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Kendo, The Way of The Sword – Kendo Rules

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/25 Traditional Culture ,

As the concept of kendo states that kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principle of the katana, there are kendo rules and regulations followed in a match (or in Japanese 試合, shiai).

Kendo Match Rules

A kendo match is herein defined as a contest between two contestants for a scorable point (有効打突 yūkō-datotsu) using kendo equipment and conducted in an area as stipulated in accordance with the Regulations of Kendo Shiai and Refereeing. A scorable point in a kendo competition is defined as an accurate strike or thrust made onto a datotsu-bui of the opponent’s kendo-gu with the shinai making contact at its datotsu-bu, the competitor displaying high spirits, correct posture and followed by zanshin. Datotsu-bu of the shinai is the forward, or blade side (jin-bu) of the top third (monouchi) of the shinai. Zanshin (残心), or continuation of awareness, must be present and shown throughout the execution of the strike, and the kendōka must be mentally and physically ready to attack again.

shinai parts

DATOTSU-BU refers to the point (about one-third the length) of the JIN-BU from the KEN-SEN. Ken-sen is the tip of the shinai. Jin-bu is the blade side of the shinai or the side which will hit the opponent. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Target Points in a Kendo Match

Datotsu-bui or point scoring targets in kendo are defined as:

  • Men-bu, the top or sides of the head protector (sho-men and sayu-men)
  • Kote-bu, a padded area of the right or left wrist protector (migi-kote and hidari-kote)
  • Do-bu, an area of the right or left side of the armour that protects the torso (migi-do and hidari-do)
  • Tsuki-bu, an area of the head protector in front of the throat (tsuki-dare)

Note: Kendo equipments reference

In competition, there are usually three referees (審判 shinpan). Each referee holds a red flag and a white flag in opposing hands. To award a point, a referee raises the flag corresponding to the colour of the ribbon worn by the scoring competitor. Usually at least two referees must agree for a point to be awarded. The match continues until a pronouncement of the point that has been scored.

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

  • Hiki-wake (引き分け): The match is declared a draw.
  • Enchō (延長): The match is continued until either competitor scores a point.
  • Hantei (判定): The victor is decided by the referees. The three referees vote for victor by each raising one of their respective flags simultaneously.

The World Kendo Championships have been held every three years since 1970. They are organized by the International Kendo Federation (FIK) with the support of the host nation’s kendo federation. The European championship is held every year, except in those years in which there is a world championship. Kendo is also one of the martial arts in the World Combat Games.


1. Kendo. Wikipedia.

2. KENDO SHIAI (Match) REGULATIONS & REFEREEING RULES. International Kendo Federation.

3. Featured Image from Wikimedia Commons

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