Basics and Principles of kendo

In Kendo, there are four general areas to attack, subdivided into left and right sides of the body - each worth one point. These are strokes to the head, the wrist, torso, and a thrust to the throat. In order to be considered successful, the attack is to be a coordination of the spirit, proper usage of the sword, and correct movement of the body so that it would be a clear and proper stroke, as if it were made with a real sword.

An official Kendo match is a three-point match and has a five-minute time limit. The player who scores two points first is the winner. If neither player scores two points before the end of regulation time, the one in the lead at that point is declared the winner. If the score is tied after five minutes, an infinite sudden death overtime is held. Three referees judge whether or not a point is scored. Kendo tournaments are held in direct elimination form.

Kendo practice consists of several different exercises. Each exercise is aimed to improve different aspects of strength and skill required in Kendo. For beginners, the repetitive practice of basic movements is stressed in order to acquire the ability of moving without thinking. A Kendo player must learn to be able to counter an attack instantaneously whenever the opponent moves. As one progresses, more spiritual understanding is sought through continuous practice in order to be in control of any kind of situation.

Besides such training, the practice of etiquette through Kendo is demanded as well, since the goal of Kendo is to develop one's character, i.e. self-confidence, courtesy, and respect for others. This was of utmost importance for all Samurai.

Point Areas

Kendo is demanding both physically and mentally. However, many people, regardless of age or sex, are attracted to Kendo and still carry on the tradition that had been handed down from Samurai culture. Although the path is not an easy one, practicing Kendo will surely enable you to attain the willpower to overcome adversity.

All Japan Kendo Federation Instructional Videos

Kendo basics : Video I , Parts 1, 2 and 3
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Fundamentals in Kendo

"Ashi Sabaki" - Kendo Footwork

The kendo footwork, or "Ashi-Sabaki" is, absolutely, the most important aspect to kendo basics. Your footwork is what moves your body and your shinai forward. How you move your feet determines when and how fast you can fire a strike, the speed, frequency, form, intensity of your strikes, and what you can do before and after the strikes. The only way to learn this properly is to practice over and over again. In fact, it can be easily incorporated into your warm-up exercises before every practice.

Ashi Sabaki

"Ki-Ken-Tai-Ichi" - The Strike Momentum


A basic concept of kendo is the "Ki-Ken-Tai-Ichi". This literally means "Spirit-Sword-body as one". It is one of the elements necessary for an effective strike or "Yuko-Datotsu". This concept is most apparent when placed into practice as the kendoist initiates a strike. Ki, in this sense, means spirit and the drive during the mement of strike, and is represented most commonly by the "kiai". Ken is the sword and the proper execution of the strike represented by the contact of the shinai with its target.

Tai is the physical execution and the physical committment beyond the point of return during the strike as represented by proper psoture and the fumikomi footwork.

You will hear this phrase repeated over and over during your training as your objective will be to deliver all three of these elements at the proper moment. For now, remember that at the moment of contact during a strike, you will need to deliver your fumikomi footwork and kiai simultaneously.

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"Fumikomi" - Step in (Full Synchronization)

This movement is used mainly during the strike when you enter into your opponent's range of attack. It literally means to stomp and go inside. The effect of this motion is essentially a loud stomp as you enter into the striking distance where both you and your opponents are vulnerable.

It does not mean that you should lift your foot high to intentionally create the stomping noise, you should try to maintain the gliding motion described as "suri-ashi". The noise should come naturally as you step forward in one single large step with explosive energy. The noise is part of the movement by which it penetrates your opponent's mind and defenses, but should not be your only focus.
Understand Fumikomi Mechanism

"Tenouchi" - Grip Control

Tenouchi is translated as a grip. Let's explain the word in a deeper sense. "Te" means a hand. "No" means of. "Uchi" means inside.When you are in chudan, your grip is not very tight. You should not have a very firm grip. Why?
That is because you have to tighten it up when you strike. If your tenouchi is too loose, your opponent can knock your shinai off your hands.

The pinky and the ring finger of your left hand are always tight. Basically you hold your shinai with these two fingers. The right grip, as always said, should be soft as if you were holding an raw egg. If you hold a raw egg tightly, you will break the egg. That is how softly you should grab your shinai with the right hand.


"Zanshin" - Constant Awareness


There is an old Japanese samurai saying, "When the battle is over, tighten your chin strap." This refers to constant awareness, preparedness for danger and readiness for action. The Japanese saying itself focuses on the end of a combat engagement when it is natural to relax awareness, thinking the danger is over, when in reality it often is not. "This concept carries over into the dojo which is not just a training hall but a place where a certain awareness of the possibility of serious combat must constantly be maintained"

Zanshin is the continued state of spirit, mental alertness and physical readiness to meet the situation (such as by attacking) that must be maintained while one returns to kamae after attacking. It is one of the essential elements that define a good attack.

"Seme" - Constant Presure towards your Oponent

An easy translation for "Seme" is "to attack". Even when you are not physically striking your opponent but mentally you are putting pressure on him, this is called "Seme".

Seme also refers to the attitude meant to disrupt the opponents sense of confidence and resolution, prior to an attack. This threatening attitude adopted just before lifting the Shinai to make a cut implies showing your spiritual force to the opponent.

"Ma-ai" - Distance from your opponent

Normally, during a match with an opponent, you would be positioning yourself at the outside edge of the "Issoku-itto-ma-ai". "Issoku-itto-ma-ai" is the distance with reach of the shinai if your opponent were to take one step forward. Any further than this, you would be at an "out-of-reach" distance called the "Toii-ma-ai" (to-ma). For the sake of practicing your strikes, you will likely be asked to position yourself just inside the "Issoku-itto-ma-ai".

The correct interval for "issoku-itto-ma-ai" is different for everyone, depending on the size of their


step and the reach of their shinai. Generally, for two kenodists facing each other in "chudan no kamae" (mid-guard position), this distance is somewhere just inside of where the tip of the two shinais cross. With practice, you will eventually develop an understanding of where your "issoku-itto-ma-ai" is.

Kendo Drills

Video II - Datotsu and Shikake Waza Parts 1, 2 and 3
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Video III - Ohji Waza
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