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What Is Kendo?

The literal translation of the Chinese character (ken) is “sword”, and (dou) is “way or art”. Together this makes “kendou”, “Way of the Sword”.

The art of Kendo is the result of nearly a thousand years of trial and error with the Katana. The katana is a slightly curved sword around 40 inches in length.

From the various budding procedures, many ryu (styles or schools) developed into refined techniques of swordsmanship. While it was practiced in its many forms, it was not until the Muromachi period (A.D. 1336-1568) that there was a rise in interest in kenjutsu (sword technique), and the beginning of fencing schools, dojo.

In the 1700’s, Chuta Nakanishi wished to improve upon current models of the dummy sword. He first invented the kote, the protective fencing gloves, and then redesigned the dummy sword into a shinai, a sword made of four flexible bamboo reeds. Swordsmen began to realize that this would allow more freedom of natural striking, closer to that on the battlefield, without injury.

Next came the development of the tare, a heavily quilted hip protector worn over the hakama (skirt-like, loose-fitting pants), the do (chest armor), chest armor placed outside the keikogi (jacket)and lastly the men, a steel mask that covered the face and head. With the development of this equipment and organization, fencing schools began to flourish. Kendo gradually became a sport developing outside of schools and is growing today all over the world.