Kendo or Kenjutsu

kendo_kicksFighting with swords is one of the more popular martial arts and it can be learned by students in Japanese training schools which teach martial arts. There are also special martial arts schools which focus mainly on Japanese sword training.

When you start learning at a martial arts school you begin by learning the sword fighting basics. There is more than just one type of sword techniques which are taught in these sword fighting schools and they are presented below.


The term Kenjutsu is used for everything related to Japanese sword arts. With the help of Kenjutsu the students learn about swordmanship.


Kendo actually means way of sword and its main focus is the teaching of discipline. The Kendo discipline is quite challenging and the practitioners do it by wearing protection armor, Japanese clothing and a shinai.


The Iaido is the art of drawing from a sheath a katana, in a way that is controlled, after which you use it to take care of the opponent. After that, the blood is cleaned from the katana and it is placed back inside the sheath.

The students of this discipline don’t start with real swords, using instead wood made swords when they are training. There are a number of different types of blades available for training purposes, some of them being:

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A Shinai is a sword made out of wood, which uses long sticks made out of bamboo, bounded tightly together with strings. The shinai is used in Kendo.


The Bokken is also a wooden sword and martial arts students use them when they practice. The material used on it is usually Asian red oak, though a beginner might also use bokkens made out of foam. This is a training tool for kenjutsu, though Iaido is also a discipline which uses it.


A katana is a long and curvy sword with a single edge, which is also used in training in Iaido, as long as it’s not sharpened.



Kendo is the word for the Japanese fencing style which emerged between 1868 and 1912 in Japan, in the Meiji period. It was based on the fighting techniques with a two-handed sword used by the samurai. Kendo can be translated as the sword’s way and today is practiced with bamboo swords called shinai. Fighters also wear protective equipment during the fights. This equipment protects the target areas: abdomen, wrists and the head. The protective gear is called bogu and has a face mask called men, a breastplate called do and fencing gloves called kote. The hips and the stomach are protected by a sort of apron called tare. Kendoka, or students learning kendo, wear a hakama under their protective gear. The hakama is a kind of wide split skirt which reaches the ankles. The shinai, meaning the bamboo sword used in Kendo is four feet long. It consists of four bamboo slats, carefully formed and bound together in the shape of a hollow cylinder. Along the shinai’s length there is a cord running. In order for a cut to be considered valid, the player needs to strike with the side of the shinai which is opposite to the cord. More, the player needs to strike the point with the shinai’s top third.

Kendo may seam a very physical and aggressive style because of high-itched screams and fast-striking actions. This, however, it is only on the surface, as this martial art focuses greatly on developing skills such as timing, concentration, physical agility, awareness, footwork, inherent respect and body movement. The Japanese Samurai swordsmanship art stood at the base of the Kendo’s emerging. The sword used in Kendo is called shinai and the players wear a protective armor.

The martial art Kenjutsu dates back to the end of the 16th century and was followed by Kendo. This new style focuses more on the philosophical and intellectual characteristics.

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Kenjutsu is a Japanese word which means “the method of the sword” and comprises the Japanese schools of swordsmanship, the ones which predate the Meiji Restoration in particular. Kenjutsu opposes kendo which is the term for the “sword’s way”. Some people use the word Kenjutsu tu refer to those martial arts which use Japanese swords. This also includes the modern Kendo and Iaido which developed as modern styles of the 19th century’s traditional schools.

Each martial art school has its own activities comprised in the kenjutsu style, but there are some techniques which are common to most of them. Such techniques are the basic ones called kihon which imply no opponent and the techniques which involve two persons, named kata. For some styles kata features full contact strikes. At the beginning, sparring was done with the use of solid wooden bokuto which emerged into bamboo swords called shinai and also armor called bogu. Presently the Japanese swordsmanship is more associated with Kendo.

A common training weapon generally used is the sword made of wooden called bokken or bokuto. There are specially designed bokuto used by many schools. These specific swords have an altered shape, length and weight to match the specifications of the martial art style. The Yagy? Shinkage-ry? use a bokuto which is thin and has no handguard so to match the characteristic combat approach of the school. A thicker bokuto is used by those practicing the Kashima Shin-ry?. This particular bokuto has no curvature and the hilt is larger. This is related to the combat principles of Kashima Shin-ry?.

There is another type of sword made of bamboo and covered with cloth or leather. This is called fukuro shinai. This particular sword is used for those students who don’t have yet the ability to control the sword safely at full speed. The fukuro shinai is more than 5 centuries old.


Kendo equipment

Those who practice Kendo need to wear traditional Japanese clothing, a protective armour and a shinai. Sometimes they may even use two of them.


Shinai is a representation of katana, a Japanese sword. The shinai is made of four slats of bamboo bond together with leather fittings to create a shallow cylinder. Nowadays the shinai can be made of carbon fiber and reinforced with resin slats.

Presently kendo sticks can be found both made of synthetic material and bamboo. TO make a bamboo kendo, four split pieces are needed. These pieces are wrapped and then tied using leather straps of 40 up to 47 inches long. They are all-around sticks and are used both as defense and as practice tool. The synthetic sticks are, however, lighter because they are made of carbon fiber, but keep the length between 40 and 47 inches. The carbon fiber sticks last up to 10 times more than the bamboo sticks and are usually preferred by the intermediate and professional Kendo practitioners.

Hard wooden swords are also used for kata in the Kendoka style.

To strike the opponent in the Kendo fighting style, the player uses both the shinai or bokuto tip and edge.

The armour worn by the player is meant to protect the target areas such as the arms, the body and the head. A stylized helmet is used to protect the head and is called men. It has a metal grille which protects the face. The throat is protected by fabric and hard leather flaps. The shoulders and the neck sides are protected by padded fabric flaps. The hands, wrists and forearms are protected by gloves made of thickly padded fabric which are called kote. A breastplate protects the torso. The tare protects the groin area and the waist through the means of three vertical flaps of thick fabric.
Kendo Sticks

Kendo sticks are also known as Shinai in the Japanese language and they are designed especially for the use in the Kendo martial arts. This discipline is very much like fencing, though Kendo sticks are not sharp or pointed. Just like fencing though, the sticks are used to strike the adversary aggressively in different body parts.

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The Kendo stick is made from materials like bamboo, which use leather on them, in order to provide with a better grip. You can also find kendo sticks which are synthetic and they use carbon fiber as a material. If you’re a beginner, a synthetic kendo stick might be just what you need to get started with this discipline. The length of the kendo stick goes up to a maximum of 47 inches.

Taking care of a Shinai

When the Kendo sticks are not in use, you should keep them in a secure and safe place, so that nobody is injured. You should always look for any splinters on them (which appear in Shinai made out of bamboo), so you are able to avoid scratches or injuries.

A Kendo stick which is not used should be kept against a wall, with the handle pointing down. The importance of the Kendo sticks is quite big for Japanese martial arts users and there even ceremonies when it comes to cleaning Kendo sticks.


Buying one

When it comes to buying a Kendo stick, you should already know the type of Shinai that you need.

First of all, look at the level you are and whether you are a professional, intermediate user or a beginner. The Kendo stick that you’re picking should match the skill level that you’re at. If you’re on a budget, you should know that the Kendo sticks made out of bamboo are cheaper than those which are made out of carbon fiber.

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