The Concept of Kendo
The Purpose of Practicing Kendo
The Dojo Sho
Cleveland Kendo Association - Akitsu Dojo
Instructors and Senior Students
The Cleveland Kendo Association operates under the guidance of Dr. Tsuyoshi Inoshita MD, Kyoshi 7dan Kendo, President of the GNEUSKF, and CKA Head Instructor Dr. Shigemi Matsuyama PhD, 5dan Kendo 2dan Iaido.
Instructors: John Beaty 4dan Kendo, Mieko Matsuyama 4dan kendo, Neil Adelman 4dan Kendo, and Dr. Miwa Morita PhD, 3dan kendo (Sempai)
An Introduction to Kendo
Origin of Kendo
Modern Kendo bears but faint resemblance to Kenjutsu and to its feudal origins of sword wielding samurai warriors which are today depicted in movies and television. Kendo, literally translated, the way of the sword, cannot be traced to a single founder or given an exact founding date. The story of the rise of modern Kendo begins with the samurai and extends over the culture of several centuries.
By the end of the 12th century, the authority of the Japanese central government had declined. Bands of warriors grouped together for protection forming local aristocracies. Feudalism had come of age, and was to dominate Japan for several centuries. With the establishment of the Shogun in Kamakura and military rule controlling Japan, a new military class and their lifestyle called Bushido, ìthe way of the warrior,î gained prominence. Bushido stressed the virtues of bravery, loyalty, honor, self discipline and stoical acceptance of death. Certainly, the influence of Bushido extended to modern Japanese society and Kendo was also to be greatly influenced by this thinking.
The Japanese warrior had no contempt for learning or the arts. Although Kenjutsu, "the art of swordsmanship" had been recorded since the 8th century, it gained new prominence and took on religious and cultural aspects as well. Sword making became a revered art. Zen and other sects of Buddhism developed and the samurai often devoted time to fine calligraphy or poetry.
The next great advance in the martial arts occurred during the late Muromachi period (1336-1568) often call the ìage of Warring Provincesî because of the many internal conflicts. This period brought an increased demand and respect for men trained in the martial arts. Consequently, many schools of Kenjutsu arose, eventually numbering about 200. Each was taught by a famous swordsman whose techniques earned him honor in battle. Real blades or hardwood swords without protective equipment were used in training resulting in many injuries. These schools continued to flourish through the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), with the Ittoryu or ìone sword school,î having the greatest influence on modern Kendo.
Kendo began to take its modern appearance during the late 18th century with the introduction of protective equipment: the men, kote and do and the use of the bamboo sword, the shinai. The use of the shinai and protective armor made possible the full delivery of blows without injury. This forced the establishment of new regulations and practice formats which set the foundation of modern Kendo.
With the Meiji Restoration (1868) and Japanís entry into the modern world, Kendo suffered a great decline. The Samurai class was abolished and the wearing of swords in public outlawed. This decline was only temporary, however, interest in Kendo was revived first in 1887 when uprisings against the government showed the need for the training of police officers. Later the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) again encouraged an awareness of the martial spirit.
Consequently in 1895, the Butokukai, an organization devoted to the martial arts was established. In 1911, Kendo was officially introduced into the physical education curriculum of middle schools and in 1912, the Nihon Kendo Kata, a set of regulations for Kendo, was published. In 1939 as Japan prepared for war, Kendo became a required course for all boys.
After the war, because of its nationalistic and militaristic associations, Kendo was outlawed and the Butokukai was disbanded. However by 1952, supporters of Kendo successfully reintroduced a ìpure sportî form of Kendo, called Shinai Kyogi which excluded the militaristic attitudes and some of the rougher aspects of practice characteristic of prewar Kendo, into the public schools. Today, Kendo continues to grow under the auspices of the All Japan Kendo Federation, the International Kendo Federation, and federations all over the world.
Although the outward appearance and some of the ideals have changed with the changing needs of the people, Kendo continues to build character, self-discipline and respect. Despite a sportlike atmosphere, Kendo remains steeped in tradition which must never be forgotten. For here lies the strength of Kendo which has carried it throughout history and will carry it far into the future.
