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Kendo (劍道, けんどう, kendo , tsurugi no michi, way of the sword) is modern Japanese martial art that is based on medieval samurai techniques of fencing. Kendo practice has deep traditions in Japanese culture. Depending on social environment of each epoch, kendo was used for different purposes on different stages of its development, but it was always a part of Japanese martial arts history.
The name ‘kendo’ was created by Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society (大日本武徳会) that was established in 1895 with the purpose to revive samurai traditions and strengthen Japanese spirit among Japan’s youth. The main method of the Society became fencing lessons on classes in physical education. The old name kenjutsu that means ‘technique of the sword’ was replaced by more wide and deep term kendo – ‘way of the sword’.
Nowadays only in Japan there is more than 5 millions of kendo practitioners. The most popular kendo practice locations are schools, universities, enterprises, and police stations.
Kendo is way of personality forming through hardening by sword laws.
Word sword (剣, ken) contains the main ideas of kendo. The first idea is that person with the sword does not have right for mistake and has no opportunity to fix it. Thus, he or she should treat everything seriously – both in combat and everyday life. The second idea postulates that there are no similar situations: each opponent, fight, matter should be handled with renewed spirit and energy. That is why the word sword in kendo is understood as means that helps to train spirit of person.
By ‘laws’ (理法) three elements, which are required for effective strike, are understood. It is ‘law of sword’ (刀法) that presumes correct strike execution, ‘law of body’ (身法) that postulates that strike should be made with correct posture, and ‘law of heart’ (心法) that means courage and vigor during strike. Thus, ‘hardening by sword laws’ is constant improvement of technical skills, physical form, and mental condition of the practitioner.
Way’ in kendo — is the way of human developing and forming as a personality. To become ideal is impossible, that is why the process – developing and forming, not the result – formation and perfection, are in the basis of this martial art philosophy.
The main principle of kendo is harmonic combination of body, mind and spirit: Ki Ken Tai no Ichi. That means that person develops not only physically, but also mentally during trainings.
Kendo practice comprehensively cultivates moral and character qualities of person. It improves character by enhancing of health.
Kendo conception lies in harmonic combination of mind and body, development of strong and powerful spirit and desire to grow in martial arts through correct and strict training, respect to rules of behavior and human honor, sincere communication with others, and constant desire for self improvement because it helps everybody to love one’s country and society, assist culture development, and support peace and prosperity of people.
Kendo art consists from basics (kihon), techniques (waza), and kata.
Basics include: basic posture, skill to hold shinai (bamboo sword) in basic posture, kamae (postures), etiquette, movements, and basic strikes. Besides, it includes maai – ability to keep and choose correct distance with opponent, suburi – exercises with shinai, and kirikaeshi – one of the main exercises in kendo.
Waza or techniques are divided into shikake waza (attacking techniques) and oji waza (defending and counterattacking techniques).
Kata is systematic sequence of techniques that consist in fighting with single or several opponents. There are 10 such kata in kendo. They are performed in pair with opponent. Wooden swords bokuto or real katana swords are used in kendo kata.
Strikes in kata are imitated – sword is stopped in several cm from goal on safe distance.
During kata practice swordsmen perform roles of attacking uchidachi (teacher) and defending shidachi (student). Attacker always loses kata and helps student to understand the techniques.
Competition (shiai) in kendo always holds in form of combat. This rule works also for group contests.
In kendo bamboo sword (shinai) is used. It came as replacement of katana (real sword) and bokuto (wooden sword) that along with special protective equipment (bogu) allows conducting full-blooded combats with no danger for kendo practitioners’ health.

Shinai consists of four bamboo slats (take), string (tsuru), leather handle fitting (tsukagawa), fitting at the tip (sakigawa), leather strip (nakayui), and hand-guard (tsuba) with rubber ring (tsubadome). Bamboo slats are fixed with leather fittings that are in turn fixed by string. For marking sharp side of shinai and good string stretching strip is used.

Bogu – protective equipment that was created on basis of Japanese warriors’ armour and is its simplified modification, made of modern high quality materials. Bogu consists of the following elements: groin and leg protectors (tare), torso protector (do), hand and forearm protectors (kote), and combined face mask and shoulder protector (men).

Uniform of kendo practitioner includes jacket (keikogi) of black, blue or white colors and wide pants (hakama) of black or blue color. Also cotton towel (tenugui) is used for protecting of head and neck from rubbing by face mask (men) and eyes from sweat that appears during combat or training.

Equipment for kendo. Manual in Russian (download)

There are almost no limits regarding age for kendo practice. Traditionally the minimal age for starting trainings is elementary-school age – from 7-8 years. Both men and women of any age can practice kendo.

Grades in kendo, according to official classification, established by All Japan Kendo Federation is divided in two types:

Kyu – student grades with reverse sequence from largest to smallest. There are 6 kyu grades. Time intervals between kyu certifications should be from 3 to 6 months.

Dan – master grades. There are 8 dan grades, which are received in direct sequence (from 1 to 8 dan) with 1-5 years interval.