An Introduction to Kendo
Origins of Kendo
Kendo, literally translated, the way of the sword, cannot be traced to a single founder or given an exact founding date. The story of the rise of the modern martial art of Kendo begins with the samurai and extends over the culture of several centuries.
By the end of the 12th century, the authority of the Japanese central government had declined. Bands of warriors grouped together for protection forming local aristocracies. Feudalism had come of age, and was to dominate Japan for several centuries. With the establishment of the Shogun in Kamakura and military rule controlling Japan, a new military class and their lifestyle called Bushido, ìthe way of the warrior,î gained prominence. Bushido stressed the virtues of bravery, loyalty, honor, self discipline and stoical acceptance of death. Certainly, the influence of Bushido extended to modern Japanese society and the martial art of Kendo was also to be greatly influenced by this thinking.
The Japanese warrior had no contempt for learning or the arts. Although Kenjutsu, "the art of swordsmanship" had been recorded since the 8th century, it gained new prominence and took on religious and cultural aspects as well. Sword making became a revered art. Zen and other sects of Buddhism developed and the samurai often devoted time to fine calligraphy or poetry.
The next great advance in the martial arts occurred during the late Muromachi period (1336-1568) often call the ìage of Warring Provincesî because of the many internal conflicts. This period brought an increased demand and respect for men trained in the martial arts. Consequently, many schools of Kenjutsu arose, eventually numbering about 200. Each was taught by a famous swordsman whose techniques earned him honor in battle. Real blades or hardwood swords without protective equipment were used in training resulting in many injuries. These schools continued to flourish through the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), with the Ittoryu or ìone sword school,î having the greatest influence on modern Kendo.
Kendo began to take its modern appearance during the late 18th century with the introduction of protective equipment: the men, kote and do and the use of the bamboo sword, the shinai. The use of the shinai and protective armor made possible the full delivery of blows without injury. This forced the establishment of new regulations and practice formats which set the foundation of the modern martial art of Kendo.
With the Meiji Restoration (1868) and Japanís entry into the modern world, Kendo suffered a great decline. The Samurai class was abolished and the wearing of swords in public outlawed. This decline was only temporary, however, interest in Kendo was revived first in 1887 when uprisings against the government showed the need for the training of police officers. Later the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) again encouraged an awareness of the martial arts spirit.
Consequently in 1895, the Butokukai, an organization devoted to the martial arts was established. In 1911, Kendo was officially introduced into the physical education curriculum of middle schools and in 1912, the Nihon Kendo Kata, a set of regulations for Kendo, was published. In 1939 as Japan prepared for war, the martial art of Kendo became a required course for all boys.
After the war, because of its nationalistic and militaristic associations, Kendo was outlawed and the Butokukai was disbanded. However by 1952, supporters of Kendo successfully reintroduced a ìpure sportî form of Kendo, called Shinai Kyogi which excluded the militaristic attitudes and some of the rougher aspects of practice characteristic of prewar Kendo, into the public schools. Today, Kendo continues to grow under the auspices of the All Japan Kendo Federation, the International Kendo Federation, and federations all over the world.
Although the outward appearance and some of the ideals have changed with the changing needs of the people, the martial art of Kendo continues to build character, self-discipline and respect. Despite a sportlike atmosphere, Kendo remains steeped in tradition which must never be forgotten. For here lies the strength of Kendo which has carried it throughout history and will carry it far into the future.
The Concept of Kendo
The Purpose of Practicing Kendo
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The Dojo Sho
Cleveland Kendo Association - Akitsu Dojo
The Cleveland Kendo Association operates under the guidance of Dr. Tsuyoshi Inoshita MD (Kyoshi 7th Dan Kendo), President of the GNEUSKF.
Head Instructors: Dr. Shigemi Matsuyama PhD (5th Dan Kendo 2dan Iaido), Mieko Matsuyama (4th Dan Kendo).
Instructors: John Beaty (4th Dan Kendo), Neil Adelman (4th Dan Kendo), and Dr. Miwa Morita PhD (3rd Dan kendo).
Note: All of our instructors are accredited by the All United States Kendo Federation (AUSKF).
