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Kendo fighters

Kendō [ kendoː ] ( Japanese 剣 道 , ken sword and way or way) is a modified, modern style of the original Japanese sword fighting ( Kenjutsu , i.e. sword art), as learned and lived by samurai . Kendō as a path not only follows the techniques and tactics of sword fighting, but also the spiritual training of people. Above all, the practitioner should gain strength of character, determination and moral strength through Kendo.



Kenjutsu Machidojo in Japan early Meiji period 明治 時代 (1870–1900)

Kendō has always been subject to change. The modern kendō, as it is operated today, has been around since the middle of the 19th century. Some origins are much older and some changes are still relatively young. Often the history of kendō is equated with the history of sword fighting in Japan, which is not wrong, considering the usage of the word kendō in the Japanese language. In the following, only the development of modern kendo is discussed.

The development was influenced by various historical sword schools. Today it is no longer possible to trace back to the last detail which Koryu - Kenjutsu schools were involved in the development, but a few key influences are now generally recognized. The most famous are the Jikishinkage-ryū, Nakanishiha Ittō-ryū and the Hokushin Ittō-ryū . With their gekiken training (撃 剣) (free duel training with Shinai and Bogu) at the end of the Edo period, these three schools contributed greatly to the spread of this free fight training and thus created the basis on which modern kendo is based today.

  • The term "Kendo" was introduced at the beginning of the 18th century. This implied that, in addition to the actual technique, a certain life path is to be followed through Kendo. ( Abe-ryu )
  • One of the main influences is said to have been Naganuma Shirozaemon, who is said to have invented protective equipment and the Shinai around 1715 , which partly replaced the Bokutō . (Jiki-Shinkage-Ryu)
  • Nakanishi Chuta improved the Fukuro Shinai used by his teacher, Ono Chuichi, in the mid-18th century and created the four-segment Shinai (Yotsuwari Shinai) in a form similar to that in which it is still used today. The protective equipment developed over time more and more to the Bogu still used today . (Itto-ryu)
  • Chiba Shūsaku Narimasa , founder of the Hokushin Ittō-ryū Hyōhō, who contributed greatly to the spread of training with Shinai and Bogu through the size and popularity of his school at the end of the Edo period . Many Koryū soon adopted this new type of gekiken training (撃 剣), which made it possible to practice relatively realistic duels with very little risk of injury.
  • With the end of the Tokugawa - shogunate in 1867, which lasted over two centuries, the warrior caste was abolished. Instead of the samurai , Kendō was now mainly practiced by the police.
  • Kendō was introduced as a compulsory subject in Japanese schools in 1911 and thus spread everywhere. Critics say that kendo was used to make Japanese boys better soldiers in the service of the emperor.
  • The Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kendō Kata , which essentially corresponds to today's Nihon Kendō Kata , was developed in 1912 in order to bring about a standardization. It was based very much on the forms of sword schools that survived the end of the Shogunate, and it shows z. B. shows certain similarities with the kata of Shinkage-ryu .
  • With the standardization of Kendō at the beginning of the 20th century, many regionally different aspects fell away. Previously, Kendō had often been strongly influenced by the styles of the different local Koryū from province to province . Until the reintroduction of kendō after the Second World War , many of the formerly dangerous techniques from the kenjutsu roots of kendō gradually disappeared. B. wrestling, throws, foot sweeps and ground fighting and hit zones such as the upper area of ​​the breastplate. The practice of attack techniques also changed little by little until 1952, when the often large-scale techniques in combat were now mainly practiced on a small scale like today. Changing kamae during a fight was also common. In order to make the differences between today's and the kendō before 1952 clear, the term “pre-war kendō” is also used here.
  • After World War II, many martial arts were banned in Japan. For a short time Shinai Kyōgi was practiced instead of Kendō . With the lifting of this ban in 1952, the All-Japanese Kendō Association ( Zen Nihon Kendō Renmei ) was founded. This association is dedicated to the maintenance and standardization of Kendō and controls small changes if necessary (e.g. in the Kata).

Kendō in modern Japan

Kendō is practiced very intensively in Japan today. Along with sumo and baseball , it is arguably one of the most popular sports of all. Besides judo , kendo is very common as a school sport and university sport.

In universities, the kendo groups are divided into a club ( 剣 道 部 kendōbu ) and one or more circles ( サ ー ク ル sākuru ). The clubs represent the representative association of the respective university and can receive funding from it. Due to this function, expectations are correspondingly high and training is carried out almost daily. The circles, on the other hand, are private associations and are not allowed to officially represent their university. Usually it is not trained as often as in clubs and the intensity or level of the training is usually lower.

After university, it usually continues in the associations of the respective companies, but the drop-out rate after university is one of the highest. Kendō receives great support from police sports. Police officers who subscribe to kendō can train daily, sometimes several times a day, as part of their service.

