What is Kendo?
Kendo, the “Way of the Sword,” is a Japanese martial art and modern sport arising out of older schools of swordsmanship or Kenjutsu.
Practitioners of Kendo aim to score decisive blows to designated areas of the head, body and wrists of an opponent. The blows are made with full force since protective clothing is worn and the swords are made out of very flexible bamboo.
Qualities such as decisiveness, endurance, and an unwavering focus are developed through the practice of Kendo.
History of Kendo
Kendo is the modern sport equivalent of ancient Japanese swordsmanship.
Swordsmanship, along with archery and horsemanship, were the main pursuits of the military ruling classes of Japan all through its long and tumultuous feudal periods. Mastery of the sword was considered essential for every Samurai warrior.
Different schools of Kenjutsu (“Art of the Sword”) arose and proliferated throughout these periods, numbering up to five hundred by the Edo Period (1603-1868). With the end of the feudal age in Japan after 1868, the Samurai class was officially dissolved and the practice of Kenjutsu went into decline. But by the turn of the last century there was a sharp increase in national patriotism within Japan and a revived interest in Kenjutsu. Forms (kata) from various schools were revived and standardized and by 1912 a core curriculum of 10 Kata was established. Just as Jujutsu had morphed into Judo around that time, so did Kenjutsu change into modern Kendo.
After temporarily being banned in the years following WWII, along with other Japanese martial arts, Kendo was again allowed to be practiced and by 1952 the All Japan Kendo Federation was created.
Kendo's popularity increased outside of Japan, such that by 1970 the International Kendo Federation (IKF) was created as well as the first World Kendo Championships. This event continues to be held every three years.
Philosophy of Kendo
Kendo aims for perfection of character through the merging of mind and body into one decisive and perfect blow.
Concepts such as Mushin (“empty-mind”) and Fudoshin (“unmoving-mind”), borrowed from Zen Buddhism, are used to describe such perfection. Through rigorous and unrelenting practice a state of clarity is achieved in which the Kendoka reacts perfectly to the situation facing him/her.
Similar ideas of perfection can be found in the Japanese practices of Calligraphy (Shodo) and the Tea Ceremony (Chado) which also date from the same historical period in Japanese history.
Kendo as Self-Defense
Unless one carries a sword with them at all times, Kendo may not be as effective for self-defense as other weaponless martial arts.
That being said, neither can a submission-hold or a body-blow do much against a gun. Viewed in this way, Kendo’s raising of a person’s abilities to focus and read various fighting situations can be very applicable to avoiding confrontation in the first place.
Kendo for Kids
Whether it’s wanting to be a ‘Jedi-knight’ or to let loose the battle cry of an ancient Samurai warrior, kids find Kendo fascinating. And where there is fascination there is motivation and a willingness to work hard.
Kendo for Adults
Persons interested in perfection of body/mind/spirit are very much attracted to martial arts such as Kendo and Aikido. With strong influences from Zen Buddhism, Kendo is as much a spiritual practice as it is a good physical and mental workout.
Kendo Associations & Resources:
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