In Kendo, like many other martial arts, etiquette is an important aspect that needs to be constantly practiced and continually observed. To be clear on terminology, "Reigi" is the concept of etiquette and "Reiho" is its physical manifestation. Etiquette in the dojo is not designed to give airs and graces to senior members. Nor it is designed to contribute to the mystique of the martial arts. Etiquette is common sense, discipline and manners on the whole, and is an integral requirement for self-awareness and development. It is the means of conveying respect towards the dojo, sensei, sempai, peers, and towards the art of Kendo itself. It is perhaps the easiest facet of Kendo to transfer from the dojo to everyday life as concepts of respect, courtesy, and restraint become embedded in everyday actions and considerations.
Almost all of kendo has been regulated and systematized, which make it almost impossible to list and memorize all the possible points; this is at best an incomplete list. We are all learning and all make the occasional mistake but if you find yourself in an awkward position, correct yourself as quickly and quietly as possible, apologize ("gomenesai"), and return your attention to practice. Much of it is really just common sense and good manners in the dojo.
Basic Dojo Rules and Etiquette
- Remove your shoes on entering the dojo and place them neatly in a row with others
- Bow (Rei) as you enter or leave the dojo
- Greet your instructors and seniors upon entering the dojo.
- Make sure your kendo gear is clean and tidy and your own person is clean – no dirty hands or feet
- Everyone should assist in the cleaning of the dojo (soji)
- Check your shinai and other kendo equipment before practice starts
- Place your armour (Bogu) in a straight line when lining up ready to start practice
- The "Men" should not be taken off until the command is given at the conclusion of practice.
- Always remember to assist lower grades where possible
- Always demonstrate humility and respect for all people regardless of rank
- During the practice the higher grades stand on the Sensei side facing the lower grades
- If you must adjust your armour during the practice then move off the practice area, or to the side. Your armour should always be put on in seiza (sitting position)
- Ensure that you arrive at the dojo in plenty of time to change into your kendo gear before the warm-ups commence
Never do this:
- Step over a shinai, bokuto (wooden sword), or Iaito, lean on it, twirl it, or drag it. Treat it with disrespect. It is to be considered as a real sword and is to be afforded the necessary level of respect.
- Run in the dojo unless it is part of taiso ( warm ups )
- Use bad language or whistle
- Eat or drink in the dojo
- Walk in front of other kendoists who are seated or standing. If necessary, extend your right hand and bow slightly as you pass.
- Move another person’s equipment without first asking
- Leave the dojo floor during practice
- Lean against a wall either standing or sitting. If relaxed sitting is permitted, sit with your legs crossed but not showing your feet
- Smoke in the dojo
Soji - Cleaning of the dojo
Soji (sōji) is a Japanese ritual/art for cleaning the dojo after practice. It derives from Zen where purification and several practices around it are closely connected to cleanliness and purity.
At Akitsu Kendo Dojo (Cleveland Kendo), we sweep the floors with traditional brooms, clean the floors with hand cloths, and wipe down any areas that collect dust, including the guest area. All instructors, students, and visitors participate. The purpose of Sōji is not only to clean the dojo and polish the floor, but to polish ourselves. Soji is a fundamental part of our Kendo practice that demonstrates appreciation, care, pride and respect for each other and the dojo we have the privilege of using.
All Japan Kendo Federation: Nihon Kendo Kata
Kendo kata are practiced with a solid wooden sword called a bokken. More formal demonstrations are conducted with Katana, usually of a form that is similiar to that used in Iaido, but heavier since contact is made with another sword.
There are ten kendo kata specified by the All Japan Kendo Federation, 7 kata with tachi (long sword) and 3 kata with kodachi (short sword).
Each kata studies a single set of concepts in a very pure setting allowing the practitioner to delve deeply into these concepts.
Kendo kata are practiced between two people, the Uchitachi and the Shidachi. In kendo kata, the Uchitachi attacks the Shidachi who in turn demonstrates a proper response to the attack. Seven of these kata are illustrations of the technique of the long sword against the long sword. The last three kata illustrate the short sword defending against attacks by the long sword.
Prior to the invention of the shinai and bogu, kata were the only way that kendoists could safely practice. Originally, the role of Uchitachi was taken by the teacher and the role of Shidachi by the student. This tradition carries over into modern Kendo kata in that the Uchitachi always sets the pace and distance at which the actions are performed.
Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho
Bokuto Application for Kendo Fundamental Technique Practice
The fundamental concept of Kendo is to cut with a sword: the Shinai representing the sword. However, this concept has become obscured as Kendo has become more sports oriented. The Kendo Kata was established in 1912 to teach to and preserve the concept that the shinai and the katana are one in the same; however, the Kendo Kata, in addition to being difficult for most beginners, is infrequently practiced and is often exercised only in hurried preparation for examinations. Therefore, the Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho was developed to bridge the gap between modern kendo practice and traditional training concepts and values .
Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho also facilitates learning the Nihon Kendo Kata, and because of this was adopted by the All Japan Kendo Federation for use in primary and secondary school. While Nihon Kendo Kata uses all five kamae, Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho uses only Chūdan-no-kamae, the most common stance. Instead of student and teacher roles, there are the equal roles of Motodachi and Kakarite. The Motodachi receives the waza of the Kakarite. The first four waza are focused on attack initiaion techniques, while the final five are focused on techniques for responding to an attack .
 Uchida, Mark (2003). "Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho (Bokuto Application for Kendo Fundamental Technique Practice)". Mushinkan Dojo.
There are two types of wooden swords used. First, the bokken or bokuto, a solid wood sword made of oak or another suitable hardwood. The bokken is used for basics and forms practice (kata). Second, the shinai, is made up of four bamboo staves and leather. The shinai is used for full contact sparring practice.
The uniform or dogi consists of woven cotton top called a keikogi and pleated skirt-like trousers called a hakama.
The armor or bogu consists of four pieces: the helmet (men), the body protector (do), the gloves (kote), and the hip and groin protector (tare). Modern Kendo armor design is fashioned after the Oyoroi of the Samurai.
If one sees a beautiful flower, normally the mind concentrates on it, but with an empty mind (Mokuso) the mind is aware of everything else as well as the flower. So when one fights an enemy, attacking and defending, if only concentrating on blocking techniques, the mind is restricted to that movement, but if the mind is empty the body is able to do the next movement automatically and movements will always be natural. If the body is tense it is wasting energy and restricting speed, it is essential to move without being conscious of it. That feeling is called Mushin.
The word Mokuso is formed by several ideograms that all together, are translated as “watching in silence toward our heart. To think or to reflect profoundly”. Meditation is to the soul and the spirit, what the physical workout is to the body and mind. “As a crystalline water's lake reflects without distortion all that exists around it, giving to it a shade of tranquility and perfection to the nature; thus it must be the mind of the kendo student toward the teachings of the master”. Mokuso is one of the paths leading to this state of mind.
The development of a strong commitment toward attaining peace and serenity puts us in harmony with the universe. The meditation is the vehicle to this union with the world and its inhabitants. Releasing the mind of any thought, we can see another dimension of the world. In this state of complete relaxation and sublime concentration, we release any mental disturbance (hatred, fears, pains, excessive desires, etc.) and simultaneously we unconsciously generate a psychic force. It is virtually impossible to create this force consciously. Just as we train hard to perfect techniques until they become part of our “body memory”, the practice of meditation teaches us to release this psychic force in a conditioned reflex for spiritual growth. While we advance toward this goal, the practice of meditation has beneficial effects.
Daily meditation reduces stress, oxygen consumption decreases, which (cellular oxidation). The blood pressure and the pulse tend to slow. The lower respiratory rate stabilizes the nervous system.
Meditation is defined by some experts as the perfect passive activity for the health of human beings. To practice standing, sitting or lying down, we should meditate in complete stillness.
Keep in mind that the practice of kata is by and large, an active form of very advanced meditation, and only those which have devoted many years to the practice of passive meditation, along with kendo training, can discover this active meditation. To reach this level one must learn and practice certain specific relaxation techniques. These techniques must be executed with an iron will.
In Kendo, Mokuso is a very important ceremony and should be practiced immediately before "Men Tsuke" (putting on the Men, or head gear) to garner the proper resolve for a hard practice session, as well as after each Kendo practice.
Additionally, practice Mokuso for at least sixty minutes daily, preferably at sunrise and before bed. Little by little, as a result of perseverance, Kendoka can learn to live in a constant moving meditation.
How to Join
Membership Fees and Payment Options (Select one):
|Month-to-Month Individual Membership:
||$65.00 per month|
|Two family Member Membership:
||$110.00 per month|
Federation and Organizational Fees
Both Cleveland Kendo and Lake Shore Aikido are part of a wider community of national and international organizations who provide instruction, guidance, accreditation, and promotion exams to our instructors and students. All students are required to become members of these organizations depending on which martial art you practice.
|Kendo Federation Membership*:||Collected once per year in January or February.
