and correct technique, while building spirit and stamina.

Waza-geiko: waza or technique practice in which the student learns to use the many techniques of Kendo with a receiving partner.

Kakari-geiko: short, intense, attack practice which teaches continuous alertness, the ability to attack no matter what has come before, as well as building spirit and stamina.

Ji-geiko: undirected practice where the kendoka has a chance to try all that has been learnt, against an opponent.

Gokaku-geiko: practice between two kendoist of similar skill level.

Hikitate-geiko: practice where a senior kendoka guides a junior through practice.

Shiai-geiko: competition practice which may also be judged.

Kendo Competition

In shiai, or competition, a point is only awarded when the attack is made firmly and properly to a target point with ki-ken-tai-ichi, or spirit, sword and body as one. This means that for an attack to be successful, the shinai must strike the specified target, the contact by the shinai must happen simultaneously with the attacker's front foot contacting with floor and the kendoka must vocalise an expression of kiai that displays good spirit. Additionally, only the top third of the shinai must make contact with the target and direction of movement (hasuji) by the shinai must also be correct. Finally, zanshin, or continuation of awareness, must be present and shown before, during and after the strike, then the player must be ready to attack again.

In a tournament, there are usually three referees, or shinpan. Each holds a red flag and a white flag in opposite hands. To signal a point, the shinpan raise the flag corresponding to the colour of the ribbon worn by the scoring competitor. Generally, at least two shinpan must agree, for a point to be awarded. The match continues until a pronouncement of the point that has been scored.

The first competitor to score two points wins the match. If the time limit is reached and only one competitor has a point, that competitor wins.

In the case of a tie, there are several options:

The match may be declared a draw.

The match may be extended (encho), and the first competitor to score a point wins.

The winner may be chosen by a decision made by the shinpan, or hantei, in which the three referees vote for their choice. This is done simultaneously, by show of flags.

Kendo grades

Technical achievement in kendo is measured by advancement in grade, rank or level. The kyu and dan grading system is used to assess the level of one's skill in kendo. The dan levels are from sho-dan (1 dan) to ju-dan (10 dan). There are usually 6 grades below sho-dan known as kyu. The kyu grades numbering is in reverse order with ikkyu (1 kyu) being the grade immediately below sho-dan.

In the AJKF (All-Japan Kendo Federation) the grades of kyu-dan (9 dan) and ju-dan (10 dan) are no longer awarded. However, FIK (International Kendo Federation) grading rules allow national kendo organisations to establish a special committee to consider the award of those grades.

There are no visible differences between kendo grades; beginners may dress the same as higher-ranking yudansha.

To attain rank in Kendo there is a promotional examination. For the ranks of 6 Kyu to 2 Kyu the process differs from federation to federation, it may be awarded at the dojo level depending on the regional federation. Other federations formally test for these grades before a board and some have age restrictions for children. From 1 Kyu all candidates for examination face a panel of examiners. A larger, more qualified panel is usually assembled to assess the higher dan grades. Kendo examinations typically consist of a demonstration of the applicants skill and for some dan grades, also a written exam. The hachi-dan (8 dan) kendo exam is extremely difficult, with a reported pass rate of less than 1 percent.

Generally for the examination up to 7 Dan the examinees will first perform two short keiko (sparring) sessions in front of the examination board. The examinees are normally grouped by age if the pool is large enough. If the examinee passes the keiko sucessfully then they will perform the kata. The written test may be completed before or during the test. This process again varies in each federation.

The International Kendo Federation has established a set of regulations for promotional examination specifing the requirements for each rank. These regulations are then adopted by IKF member federations. Some federations set additional requirements as necessary to meet their standards to promote the growth and quality of Kendo.

IKF Regulations for Promotional Examination

Rank to be examined

Standards of Eligibilty for Examination

6-Rokkyu to 2-Nikyu

The examination for kyu shall be determined by each organization.

1-Ikkyu

No time period stipulated

Matches, Kata 1-3

Written examination

1-Shodan

3 months or more after receipt of Ikkyu and age 14 or higher. Matches, Kata 1-5

Written examination

2-Nidan

1 year or more after receipt of Shodan

Matches, Kata 1-7

Written examination

3-Sandan

2 years or more after receipt of Nidan

Matches, Kata 1-7 and kodachi kata 1-3

Written examination

4-Yondan

3 years or more after receipt of Sandan

Matches, Kata 1-7 and kodachi kata 1-3

Written examination

5-Godan

4 years or more after receipt of Yondan

Kata 1-7 and kodachi kata 1-3

Written examination

6-Rokudan

5 years or more after receipt of Godan

Kata 1-7 and kodachi kata 1-3

Written examination & refereeing

7-Nanadan

6 years or more after receipt of Rokudan

Kata 1-7 and kodachi kata 1-3

Written examination & refereeing

8-Hachi-Dan

10 years or more after receipt of Nanadan and age 46 or higher.

Kata 1-7 and kodachi kata 1-3

Written examination & thesis

IKF Regulations for Examiners for Promotional Examination

Dan examined

Examiners

Number

Criteria

1 Kyu

--

--

--

1-Shodan

4-Dan or over

5

Consent of minimum of 3 Examiners

2-Nidan

5-Dan or over

5

Consent of minimum of 3 Examiners

3-Sandan

5-Dan or over

5

Consent of minimum of 3 Examiners

4-Dan

6-Dan or over

7

Consent of minimum of 5 Examiners

5-Dan

7-Dan or over

7

Consent of minimum of 5 Examiners

6-Dan

7-Dan or over

7

Consent of minimum of 5 Examiners

7-Dan

7-Dan or over

7

Consent of minimum of 5 Examiners

Kendo Kata

There are 10 nihon kendo kata (Japanese kendo forms). These are performed with wooden swords (bokken/bokuto), the kata include fundamental techniques of attacking and counter-attacking, and have useful practical application in general kendo. Occasionally, real swords or swords with a blunt edge, called kata-yo or habiki, may be used for a display of kata.

Kata 1–7 are performed with both partners using a daito or tachi (long sword) style bokutoh of around 102 cm. Kata 8–10 are performed with one partner using a daito and the other using a kodachi or shoto (short sword), style bokutoh of around 55cm. During kata practice, the participants take the roles of either uchidachi (teacher) or shidachi (student). The uchidachi makes the first move or attack in each kata. As this is a teaching role, the uchidachi is always the 'losing' side, thus allowing the shidachi or student to learn and gain confidence.

Nihon kendo kata were drawn from representative kenjutsu schools and tend to be quite deep and advanced. In some areas the regular training curriculum does not include nihon kendo kata.

In 2003, the introduction of Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho, a set of basic exercises using a bokuto, attempted to bridge this gap. This form of practice, is intended primarily for kendoka up to ni-dan (2), but is very useful for all kendo students.

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Contact & trainings

The contact phone number is +40743-539203, Dan-Marius Sabău will answer your questions.

The Kendo trainings are every Tuesday and Thursday between 7 pm and 9 pm at Lorantffy Zsuzsanna school, Andrei Șaguna street, number 1, Oradea.