What is Kendo?

Kendo (剣道, lit. "way of the sword") is a traditional Japanese martial art. Kendo practitioners (kendoka) use bamboo swords (shinai) and armour (bogu) for fencing, and wooden swords (bokuto) for practicing traditional sword forms (kata) in pairs.

Beginners typically start learning kendo by practicing the basic movements and techniques with a shinai or bokuto. Once students have got the hang of the basics, they will be encouraged to try wearing bogu so that they can practice more complex techniques and learn to fence other students in jigeiko (free practice between two kendoka wearing bogu).

When a kendoka has enough experience, they may take grading examinations to see if their skills have reached the level required for the next grade. The requirements for each grade are set by national/international kendo associations, depending on the grade. Kendoka may also choose to take part in tournaments (taikai) to test their skills against other kendoka from outside their own club (dojo) in a competitive environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can anyone do kendo?

Absolutely! Kendo is suitable for participants of all ages, abilities and levels of fitness; in Japan practitioners often start kendo as young children and continue well into their 80s and beyond. All that is required is a desire to learn and have a go! Salisbury Kendo Club currently only accepts members that are 18 years or older, but that will change if there is sufficient demand for junior kendo in Salisbury.

What equipment do I need to start?

You only need loose and comfortable training clothes, such as a T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms. The club will provide a shinai (a bamboo sword) for you to use during practice. Additional equipment like a set of kendo uniform (kendogi and hakama) or bogu (armour) does not need to be purchased until the student has completed their first few months of training.

How much does it cost?

For new starters: the 8 week beginners course costs £40 (includes £10 British Kendo Association temporary membership fee which is required for insurance purposes and valid for three months).

For existing club/BKA members: £20 per month or £7 a session.

Do you wear shoes/socks/sandals/skates when doing kendo?

No; kendo is done entirely barefoot, so clean feet and cut toenails are required.

Do I have to shout?

I'm afraid so! Giving out a loud shout to show your fighting spirit (kiai) when you make a cut is an essential part of kendo. Kendo is a noisy martial art and this can feel odd at first - but you'll get used to it!

Does it hurt?

Very rarely - kendo armour is designed to protect the areas of the body that are valid targets. However, kendo is a contact martial art and so some bruises are inevitable from off-target strikes and beginners learning to cut. Investing in a good quality set of bogu that fits well will go a long way to mitigating these issues - Mark will advise when students reach the stage where they should be looking to buy a set of armour.

More information

For more information, please visit the British Kendo Association website or contact us.