> For age 17 and younger: Total: $50
> Full-time college student: Total: $50
> For age 18 and older: Total: $80
|Aikido Federation Membership**:||
Collected once per year in January.
> Cost is $45.00.
> Payment made directly to the Aikido Instructor.
**Includes membership in the Aikido Schools of Ueshibo.
Uniforms, Equipment, What To Expect The First Year
Kendo: Here is what you can expect during your first year of Kendo (this may vary depending on the student):
1. At the beginning, loose clothing such as gym shorts and a t-shirt is recommended. You will be practicing in bare feet. A bamboo sword ("shinai") and a wooden sword ("boken" or "bokuto") will need to be purchased. We usually buy them in bulk and can sell them to you at a discount. If you plan on purchasing directly from an online retailer, please ask us first so that you do not purchase a substandard item that cannot be used in kendo practice (for safety reasons).
2. Within a few months of regular attendance and after you have developed sufficient basics, you will be allowed to purchase and wear the top ("keiko gi") and pleated pants ("hakama") that are the traditional uniform of the Samurai.
3. Within six to nine months of practice you will be approved to purchase a set of armor ("bogu" or "dogu"), and will begin to acclimate to the extra weight by adding additional pieces of the armor, one at a time, over a period of several weeks.
4. At nine months to one year, you will be allowed to begin sparring with an instructor only, and after a period of time as approved by the head instructor, you will be allowed to spar (have free practice) with other members of the dojo.
Visitors are always welcome to watch our practice. We are happy to answer any of your questions before and after the scheduled practice. We only ask that you e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you are coming.
29th CLEVELAND KENDO TOURNAMENT GNEUSKF CHAMPIONSHIPS
Case Western Reserve University
March 31 – April 2, 2017
February 1, 2017
Dear Fellow Kenshi:
We are happy to invite you for the 29th Cleveland Kendo Tournament / Greater Northeastern United States Kendo Championships at Adelbert Gymnasium at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH on March 31 – April 2, 2017.
We are proud to announce that Waichiro Kurita Sensei, 8 dan kyoshi, who is going to retire from Tokyo Metropolitan Police at the end of March this year, will be with us during the tournament weekend. He will give us a special kendo seminar as part of the GNEUSKF Kendo Educational Tour 9 AM to 12:00 noon on Sunday April 2, 2017.
Please join us for the Godo Keiko (general practice), which will be held at Adelbert Gymnasium the night before the tournament, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM Friday, March 31. Immediately following this (or concurrently if necessary) we would like to have a PROMOTION TEST SEMINAR for those planning to take promotion tests for an hour.
On Sunday, April 2, 2017 we will have kendo Seminar by Kurita Sensei 9:00 AM – 12:00 AM, followed by GNEUSKF promotion examinations (kyu – 4dan), starting at 1:00 PM. The last, but not the least, piece of information is the 9th ANNUAL IAIDO GODO KEIKO 3 – 6 PM, immediately following the kendo shinsa.
Tournament Committee Chair
President, Greater Northeastern United States Kendo Federation
7th Annual CWRU Student CUP Kendo Tournament 2016
September 16 – September 18 2016
Where: Case Western Reserve University
10900 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, Ohio 44106
Dear Senseis and Kendoka,
On behalf of the Case Western Reserve University Kendo Club, it is my pleasure to invite you to the 7th annual CWRU Student Cup Tournament, promotion exam, and seminar, from September the 16th to the 18th.
Follow the links below for our tournament and promotion exam registration and information. Please take care to read the information, and send us your forms postmarked by the 5th of September.
Thank you everyone, and I hope to see you all there!
Tournament Information, Tournament Registration, Promotion Exam Registration, Promotition Exam Questions.
President CWRU Kendo Club
Media and News
In the News
Practice Schedule - 2017
Beginner: 6:30pm - 7:30pm
Kata Practice (all levels): 8:00pm - 9:30 pm
Beginner: 6:30pm - 7:30pm
Intermediate/Advanced (bogu): 8:00pm - 9:30 pm
Beginner: 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Intermediate/Advanced (bogu): 3:00pm - 6:00pm
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 6:30 - 8:00pm
Saturdays 9:30 - 11:00am
2110 S Taylor Rd
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118 (See Map)
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