Q: What equipment do I need to practice kendo?

A: To begin kendo, you will need to wear athletic clothing such as sweatpants or a karate or judo uniform. Kendo is practiced in bare feet. You will want to purchase a bamboo practice sword (shinai) . Later, you will want to purchase a uniform consisting of a jacket (keikogi) and skirt-like trousers (hakama). The hakama should be dark blue or black. The keikogi may be dark blue or white. After a few months, you will probably be ready to purchase armor. Cheap sets are available from Taiwan or Korea for $300 to $400, but these usually do not fit properly and will wear out quickly. A better choice is a machine made set that is made to your measurements. A set like this will cost upwards of $700 and will last for many years. The only thing that will wear out is the leather on the palms of the gloves (kote) and this can be replaced. The more expensive sets feature more elaborate designs and better quality workmanship. We can connect you with suppliers who have very reasonable prices and good quality.

Q: Does one need to be physically fit or have previous experience in martial arts to practice kendo?

A: Kendo practice requires no previous experience in martial arts. Men, women and children all practice kendo. Kendo is great exercise. You can build your strength and stamina as you learn the basics and work your way up gradually to the full workout. In kendo, we encourage one another to do our absolute best, but we also allow for each individual’s abilities and limitations.

Q: What happens in a kendo practice?

A: A typical practice consists of the following: warm-up exercises, practice swinging of the shinai, footwork practice, practice of basic techniques, special instruction by the sensei, and finally, free fighting practice. We also may practice the kendo kata, prearranged forms done with the wooden sword, or we may have a practice tournament (shiai).

Q: Do you ever use a real “samurai sword?”

A: The kendo kata are based on traditional combat with the katana, and are performed by two kendoists with wooden swords (bokken). Metal swords with blunted edges are used for public demonstrations of kendo kata. We never strike anyone or anything with the bokken or sword. Drawing the sword from various positions (iaido) and test cutting with the katana are not taught at the Miami Valley dojo.