Kendo Equipment

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Kendo is practiced using a shinai (weapon) (竹刀, しない) as a weapon. One, or more rarely two shinai, are used. The shinai is the practice “sword” and is made up of four bamboo staves, which are held together by leather fittings. Kendoka also use bokken/bokuto (wooden swords) to practice more formal, set forms known as kata.

Protective armour bōgu (防具, ぼうぐ), is worn to protect specified target areas on the head, arms and body. The head is protected by the helmet-like men (面, めん), the forearms and hand by gauntlets called kote (小手, こて?), and the body by the dō (胴, どう) and tare (垂れ, たれ). The clothing worn under the bogu comprises a jacket, or kendogi/keikogi and a hakama, which is a trouser-like garment with wide legs.

Kendo equipment consists of the swords, uniform and armor. There are two types of wooden swords used.

Kendo Equipment

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.

Kendo Practice: A Kendo practice is composed of many types of training. Each type has a different purpose for developing the Kendo student.

Kendo, like other martial arts requires discipline and a dedication to training. A new student begins with learning the basics such as: etiquette (reigi), different postures and footwork, and how to properly swing a sword. The student progresses through a series of skills preparing them to begin training with armor (bogu).

Once a student begins to practice in armor, a practice may be composed of any or all of the following types of practice and this will depend upon what the instructor’s focus is at a particular time:

  1. Kiri-Kaeshi: successively striking the left and right men, practice centering, distance, and proper cutting while building spirit and stamina.
  2. Waza-Geiko: technique practice in which the student learns to use the many techniques of Kendo with a receiving partner.
  3. Kakari-Geiko: short, intense, attack practice which teaches continuous alertness, the ability to attack no matter what has come before, as well as building spirit and stamina.
  4. Ji-Geiko: sparring practice where the kendoist has a chance to try all that he or she has learned with a resisting partner.
  5. Gokaku-Geiko: sparring practice between two kendoist of similar skill level.
  6. Hikitate-Geiko: sparring practice where a senior kendoist guides a junior kendoist through practice.
  7. Shiai-Geiko: competition matches which are judged on the basis of a person scoring valid cuts against an opponent.

Kendo Kata: Almost all martial arts have a set of kata. Kendo is no exception. Kata are pre-set sequences of motions which illustrate very deeply one or more aspects of the art. Repetitive practice of kata internalizes the lessons of the kata.

Kendo Shinai Parts

Kendo kata are practiced with a solid wooden sword called a bokken. There are ten kendo kata specified by the All Japan Kendo Federation. 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.