In Kendo, like many other martial arts, etiquette is an important aspect that needs to be constantly practiced and continually observed. To be clear on terminology, "Reigi" is the concept of etiquette and "Reiho" is its physical manifestation. Etiquette in the dojo is not designed to give airs and graces to senior members. Nor it is designed to contribute to the mystique of the martial arts. Etiquette is common sense, discipline and manners on the whole, and is an integral requirement for self-awareness and development. It is the means of conveying respect towards the dojo, sensei, sempai, peers, and towards the art of Kendo itself. It is perhaps the easiest facet of Kendo to transfer from the dojo to everyday life as concepts of respect, courtesy, and restraint become embedded in everyday actions and considerations.
Almost all of kendo has been regulated and systematized, which make it almost impossible to list and memorize all the possible points; this is at best an incomplete list. We are all learning and all make the occasional mistake but if you find yourself in an awkward position, correct yourself as quickly and quietly as possible, apologize ("gomenesai"), and return your attention to practice. Much of it is really just common sense and good manners in the dojo.
Basic Dojo Rules and Etiquette
- It is impolite to be late to practice.
- Whenever a Kendoist enters or leaves a dojo. He/She bows in respect of the dojo and those present.
- A Kendoist takes off shoes and hat upon entering the dojo.
- Upon entering or leaving the dojo, a kendoist greets the instructors in acknowledgement of their rank.
- A Kendoist bows in respect to his opponent before and after each practice.
- A Kendoist never walks in front of a seated kendo player wearing his bogu. If necessary, extend your right hand and bow slightly as you pass.
- A Kendoist never touches the bogu of another.
- Never step over a shinai, bokuto (wooden sword), or Iaito, lean on it, or treat it with disrespect.
- Handle your shinai or bokuto respectfully. Do not lean on it, rest it on the floor, twirl it, or drag it. It is to be considered as a real sword and is to be afforded the necessary level of respect.
- The novice will sit opposite the Yudansha (higher rank), or to their right.
- If repair or adjustment is necessary, practice must be stopped and the other kendo player must remain in place (Sonkyo position in a match). When practice is ready to be resumed, players will stand and bow before continuing.
- The "Men" should not be taken off until the command is given at the conclusion of practice.
- Never lean against the wall: Instead stand, kneel or sit cross-legged when resting.
- Strive for good form, demonstrate proper fighting spirit, and carry yourself with a sense of dignity.
- Always demonstrate humility and respect for yourself, fellow kendoists, and seniors.
- All Kendoists should formally close practice together (even if you have stopped practicing before others).
- Gratitude is expressed at the end of practice instructors and fellow kendoists. “Thank you very much… Domo Arigato Gozaimashita”.
All Japan Kendo Federation: Nihon Kendo Kata
Kendo kata are practiced with a solid wooden sword called a bokken. More formal demonstrations are conducted with Katana, usually of a form that is similiar to that used in Iaido, but heavier since contact is made with another sword.
There are ten kendo kata specified by the All Japan Kendo Federation, 7 kata with tachi (long sword) and 3 kata with kodachi (short sword).
Each kata studies a single set of concepts in a very pure setting allowing the practitioner to delve deeply into these concepts.
Kendo kata are practiced between two people, the Uchitachi and the Shidachi. In kendo kata, the Uchitachi attacks the Shidachi who in turn demonstrates a proper response to the attack. Seven of these kata are illustrations of the technique of the long sword against the long sword. The last three kata illustrate the short sword defending against attacks by the long sword.
Prior to the invention of the shinai and bogu, kata were the only way that kendoists could safely practice. Originally, the role of Uchitachi was taken by the teacher and the role of Shidachi by the student. This tradition carries over into modern Kendo kata in that the Uchitachi always sets the pace and distance at which the actions are performed.
Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho
Bokuto Application for Kendo Fundamental Technique Practice
The fundamental concept of Kendo is to cut with a sword: the Shinai representing the sword. However, this concept has become obscured as Kendo has become more sports oriented. The Kendo Kata was established in 1912 to teach to and preserve the concept that the shinai and the katana are one in the same; however, the Kendo Kata, in addition to being difficult for most beginners, is infrequently practiced and is often exercised only in hurried preparation for examinations. Therefore, the Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho was developed to bridge the gap between modern kendo practice and traditional training concepts and values .
Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho also facilitates learning the Nihon Kendo Kata, and because of this was adopted by the All Japan Kendo Federation for use in primary and secondary school. While Nihon Kendo Kata uses all five kamae, Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho uses only Chūdan-no-kamae, the most common stance. Instead of student and teacher roles, there are the equal roles of Motodachi and Kakarite. The Motodachi receives the waza of the Kakarite. The first four waza are focused on attack initiaion techniques, while the final five are focused on techniques for responding to an attack .
 Uchida, Mark (2003). "Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho (Bokuto Application for Kendo Fundamental Technique Practice)". Mushinkan Dojo.
There are two types of wooden swords used. First, the bokken or bokuto, a solid wood sword made of oak or another suitable hardwood. The bokken is used for basics and forms practice (kata). Second, the shinai, is made up of four bamboo staves and leather. The shinai is used for full contact sparring practice.
The uniform or dogi consists of woven cotton top called a keikogi and pleated skirt-like trousers called a hakama.
The armor or bogu consists of four pieces: the helmet (men), the body protector (do), the gloves (kote), and the hip and groin protector (tare). Modern Kendo armor design is fashioned after the Oyoroi of the Samurai.
If one sees a beautiful flower, normally the mind concentrates on it, but with an empty mind (Mokuso) the mind is aware of everything else as well as the flower. So when one fights an enemy, attacking and defending, if only concentrating on blocking techniques, the mind is restricted to that movement, but if the mind is empty the body is able to do the next movement automatically and movements will always be natural. If the body is tense it is wasting energy and restricting speed, it is essential to move without being conscious of it. That feeling is called Mushin.
The word Mokuso is formed by several ideograms that all together, are translated as “watching in silence toward our heart. To think or to reflect profoundly”. Meditation is to the soul and the spirit, what the physical workout is to the body and mind. “As a crystalline water's lake reflects without distortion all that exists around it, giving to it a shade of tranquility and perfection to the nature; thus it must be the mind of the kendo student toward the teachings of the master”. Mokuso is one of the paths leading to this state of mind.
The development of a strong commitment toward attaining peace and serenity puts us in harmony with the universe. The meditation is the vehicle to this union with the world and its inhabitants. Releasing the mind of any thought, we can see another dimension of the world. In this state of complete relaxation and sublime concentration, we release any mental disturbance (hatred, fears, pains, excessive desires, etc.) and simultaneously we unconsciously generate a psychic force. It is virtually impossible to create this force consciously. Just as we train hard to perfect techniques until they become part of our “body memory”, the practice of meditation teaches us to release this psychic force in a conditioned reflex for spiritual growth. While we advance toward this goal, the practice of meditation has beneficial effects.
Daily meditation reduces stress, oxygen consumption decreases, which (cellular oxidation). The blood pressure and the pulse tend to slow. The lower respiratory rate stabilizes the nervous system.
Meditation is defined by some experts as the perfect passive activity for the health of human beings. To practice standing, sitting or lying down, we should meditate in complete stillness.
Keep in mind that the practice of kata is by and large, an active form of very advanced meditation, and only those which have devoted many years to the practice of passive meditation, along with kendo training, can discover this active meditation. To reach this level one must learn and practice certain specific relaxation techniques. These techniques must be executed with an iron will.
In Kendo, Mokuso is a very important ceremony and should be practiced immediately before "Men Tsuke" (putting on the Men, or head gear) to garner the proper resolve for a hard practice session, as well as after each Kendo practice.
Additionally, practice Mokuso for at least sixty minutes daily, preferably at sunrise and before bed. Little by little, as a result of perseverance, Kendoka can learn to live in a constant moving meditation.
How to Join Cleveland Kendo
Before you decide to start learning Kendo, we recommend that you visit and watch at least one of our Saturday practices, from the beginning until the very end. While everyone can learn Kendo, regardless of age or gender (and we will dedicate the time necessary to train anyone willing to make the commitment), we are not going to kid you, it is hard. Developing skill and stamina in Kendo requires a commitment of time and hard work. With regular practice, it will take at least one year for your body to acclimate to the movements and develop the minimum skill required to "begin learning Kendo". With that said, here is how to get signed up:
To practice with the Cleveland Kendo Association you will need to: 1. pay first month membership and federation dues , and 2. complete a waiver and registration forms. Of course, there are rules of conduct that apply as well.