There are tournaments at all levels: school, university, city, company tournaments, etc.

Kendo in Europe

There have been European championships since 1974, which were first held in Bletchley , England. After Germany kendo mid-sixties came and found initially Judo -Ausübenden first trailer. At the beginning of the eighties it came to Austria and in 1985 the Austrian Kendō Association (AKA) was founded in Vienna. A similar development can be observed today with the Naginatadō in Germany, which finds its followers mainly under Kendōka . Kendō is enjoying increasing popularity in Europe. Responsible for this was the examination of Japanese culture and the desire for an explanation for the economic success of Japan. Today you can find numerous clubs in which this sport can be practiced, and various university sports groups have kendō in their program.

see also: European Kendō Federation



The traditional clothing in Kendō consists of Hakama and Keiko-Gi or more precisely Kendō-Gi. Most of the clothing is colored in a dark blue with indigo . White clothing is rarely used as a symbol of spiritual purity. In Japan women often wear white hakama and keiko-gi.

Bogu (armor)

Complete armor

Main article: Bōgu

The protective equipment consists of head protection ( , Men ), protection for hands and forearms ( 甲 手 , Kote - also written in modern ), torso protection ( , ) and lumbar protection ( 垂 れ , Tare ). In the kendō competition , the aim is to hit one of the four defined hit zones head, forearms, torso or throat with the Shinai. The color and pattern of the belly part, the torso protection and the headscarf ( tenugui ) are left to the taste of the kendōka .

Training weapons

While in Japan at that time kenjutsu ( praktisch , the practically oriented skill of sword fighting) was mostly practiced with real weapons or heavy wooden swords ( 木刀 , Bokutō, less often 木 剣 , Bokken ), today Kendō is usually practiced with protective equipment ( Bōgu ) and practice swords four bamboo lamellas ( 竹刀 , Shinai ) practiced. Some kendōka also prefer carbon shinai, which are much more stable, flexible and more expensive. Due to their high flexibility, carbon Shinai also vibrate more strongly, which means that z. B. Head hits can be perceived as particularly unpleasant.

Kendo practice

The basics of kendo

Reihō (etiquette)

Salute in Kyu-Butokuden, Kyōto 2009

In Kendō there are numerous rules of conduct, called Reihō , which arose partly for historical and partly for practical reasons and are maintained to this day. The origins lie in the usual behavior in Japan, such as the bow in greeting, and have Buddhist , Confucian and Shinto roots. These rules include entering the practice hall without shoes and bowing when entering and leaving the hall (usually towards the honor side). Another person's equipment is not touched or stepped on. Each practice begins and ends with a short, sitting meditation-like phase in the Seiza pose. Training partners are treated with respect. The details of the Reihō can vary slightly from dojo to dojo. The correct execution of the Reihō is assessed in graduation exams.

Internal attitude

The inner attitude is very important in Kendō and differs from other types of Budō , as the attack occurs earlier, so to speak at the moment of arising z. B. the enemy attack, whereas in other martial arts like Aikido one waits a little longer. There are no real defenses in kendo. If at all, a mental pressure (Seme) is exerted on the opponent and provoked to hit. Since this blow is expected, a counter technique (Ōjiwaza) can be used. Another approach to the attack is the so-called Shikagewaza . These techniques break the opponent's posture so that nothing stands in the way of your own stroke and no counter-technique can be used.

Do not hesitate at the moment of the stroke, otherwise the stroke will not be carried out with full conviction. It is not important whether you get hit yourself, but what matters is your own stroke. This should also be the right setting in competition (Shiai) , because:

If you defend, you miss the opportunity to attack!

Kakegoe and Kiai (battle cry)

Vocalization is very important in kendo. In basic techniques, in which the hit areas are aimed at in kendō, the hit areas are usually called out loud (e.g. Kote !, Men !, Do!) To convey that the hit was not a product of chance, but rather with was achieved with full intent and conviction. Actually, however, there is no rule that prescribes a Kiai with a special word call, and it is therefore not always practiced in this way in competition. There it is often rather high-pitched screams that serve to intimidate the opponent and to build up inner tension (Kakegoe). At the moment of the meeting, however, a kiai is always necessary to get a valid hit. (see below Ki-ken-tai-ichi ).

It is different with the kata . There certain blows are prescribed, which are to be accompanied by the Shidachi with “To!” And by the Uchidachi with “Ya!”.


An important aspect of Kendō is the Ki-ken-tai-itchi ( 気 剣 体 一致 ), the unity of mind (symbolized by the Kiai , the scream), body (symbolized by the Fumikomiashi , a leaping stamping step) and sword. Generally speaking, it can be said that in kendō "from the hip" and not, as is often wrongly assumed, mainly with the arms.

