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Kendo Beginners Guide ((EXCLUSIVE))


Welcome to Boston Kendo Kyokai. You are about to embark on a path of self discovery that will challenge you to persevere in the face of adversity, to accept setbacks with equanimity, and change the way you think about yourself. Kendo is not an easy martial art to learn, let alone master. In fact, put away all thoughts of mastery and focus, instead, on reaching your fullest potential, to whatever level of skill that may lead. In the final analysis, skill is not the measure of success in kendo. Rather, it is the manner in which you conduct yourself in the dojo and out, your respect for others, your compassion for humanity, your humility and self-restraint.




Kendo Beginners Guide



You will need to be patient, keep an open mind, and practice diligently at the dojo and at home as well. We only practice twice a week for a total of four hours, therefore it is critical that you maximize that time. Move quickly during practice, without rushing; avoid milling about waiting for someone to notice you; actively seek out instruction. There is a tremendous responsibility placed on you to determine your own future in kendo. That is not to say that you will be ignored, to the contrary, everyone at our dojo is more than willing to share their knowledge and help you to become integrated into the routine practice. Every member of our dojo, from the highest ranks down to the first day beginner, is equally worthy of respect and consideration. However, sometimes you will have to be proactive in your approach to learning.


It is important that you learn about the manners and etiquette of kendo. This attendance to tradition, along with kendo kata, is what differentiates kendo from sport. You should bow (ritsu rei) before entering and upon leaving the dojo. You should avoid joking and horsing around inside the dojo; always assume a serious attitude and treat the dojo as a place where something important transpires. Line up quickly and quietly when the senior student (sempai) calls the dojo to line up (sei retsu). Check to make sure you are aligned with the person to your right holding your shinai in your left hand.


Seiza is the traditional Japanese seated position. It is often difficult for non-Japanese to be able to sit in this manner right away. Seiza developed in Japanese culture in the context of the Japanese house wihich doesn't have chairs or couches. People sat on the floor, or more accurately on tatami mats that covered the floor. Kendo maintains this tradition. At the beginning and end of all kendo practice all dojo members wil sit in seiza to put on their bogu, bow in, and take off their bogu.


After lining up wait until sempai instructs you to be seated (seiza). Sit down gently, under control, and avoid plopping the floor with a thud. Assume the seiza position by stepping back with your left foot and lowering your left knee to the floor. Bring your right foot back and under, next to your left. Slowly lower your body until your buttocks are resting on your heels. Make sure your knees are about one or two fists apart. This may be the first test of the difficult nature of kendo. Also, try not to let your shinai crash to the floor, but rather place it there gently. Check to make sure you are still aligned to the person to your right, knees and shinai in straight lines from sempai to most junior student (kohai).


At this point sempai will instruct the dojo to face the shinzen, the head of the dojo, and bow (shinzen ni rei). Turn to face the front of the dojo and bow (rei) at the waist placing first your left hand and then your right on the floor in front of you. Your fingers should be extended and joined with your forefingers and thumbs touching, forming a triangle. Keep your back straight and avoid raising your hips. Do not duck your head; keep your neck in alignment with your back. After a short pause, raise yourself back to the seiza position, retracting first your right hand and then your left. Place your hands comfortably on your thighs. Sempai will then instruct the dojo to face the teachers (sensei ni rei). Turn to the teachers and follow the same method described above. However, shout in a respectful tone "onegai shimasu". This lets the teacher know that you are eager and ready to practice kendo.


Proper care must be given the shinai to ensure the safety of your fellow kendoka. The tsuka should not be loose and sliding around. The nakayui, likewise, should not be loose and sliding up or down the shaft of the shinai. Make sure that the sakigawa is not torn or coming apart. The tsuru should be strung tight enough to play "Louie, Louie". Most importantly, make sure that there are no splinters or cracks in the bamboo. Large cracks or breaks will necessitate replacing the broken slat or replacing the shinai entirely. If there are splinters use a knife or some other flat metal tool to plane the splintered area smooth. Periodically disassemble your shinai and rub the bamboo slats with oil. There is special oil available from kendo equipment vendors, but a light vegetable oil will suffice. Do not use petroleum based oils. Once you have reassembled the shinai, pour hot water over the leather parts to shrink them to a snug fit.


Many samurai, most famously Miyamoto Musashi, used the bokken in combat to lethal effect.The tip of the bokken is also called kensen [A]. It has a tsuka[B], tsuba [C] and tsuba dome. The proper striking portion is also refered to as monouchi [D]. The ridge line running the length of the "blade" is called shinogi [E]. The bokken is used in prearranged forms practice (kendo kata) that employ parry and deflection techniques using the shinogi. In the above photgraph one and two are special types of bokken called suburito used primarily for suburi. They are straighter, heavier and lack a tsuba. Three and four are the standard set used in kendo kata and represent the long and short swords carried by samurai.


The clothing worn during kendo practice is referred to as do-gi. There is a heavy cotton jacket (keiko-gi) and a pleated, skirt-like trousers (hakama). While there are no specific requirements for color, most kendoka prefer deep indigo blue. These come in a variety of qualities and can cost anywhere from $150 - $300 for the set. The keiko-gi is comfortable, absorbs perspiration, and provides additional protection from inadvertant hits. The hakama allows excellent freedom of movement for the legs and disguises somewhat the footwork.The hakama has seven pleats, five in the front and two in the back. It is said that these pleats represent the seven virtues of kendo: Yuki - courage, valor, bravery; Jin - humanity, charity, benevolence; Gi - justice, righteousness, integrity; Rei - etiquette, courtesy, civility; Makoto - sincerity, honesty, reality; Chugi - loyalty, fidelity, devotion; and Meiyo - honor, dignity, prestige.


Of course the most dramatic of the kendo equipment is the armor (bogu) which consists of a face mask (men), a chest protector (do), a hip and waist protector (tare), and a pair of gloves (kote). The bogu is lightweight for mobility and comfort, yet affords maximum protection against the shinai. A reasonable quality set for beginners will cost anywhere from $500 - $800. One of the things to consider is the spacing of the stitching. Generally speaking, the narrower the distance between the stiching the more durable the bogu. Of course, that increases the price. Shop around and compare. See our links page for some on-line kendo equipment vendors.


The tare is a type of apron that protects the hips, thighs, and groin from inadvertant strikes. It is not a target and you should always avoid hitting anyone on the tare. It is made entirely from heavily quilted cotton. Sometimes it is trimmed with leather. It consists of a waistband, three large panels, and two smaller panels. The tare is secured to the body by two cloth bands wrapped around the waist and tied in front under the center flap. It is extremely flexible and allows a great range of motion in the hips and legs. The center flap is usually covered by a cloth bag (zekken) that displays the dojo name, perhaps an insignia (Boston Kendo Kyokai uses a wheel), and the kendoka's family name.


Practice begins with 10-15 minutes of warm-up exercises. It is important to stretch and limber your muscles and joints before any kind of strenuous activity such as kendo. Pay specific attention to your wrists, shoulders, legs and ankles. An all too common kendo injury occurs to the Achilles' tendon when not enough time is spent stretching this part of the body. The footwork in kendo, particularly fumikomi ashi, the powerful lunging step, places enormous stress on this tendon. 041b061a72


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