1. First lesson is FREE
2. Month-to-month Membership*: $65.00 per month (includes unlimited classes and practices)
3. Federation Membership**: $55.00 (due at signup and collected once per year)
4. Two or more family members want to join? Ask us about family discounts.
*No serious student will be turned away due to financial hardship. Sliding scale is available at the discretion of the head instructor.
**Includes membership in the Greater Northeastern United States Kendo Federation and the All United States Kendo Federation. This provides access to testing, regional, national and international instructors, seminars, and competitions.
Download and Sign The Membership and Waiver Form
Waiver Form: If you are new to the club and wish to join, you must fill out a waiver form before you will be allowed to join the practice. Children under the age of 18 will require a parent to be present and sign the waiver form before your first class (Click image on left to download).
Uniforms, Equipment, What To Expect The First Year
Here is what you can expect during your first year (this may vary depending on the student):
1. At the beginning, loose clothing such as gym shorts and a t-shirt is recommended. You will be practicing in bare feet. A bamboo sword ("shinai") and a wooden sword ("boken" or "bokuto") will need to be purchased. We usually buy them in bulk and can sell them to you at a discount. If you plan on purchasing directly from an online retailer, please ask us first so that you do not purchase a substandard item that cannot be used in kendo practice (for safety reasons).
2. Within a few months of regular attendance and after you have developed sufficient basics, you will be allowed to purchase and wear the top ("keiko gi") and pleated pants ("hakama") that are the traditional uniform of the Samurai.
3. Within six to nine months of practice you will be approved to purchase a set of armor ("bogu" or "dogu"), and will begin to acclimate to the extra weight by adding additional pieces of the armor, one at a time, over a period of several weeks.
4. At nine months to one year, you will be allowed to begin sparring with an instructor only, and after a period of time as approved by the head instructor, you will be allowed to spar (have free practice) with other members of the dojo.
New student attendance: If possible, new students are asked to attend the Saturday sessions first for orientation, before attending the weekday practices. The Saturday classes start promptly at 3:00pm every Saturday. Please arrive 30 minutes early on your first day to allow for registration.
Visitors are always welcome to watch our practice. We are happy to answer any of your questions before and after the scheduled practice. We only ask that you e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you are coming.
29th Annual Cleveland Taikai - Coming Spring 2017
The Cleveland Kendo Tournament is hosted by the Cleveland Kendo Association, and serves as the Annual Championship Tournament for the Greater Northeastern U.S. Kendo Federation (GNEUSKF), which is a regional federation of the All United States Kendo Federation (AUSKF).
The Cleveland Tournament is an "event" that usually includes several opportunities to practice with visiting instructors from across the U.S. and Japan, an AUSKF sanctioned promotion "shinsa", and an Iaido seminar taught by one the highest ranking instructors in North America.
7th Annual CWRU Student CUP Kendo Tournament 2016
September 16 – September 18 2016
Where: Case Western Reserve University
10900 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, Ohio 44106
Dear Senseis and Kendoka,
On behalf of the Case Western Reserve University Kendo Club, it is my pleasure to invite you to the 7th annual CWRU Student Cup Tournament, promotion exam, and seminar, from September the 16th to the 18th.
Follow the links below for our tournament and promotion exam registration and information. Please take care to read the information, and send us your forms postmarked by the 5th of September.
Thank you everyone, and I hope to see you all there!
Tournament Information, Tournament Registration, Promotion Exam Registration, Promotition Exam Questions.
President CWRU Kendo Club
Media and News
In the News
Cleveland Kendo Practice Schedule
No Practice on Saturday September 17th due to the CWRU Student CupWhen: Saturdays: 3:00pm -5:00pm
Where: CWRU Veale Center
(entrance cost $5)
2138 Adelbert Rd, Cleveland, OH 44106
*Free parking is available on Saturdays at Lot 44 at 2310 W Murray Hill Rd Cleveland, OH 44106
See Map When: Wednesdays: 7:00pm - 8:15pm
Where: Lake Shore Aikido
291 E 222nd Street, Euclid, OH 44123