In the Kata, the kirikaeshi and in some basic exercises will take the Fumikomiashi also Tsugiashi used. In this gliding step, the crucial moment is when the toes of the left foot come to a stop at the level of the right heel.

Exercises and basic techniques


Suburi are movement exercises with the Shinai that are performed without a partner. In kendō, the following suburi are practiced in different variations, sometimes with one hand (katate) :

  • Jōgeburi (large, far blown blow pulled through to knee height)
  • Nanameburi (oblique, big blow)
  • Shōmen-uchi (large, wide, straight blow at forehead level)
  • Sayūmen-uchi (slap on the temple)
  • Haya suburi or Choyaku suburi (fast, jumped suburi, from hayai - fast or choyaku - jump)
  • Koshi-Suburi (broad stance with knee joints bent and the upper body straight)
  • Yokomen-Uchi (blow over the shoulder with a sweeping twisting motion)


Footwork (Ashi-Sabaki) is an important part of Kendo. In the basic position ( kamae ), the right foot is usually in front and the left foot is level with the right heel with the big toe . The left heel is slightly raised. All step movements are made from this foot position:

  1. Ayumi-Ashi: corresponds to normal walking. The right and left foot are alternately pulled forward.
  2. Okuri-Ashi: The foot that is in front in the direction of movement is the first to be set, the second to follow . A special form of Okuri-Ashi is the stamping step (Fumikomi-Ashi) . With this form, the first (right) foot is put down with a powerful stamp. This happens simultaneously with the hit of the Shinai and the Kiai. (See: Ki-Ken-Tai-Ichi)
  3. Hiraki-Ashi: enables evasion and restores the correct foot position.
  4. Tsugi-Ashi: enables an attack from a long distance (toma) by quickly pulling the back foot forward. A Fumikomi-Ashi follows.

Partner exercises

Kendoka doing partner exercises, Noma Dōjō 2006

In addition to suburi and exercises in the right foot techniques, these partner exercises are an important basis for kendo training:

  • The standard partner practice of Kendo is the kirikaeshi .
  • In Uchikomi, the partner is repeatedly attacked with basic techniques, okuri-ashi and fumikomi.

Kihon-Waza (basic techniques)

The basic techniques of kendō are called kihon- waza. These include:

  1. Shomen-Uchi - the straight blow to the head (Men)
  2. Kote-Uchi - the blow to the wrist (Kote)
  3. Do-Uchi - the blow to the belly side (Do)
  4. Tsuki - the thrust to the throat (Tsuki).

Kata (form)

Nihon Kendo Kata

In addition to the competition and training with the Shinai, there is the Kata , the only area of application of Bokutō or Katana in today's Kendō. These are techniques performed by two people without armor, which are subject to certain ceremonial forms, such as greeting and greeting. All actions to be carried out by both persons are fixed in terms of type and sequence. In the kata there is always a teacher (uchidachi) and a student (shidachi) . The teacher always takes the first stroke, the pupil always the last, which declares him the “winner”. With the Kata, however, it is not a question of “winning”, but rather a clean and fluid execution of the techniques. Therefore, kata are very useful for training and refining the individual techniques, similar to teaching in fencing.

The Nihon-Kendō-Kata was put together a little over 100 years ago from the forms of various ancient Japanese fencing styles ( Kenjutsu , Koryū ) and is still practiced today. However, the schools that still exist today, Nakanishi-ha Ittō-ryū and Hokushin Ittō-ryū , whose Gogyō no Kata have great similarities or overlaps with the Nihon-Kendō-Kata, since the modern Kendo and also the Kata mainly from these two schools was shaped. Students of these schools, which strongly influenced the Kendo-Kata, were among others Takano Sasaburo (Nakanishi-ha Ittō-ryū; Hokushin Ittō-ryū), Naito Takaharu (Hokushin Ittō-ryū) and Monna Tadashi (Hokushin Ittō-ryū).

Kihon-waza Keiko-ho

The practice method of the Kendō basic techniques with the Bokutō (Japanese Bokuto ni yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho) teaches the Kendōka basic principles of fighting with a sword and thus complements the training with the Shinai. Basic techniques are taught in nine forms. As in the Nihon-Kendō-Kata, greetings are greeted and greeted. The practitioners are called "Motodachi" and "Kakarite". All forms are performed in the Chudan-no-kamae . After performing the technique, Zanshin is performed.

  1. Kihon: Ippon-Uchi-no-Waza (Sho-Men, Kote, Do, Tsuki)
  2. Kihon: Ni-San-Dan-no-Waza (Kote-Men)
  3. Kihon: Harai-Waza (Harai-Men)
  4. Kihon: Hiki-Waza, Tsuba-Zerai (Hiki-Do)
  5. Kihon: Nuki-Waza (Men-Nuki-Do)
  6. Kihon: Suraiage-Waza (Kote-Suriage-Men)
  7. Kihon: Debana-Waza (Debana-Kote)
  8. Kihon: Kaeshi-Waza (Men-Kaeshi-Do)
  9. Kihon: Uchi-Otoshi-Waza (Do-Ushi-Otoshi-Men)

These Kihon exercises were developed from 1999 to 2002 under the chairmanship of Ota Tadanori (Hanshi 8th Dan) and presented in 2003. From 2016 the forms will be part of the German Kyu examination regulations.


