Kendo, The Way of The Sword – Kendo Practices
It’s estimated that somewhere around 14 million people world-wide are Kendokas, or active practitioners and students of Kendo.
Unlike almost every other martial art, Kendo has one global federation, and every country has only one national organization. This derives from a strong orientation towards cooperation and mutual respect in every aspect of Kendo – the blind competitive drive that has splintered other martial art federations is almost non-existent.
The beginners in Kendo have to go through the same process as beginners in every other martial art or sport. The first thing new students have to learn are:
Etiquette – Kendo values its traditions, and it succeeded in bridging different cultures and regions. Every dojo in the world is run in that way, so all new students have to learn it.
Movement – Kendo developed a specific way of movement that has show to be the most effective, but can at firs seem odd and unnatural. The correct body posture is probably the most important for any future development.
Basic cut – from the very first training, kendoka is given hers/his sword, and starts to learn the basic cuts that are the backbone of all other defensive and offensive techniques.
Kendo training is quite noisy in comparison to some other martial arts or sports. This is because kendōka use a shout, or kiai (気合い), to express their fighting spirit when striking. Additionally, kendōka execute fumikomi–ashi (踏み込み足), an action similar to a stamp of the front foot, when making a strike.
Like some other martial arts, kendōka train and fight barefoot. Kendo is ideally practiced in a purpose-built dōjō, though standard sports halls and other venues are often used. An appropriate venue has a clean and well-sprung wooden floor, suitable for fumikomi-ashi.
Target areas in Kendo
Kendo techniques comprise both strikes and thrusts. Strikes are only made towards specified target areas (打突-部位 datotsu-bui) on the wrists, head, or body, all of which are protected by armour. The targets are men, sayu-men” or yoko-men (upper left or right side of the men), the right kote at any time, the left kote when it is in a raised position, and the left or right side of the dō. Thrusts (突き tsuki) are only allowed to the throat. However, since an incorrectly performed thrust could cause serious injury to the opponent’s neck, thrusting techniques in free practice and competition are often restricted to senior dan graded kendōka.
Once a kendōka begins kendo practices in armour, a practice session may include any or all of the following types of kendo practices.
Striking the left and right men target points in succession, practising centering, distance, and correct technique, while building spirit and stamina.
Waza or technique practice in which the student learns and refines that techniques of Kendo with a receiving partner.
Short, intense, attack practice which teaches continuous alertness and readiness to attack, as well as building spirit and stamina.
Undirected practice where the kendōka tries all that has been learned during practice against an opponent.
Practice between two kendōka of similar skill level.
Practice where a senior kendōka guides a junior through practice.
Competition practice which may also be judged.
We will learn more about kendo techniques in the next post.
2. Images from Wikimedia Commons.