What's Kendo? - Interview / Yukiko Takami

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What can I expect?

At HSSK, beginner courses are offered every 2-3 months in each location. Beginners spend the first 8-10 weeks being instructed in the proper stance, footwork, and basic strikes using a bamboo sword (Shinai). Once you complete the beginner course, you may advance through the next stages, which include striking with Shinai, wearing the uniform, and finally donning the protective equipment. At each stage, students will be evaluated to determine if they are ready for advancement. 

Beginner class objectives

• Learn the fundamental body movements

• Be able to start and end Kendo with proper manners

• Be able to do basic strikes with proper footwork

• Be able to do some basic practice drills

• Understand the characteristics of KENDO

• Understand the commonly used KENDO terms

• Be able to dress GI/HAKAMA (Kendo clothes) and put on BOGU (protective gear) by oneself

• Be able to fold GI/HAKAMA and store BOGU properly

• Be ready to join BOGU Beginner class

Conduct in Dojo

1) Arrive early and be prepared to start practice on time.

2) Shoes must be removed prior to entering the dojo, and neatly arranged so as not to create a hazard or kept in one's equipment bag.

3) Stop and bow when entering or leaving the dojo.

4) Greet everyone at the first opportunity, especially the sensei and your seniors. Examples: Good morning, Good afternoon, Good evening.

5) Pay respect to everyone when departing, especially to the sensei and your seniors. Examples: Good night, Goodbye.

6) When addressing instructors, use the title Sensei.

7) Be attentive; listen carefully to instructions, and respond promptly by saying “Hi” (it means yes in Japanese) clearly and loudly.

8) Always sit or stand properly when in dojo. Do not slouch or lean against anything.

9) Always handle your Shinai respectfully. Do not lean on it, rest it on the floor, twirl it, or drag it. 

10) Avoid walking in front of Sensei and other people . If you have to, make sure to show one of your hands and show attention.

11) If you need to move more than 3 steps, run. Do not walk, letting Sensei and other people wait. 

Rei-Gi (Etiquette)


Kendo begins and ends with Rei.

As Kendo is a form of combat in which two opponents actively attempt to strike and thrust at each other, it is important to line this with feelings of respect. Practitioners cooperate by engaging in rigorous training together to strengthen their bodies, develop their technical ability, and cultivate their minds. There must always be genuine sentiments of gratitude and esteem for opponents, and these sentiments are demonstrated through strict observance of protocols of courtesy. 

Furthermore, as Kendo involves aggressively attacking each other, it is possible to get carried away and lose control of one's emotions. By observing correct etiquette in training, the practitioner learns to subdue any antagonistic thoughts. 

Dojo is a place for study in the quest for self-cultivation. It is a clean and pure environment where the practitioner must demonstrate a dignified manner and exemplary attitude, always acting with restraint and looking after all equipment. The self-control and discipline expected in the Dojo helps the practitioner achieve coalescence in body and mind and learn to curb selfish desires. This is why the concept of Rei is so important in Kendo. 

Watch the video below made by Mr. Andy Fisher who explains manners and etiquette.

Kendo Basics : Manners & Etiquette

Fighting Stance, or KAMAE and SONKYO

Kamae (stance) can be separated into the two general categories of Mi-Gamae (physical) and Ki-Gamae (mental). Generally speaking, Kamae usually refers to Mi-Gamae, although both are inseparably linked and are of equal importance.

In modern Kendo, the most commonly utilized Kamae is Chudan (central stance) that beginners will learn first.

Sonkyo is the squatting posture assumed before and after Keiko (practice) and Shiai (match).

Watch the video below made by Mr. Andy Fisher who explains how Kamae and Sonkyo should be performed.

Kendo Basics : Fighting Stance, or Kamae and Sonkyo

Ashi-Sabaki (Footwork)

Ashi-Sabaki refers to the movements of the feet to strike the opponent or avoid attacks. 

Ayumi-Ashi : Ayumi-ashi is used to move long distances either backwards or forwards. It is

essentially normal walking – moving backwards or

forwards by alternating the right and left feet.