In the German Kendobund (DKenB) there are six student levels ( Kyū grade), starting with the 6th Kyū as the lowest and ending with the 1st Kyū as the highest grade. The student grades are achieved through an examination. Then the actual graduations ( Dan grades) begin . The Zen Nihon Kendō Renmei (全 日本 剣 道 連 盟) officially knows 10 Kyū degrees and 10 Dan degrees. In Japan, the student grades are mainly used for children, since you start with kendo at a relatively young age.

According to the examination regulations of the German Kendo Association, the minimum intervals between the examinations are at least three months for student grades from 6th Kyu to 5th Kyu and half a year from 5th Kyu. The 1st Dan exam can be taken one year after the last exam. All further exams require a waiting time of the current Dan degree in years, whereby you should spend the waiting time training, otherwise you will fail the exam.

In Kendō, the 8th Dan (Hachidan) is the highest degree that can be obtained through an examination. This exam is held twice a year in Japan (spring and fall) and less than 1% of participants pass. The ninth and tenth dan are no longer awarded. Both degrees could only be reached by nomination until the Zen Nihon Kendō Renmei statutes were changed.

In contrast to many other Budō disciplines (Judō, Karate-dō, etc.), the respective graduation of a Kendōka is not recognizable from the clothing. Likewise, in contrast to many other Budo sports, the Dan degrees are not awarded. Each degree must be achieved through an examination.

There are also honorary titles (Shōgō) , which indicate the particularly noteworthy understanding of Kendō or the special merits and achievements of a Kenshi:

  • Renshi (possible from 6th Dan) no earlier than 1 year after the 6th Dan exam
  • Kyōshi (possible from 7th Dan) no earlier than 2 years after the 7th Dan exam
  • Hanshi (possible from 7th Dan or 8th Dan).


In addition to the classic Kendō style in Chudan-no-Kamae, two variants have established themselves.


The Jodan style uses the Hidari Jodan-no-Kamae . The sword is raised above the head, the attack is carried out by a Fumikomi-ashi with the front left foot. This achieves a large attack range. In addition, some fighters like to attack with one hand (katate) from this position in order to further increase the range.

More rarely, there are also Jodan fighters who stand in the normal kendō stand and go from there to the Migi Jodan-no-Kamae , but change hands so that the left hand grabs the Shinai in front under the tsuba . This style of Jodan is also called Gyaku-Jodan.


Left Nito, right Chudan.

The Nito style involves fighting with two swords (nito = two swords), i.e. H. As in the Niten Ichiryū by Miyamoto Musashi , they use a shorter long ( Daitō ) and a short sword ( Shōtō ) at the same time. The short sword is held in front of the body and used to deflect, defend and break the opponent's kamae , while the long shinai is raised above the head and waits to score points on exposed hit points. The Shōtō can also lead to Ippon (hits), but outside of Japan it is mostly unknowingly largely not counted. It is up to the fighter whether he uses the long Shinai with the left or right hand and in which part he grabs the tsuka of the long Shinai. The position of the feet is also free. There are very few kendōka who practice this style.

Shiai (competition)

The kendō hit zones: 1. Men, 2. Hidari, 3. Tsuki, 4. Hidari-Kote, 5. Hidari-Do, 6. Migi-Men, 7. Kote, 8. Migi

Main article: Kendo competition

The competition represents the essential difference between Kendo and the traditional Japanese sword fighting styles. There are championships at all levels as individual or team championships. A few of the most important championships are:

Women have separate championships; Due to a lack of participants, there is not always a separation between men and women at the country level in Europe.


Individual evidence

  1. a b c d All Japan Kendo Federation: The History of Kendo ( Memento of the original from February 6, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. ^ Kotaro Oshima, Kozō Andō: Kendo. Japanese sword fighting textbook. Berlin: Weinmann, 2003, ISBN 3-87892-037-7
  3. Jinichi Tokeshi: Kendo Elements, Rules and Philosophy (Honolulu 2003), ISBN 0-8248-2598-5 , page 77f
  5. Hiroshi Ozawa: Kendo - The Definitive Guide. (New York 1997), Kodansha International Ltd., ISBN 4-7700-2119-4 , p. 30
  6. Archive link ( Memento from February 22, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  7. ^ Regulations ( Memento of February 9, 2012 in the Internet Archive )

Web links




Commons : Kendo  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Kendo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on October 17, 2009 .