The Basics of Kendo and How to Execute Them
Exchanging blows, fighting to the death and taking your opponents seriously, are one of the common ethics that samurais and swordsmen alike apply back when invasions and wars are widespread. May it be an enemy or an ally, showing your true skills to an opponent is a way of respecting their culture, tradition and their status as a swordsman. This way of living leads to famous swordsmen to have rivals that they look forward to facing every time.
You can’t just take away something from a person that has devoted their whole life to. This leads to the improvisation of sword fighting to kendo in Japan. Kendo is known for disciplining the human’s body, soul and mind.
On March 20, 1975, the All Japan Kendo Federation or Zen Nihon Kendō Renmei published ‘The Concept and Purpose of Kendo’ which is as stated below.
‘To mould the mind and body,
To cultivate a vigorous spirit,
And through correct and rigid training,
To strive for improvement in the art of kendo,
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honour,
To associate with others with sincerity,
And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.
This will make one be able:
To love his/her country and society,
To contribute to the development of culture,
And to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.’
Here at Mississauga Kendo Club, or whatever country, dojo or club you are in, we respect every culture and tradition. We know that every martial art and culture was influenced by their needs and hardships. Here, kendo connects us with all the people who share the same love for kendo.
Rules and Objectives in Kendo
Kendo matches and training is noisy compared to other martial arts. Kendoists or Kendoka, one who practises kendo, are required to shout or kiai in Japanese to express their willpower when attacking an opponent. At the same time, they execute fumikomi-ashi which is to stomp the front foot every time they strike.
Kendokas are trained to fight barefoot, this way they could feel the ground beneath them which they say helps them analyze what the enemy is planning. In tournaments, kendo is held at venues with wooden sprung floors.
In a match of kendo, two kendoka are made to brawl with each other. The match would be concluded when either of the two scores at least two points or until time runs out. Matches in the competition are judged by three of those in the higher rank.
There are four valid targets for a kendoka to score a point. In college level, only three are allowed; the men, dou and kote which is the upper, left and right side of the body, all of which are protected by the armour. Tsuki, which is to thrust the throat, is not allowed due to the danger the move carries.
Penalties in Kendo
Since kendo is an activity that forms etiquette and morals, there are rules that can’t be violated during training and official matches.
Some of them are:
- Intentional pushing of an opponent
There is a proper time and way of pushing your opponent, one example is when a blade lock happened.
- Tripping your opponent
The only targets in kendo are the upper body, it’s disrespectful as a kendoka to target a body part that doesn’t give you points.
- Dropping your shinai
Since kendo originated from samurai fights, the intentional dropping of your weapon means that you gave up on your life.
- Calling for a timeout
Never call a timeout unless there is an emergency or valid reason. However, matches in the upper ranking call for a timeout whenever no valid points were hit after a long time.
- Leaving the court without permission
Always respect your referee or opponent, a true kendoka shows his moral after any matches.
- Targeting your opponent’s handle
Matches don’t allow athletes to deliberately knock down an opponent’s weapon, remember this is a sport not a fight to the death.
- Raising of your forearm
Assuming an overly defensive position is not allowed because it doesn’t leave any target areas hittable, a good kendoka can react quickly to an opponent’s attack leaving him with no opening.
Proper Posture in Kendo
In every sport, there are proper postures that need to be applied if you want to bring out the best in you.
Kendo prioritizes that you sync your strikes with your kiai in order to score a point, so how can we maximize our power output while synchronizing this?
- Relax your shoulder and straighten your back
In kendo, you can’t raise your forearms to assume defensive posture all the time. You must learn how to observe your opponent. If you have a relaxed shoulder, you can block them on time.
- Align your neck proportional with your back
When you fix your neck, you can see the opponent’s moves more clearly, at the same time fix your breathing techniques
- Assume a proper and comfortable standing position
Don’t put your feet too far or near each other, putting your feet together could end up tripping yourself. Also, putting it too far would make you too slow to react with your opponent’s move.
- Plant your feet on the ground
By putting weight in your heels and slightly shifting your centre of gravity in front, you assume a stance where you will not fall when struck or pushed by an opponent.
- Look straightforward
Don’t be conscious about how you look, remember you are in a match. You’ll get hurt if you give your opponent a chance to strike you while you are out of focus.
Here are the exercises that you need to do in order to assume the proper posture.
- Train your core muscles
By burning fats and exercising your core daily, it gives you a chance to assume proper posture all the time because of the strain you put into it.
- Proper breathing technique
While in training, tighten your abdominal muscles and butt while breathing through your diaphragm. This way you won’t get tired easily in tournaments and at the same time build up your stamina.
By assuming your proper breathing technique, you now have the appropriate stamina that can be used in actual matches. Try shouting the loudest kiai, while squeezing your abs and you’ll feel the power surging through your body.
You’ll know you’re doing your exercise right when you feel your abdominal muscles burning hot. You’ll feel contraction and shaking of your entire body. Along with your core, some of your back muscles will also feel strained. This is an indication that you are doing the exercise right.
Techniques in Kendo
The techniques in kendo are divided into two categories; Shikake waza or the attacks, and Oji waza or the counterattacks.
Besides the 4 vital targets that use basic attacks like men, dou, kote and tsuki, there are still ‘special attacks’ used to strike your opponent. Training with a dummy and a human being is different. All humans react when threatened.
Renzoku waza is a consecutive attack used because we usually can’t strike a point at first hit. Your opponent is also a trained athlete, never belittle them because it means you’re looking down on their hard work. Consecutive attacks are done so that you can create an opening for points to score. Athletes utilize combos in order for them to create their momentum.
Harai waza is to parry your opponent’s shinai to create an opening. It is similar with the sheath and slash technique with katana users
Debana waza is to strike when your opponent is about to attack. As a kendoka trains, their intuition also grows with them, giving them the ability to predict their opponent’s movement.
Hiki waza is to strike then step backwards, this is usually done so that you can give yourself time to breath after a strenuous rally.
Katsugi waza is a surprise attack done when you can’t find an opening to your enemy. You can execute the move by lifting your shinai to your dominant shoulder rather than the typical above your head strike.
Maki waza is when you locked blade with your opponent then you try to remove the shinai from their hands using a circular momentum.
Oji waza is to counterattack, kendoka bait their opponent to strike in areas that they have already anticipated then proceed on striking them after the move is executed.
Nuki waza is to avoid your opponent’s strike then hit them afterwards.
It is simply strike, block and hit again.
Kaeshi waza is the strike after blocking where you rotate your wrist to an opening leading to a hit.
It is to strike an enemy at the same time but you must execute it faster and with more power.
Want to watch an actual training? Visit our club now and we’ll show you how we do it.