Okuri-Ashi : Okuri-ashi is used to move distances of one or two steps quickly in any direction, and for making attacks from the right distance. It is the most

common type of footwork utilized in Kendo.

Watch the video below made by Mr. Andy Fisher who explains how Ashi-Sabaki should be performed.

Kendo Basics: Kendo Footwork (Ashi Sabaki)

Suburi (Swing practice)

Suburi is the act of swinging Shinai or Bokuto up and down, vertically or diagonally, and is a fundamental exercise for acquiring the skills needed in Kendo. You will:
 1) Learn how to control the Shinai especially with regards to the correct angle of the blade (Hasuji).
 2) Learn the importance of correct grip (Tenouchi) for making strikes.
 3) Understand the relevance of footwork in relation to striking.
Click here to see most popular Suburi and how to do each of them correctly. The following shows the contents and timestamps of the video.
2:35 - Benefits of SUBURI

4:35 - Joge-Buri 

8:55 - Naname-Buri

11:40 - Kuukan-Datotsu 

18:40 - Nidan-Waza / Renzoku-Waza (Continuous strikes)

24:25 - Shomen-Uchi (Strike on the central head)

25:45 - Sa-Yu-Men-Uchi (Strike on the temples)

27: 35 - Haya-Suburi (Quick swing practice)


Fumikomi (stamping) is a very important technique in order to make a good strike quickly, get away from the opponent, and be ready for the next motion. Making a big sound is not the objective here.

Watch the video below made by Mr. Andy Fisher to see how it works and how you can practice it.

Kendo Basics: How to Improve Fumikomi (Stamping) Footwork


Kirikaeshi is a comprehensive basic exercise which involves continuous Men attacks, starting with Shomen followed by a series of Sayu-Men strikes. It is a crucial part of training for all Kenshi. Kirikaeshi develops Kamae (stance and posture), correct striking technique (Hasuji and Tenouchi), footwork, distance, and breathing. Kirikaeshi also helps build physical strength, nurtures a vigorous spirit, and improves the ability to make strikes with Ki-Ken-Tai-Ichi (vocalized spirit - sword - body - together as one).

At the begignner level, Kirikaeshi should be done slowly with large, accurate strikes. Tai-Atari (tackle) and other elements may be introduced in accordance with the level of the students to develop other aspects of their Kendo. Kirikaeshi is particularly useful for correcting and preventing bad habits.

Watch the video below made by Mr. Andy Fisher who explains not only the basic Kirikaeshi but different forms of Kirikaeshi. In HSSK, we normally practice regular Kirikaeshi (Sayu-Men 4 times forward, 5 times backwards), Do Kirikaeshi (Sayu-Do 4 times forward, 5 times backwards), Men-Do combo Kirikaeshi, and Jumping Kirikaeshi.

Kendo Techniques: Basic Cutting Exercise - Kirikaeshi

Gi / Hakama (Kendo uniform)

Refer to the following links to learn how to wear, fold, and wash Gi and Hakama. You can also refer to the Kendo Equipment Manual in the "Links" section of this website.

At HSSK, beginners are not required to wear Gi and Hakama. You can join the class with your comfortable exercise clothes. Once you complete the beginner course and move on to the next level, you will be asked to purchase them.

How to wear Gi and Hakama
How to fold Hakama
How to wash your hakama quickly and safely

*You do not have to wash Hakama frequently. Perhaps, once a month or so depending on how often you practice. Gi can be washed using a regular washing machine. I turn them inside out to protect the dye. Also, make sure you DO NOT wash the gi with any other clothing. They will get dyed!

Kendo-gu / Bogu (Protective gear)

Once you feel you are ready to join the advanced class, start considering to purchase your own Kendo-gu. There are many Kendo suppliers and the prices for a set usually start from around $400-$450. You should be able to use Kendo-gu for quite a long time. So make sure to talk to Sensei and other senior students, understand options, and make a good decision.

The following shows how to put on Kendo-gu for your reference.

How to wear Bogu 

Tying upper DOH HIMO properly *This method is the one I recommend. Very secure.
Shaping Kendo amour
How to put away your bogu for carrying