Kendo or "way of the sword", is the Japanese martial art of fencing. Kendo developed from traditional techniques of Japanese swordsmanship known as kenjutsu.
Kendo is a physically and mentally challenging activity that combines strong martial arts values with sporting-like physical elements.
Practitioners of kendo are called kendoka, meaning "one who practices kendo", or kenshi, "swordsman".
Kendo is practised wearing traditionally styled clothing and protective armour (bogu), using one or two bamboo swords (shinai) as weapons.
Kendo may be seen as a Japanese style of fencing. The movements in kendo are different from European fencing because the design of the sword is different, as is the way it is used. Unlike western style fencing, Kendo employs strikes with a defined 'edge' and tip of the shinai. Kendo training is quite noisy in comparison to other martial arts or sports. This is because kendoka use a shout, or kiai, to express their spirit, and when a strike or cut is performed, the front foot contacts the floor in a motion similar to stamping.
There are estimates that about eight million people
world-wide practice kendo with approximately seven million
in Japan. The "Kodansha Meibo" (a register
of dan graded members published by the All Japan Kendo
Federation) states that as of January 2003, there are
1.3 million registered dan graded kendo practitioners
in Japan. The number of kendo players not yet graded
to a dan level is not included: those kendoka would
outnumber considerably the dan graded players.
Since the earliest samurai government in Japan, during
the Kamakura period (1185-1233), sword fencing, together
with horse riding and archery, were the main martial
pursuits of the military clans. In this period kendo
developed under the strong influence of Zen Buddhism.
CompetitionIn 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.
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.