What is Kendo?
The word samurai means one who serves. The samurai is in the service of a lord. He is united to this lord by a code which demands absolute loyalty.
The Bushi fights on horseback, wearing a helmet and flexible armor made of narrow bands of steel bound together by ropes or pliers.

Only the samurai is allowed to use the supreme weapons of war. On the battlefield, he carried the cavalry saber, the Tachi (sometimes his katana) and a Tanto. the Katana was a long, two-handed sword.
The wakizashi, a short sword, was called 'the guardian of the honor of the samurai', and was used during seppuku. It is a weapon rich in meaning and symbols.
samurai katana japan sword
The legacy of the samurai: Japanese fencing
Whether this is to be hired by a Lord, or to defend him, the samurai devoted most of their time to developing their mastery of katana, by training in kenjutsu schools, but also in other fighting arts. The establishment of peace in the 17th century gradually brought about changes in the ways of training, of approaching the art of the sword, but also in the equipment. Certain spiritual aspects appeared in the practice of the samurai, strongly tinged with Confucianism and Zen Buddhism. The object of mastering the katana is no longer only to know how to bring down an enemy, but also to improve oneself through diligent practice. We then gradually moved from kenjutsu to kendo. The end of the samurai in 1868 brought about a tremendous development of kendo, because the practice of this martial art was no longer reserved only for warriors. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was even made compulsory in the training of the police but also of students. Two world wars later, the kendo is still there. It has certainly changed a lot since its origins, but the spirit remains the same: to allow the practitioner to improve.
Kendo in France
Le kendô s'installe en France dans les années 50. La FKR (France kendô renmei) puis la FFK (Fédération française kendô) et pour finir la Fédération Française de Judo (FFJDA) par lintermédiaire du Comité national de kendô (CNK) prirent en main le développement du kendô français. Actuellement, environ 5000 personnes pratiquent le kendô chaque année.
The practice of Kendo
Kendo, as a worthy heir to the samurai, requires a total and sincere commitment of body and mind. No constraint restrains the kendôka in the execution of his gesture; he carries his attacks by freeing his physique and his mind, thus acquiring greater confidence in his means and shaping a stronger personality which he will benefit from in everyday life.
katana sword japan kendo martial art
The label

These were codified at the beginning of the 20th century. At first glance, they are relatively simple. The kenshi facing each other in kamaé, it is a question of carrying his attacks on the parts of the body protected by the armor: the men (head), the koté (wrists), the do (the blanks) and for the more experienced the tsuki (blow destoc, pointe) to the chest. But setting them up like their realization requires more than a simple keystroke. Just as the katana cut involves a real commitment of body and energy, a strike is only technically valid if it follows a very strict set of rules.
Finally, the work of the sword also involves the study of the katas, the bokken.
The techniques

This aspect of kendo sometimes confuses the beginner. Indeed, all kendo lessons begin and end in the same way: rigorous respect for etiquette, which has hardly changed for generations, allows the practitioner to acquire attention, concentration - mandatory - at all times. It also makes it possible not to deviate from tradition: kendo is, and remains, a Japanese martial discipline. Orders are given in Japanese (as, by the way, all orders within the course).
Sei retsu = line up
Mokuso = meditation
Mokuso yamé = end of meditation
Sensei ni rei = hello to the teacher
At the end of the session, after the hello to the teacher, we add the hello to the training partners: otagaî ni rei.
The Kendô no Kata
Kendo can be enriched by the practice of KO RYU, or Old Schools. Hence the interest of kendô no kata. The practice of kata emphasizes more on the perfection of the movements. It is for this reason that in terms of technical purity, it is placed above kendo in shinai. The study of these katas, the knowledge and perfect execution of which is required at each passage of rank, allows the kenshi to always be in contact with the reality of a real fight: each kata (7 in bokken, 3 in kodachi) corresponds to a typical situation, and requires the same rigor as all techniques in shinaï.
The Japanese Kendo Federation defines the effects of kata as follows:
Develops ability to find the correct direction of datotsu and perform uchi and tsuki without breaking the balance.
Understanding of the correct interval of attack between partners, MAAI.
Helps make body movements more logical and efficient due to greater agility, precision and naturalness.
Helps make body movements more logical and efficient due to greater agility, precision and naturalness.
The goal in katas being to CUT and not HIT or TOUCH, and without having protection, the resulting tension allows them to go deeper into the kata and improves their concentration.
Develops a kind of pride (KIGURAI), a dignity that is found in sincere practitioners.

It also allows the practitioner to study and improve the basics of kendo: shisei, zanshin, metsuké, breathing ... Let us add that understanding and practice, without affecting the label specific to the kata, promotes REIGI, that is to say the right attitude towards a partner and by extension to others.
Kendo equipment
katana sword japan kendo martial art
At the beginning of the practice, kendo does not require much investment. A simple sports outfit is sufficient. The bamboo saber is loaned for the first sessions by the clubs. However, if the practice becomes regular, it is advisable to invest a little later in a hakama and a kendogi. Finally, when the technique is refined, the moment arrives when the kenshi wears the full armor: it is from this moment that the in-depth study of the kendo fight begins.
From katana to bokken from bokken to shinai, the goal remains the same: to slice the opponent. As the centuries went by, the opportunities to fight diminished, it was necessary to find other ways of training and of allowing a total engagement, in order to reconstitute a real opposition, that the work in kata did not allow.
katana sword japan martial art kendo
For the practice of Kendo, the katana is replaced by the Shinai composed of four bamboo blades (sometimes synthetic materials are also used) linked together by pieces of leather. This weapon is flexible enough not to cause injury to practitioners. Its long grip, Tsuka, allows the weapon to be wielded with both hands.
When practicing katas, a wooden sword is used: the bokken, or bokuto, is a real weapon. Its use is always done with total control of its gestures. It happens (rarely) that katas are presented with katanas by Japanese masters.
Armor In order to strike a blow without risking injury to the opponent (and receiving harmlessly from it) kendo armor has grown and improved over the years. This consists of a helmet (men), a breastplate (do), gloves (koté) and a taré (protection for the hips). Only the men, the do and the koté receive the keystrokes.
It must be admitted that the development of protections and the restriction of attacks to uniquely protected areas of the body necessarily brought sporting elements into practice.
Sources: www.kenyu.fr
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