If you’re on this site, then you probably already have an interest in kendo. But just in case you’re not 100% sure on what kendo is or what it involves, this page should give you an idea of whether kendo is for you (it is).
What is kendo?
Kendo is a sword-based martial art from Japan. While there are a few sword-based Japanese arts, they all have differences in their approach to training. Arts like kenjutsu and iaido use weapons which are very realistic such as bokuto and shinken, and teach techniques which wouldn’t be out of place in a battlefield or duel situation. A practitioner of these arts would learn some real swordsmanship techniques, but they would have to train carefully to avoid injuring their training partners.
Kendo takes a different route. We train with shinai, which are very light and flex on impact. We also only have a few target locations, so it’s easy to create protective gear. That means a kendoka is able to train with 100% effort and intensity at all times without risk of injuring their colleagues, including sparring and paired drills.
To see some good examples of kendo in action, check out these videos:
Why do people do kendo?
There are lots of different reasons to train in kendo. Some people train to get fit or to keep in shape. For some, kendo is a way to exercise self-discipline and develop their character. Some people enjoy the community aspect of attending a regular session with fellow kendoka, while others enjoy being part of a “living history” of techniques passed down for centuries. For many people, the simple truth is that they started for whatever reason and now they continue because it’s really fun!
How intense is kendo?
Honestly, it depends. As a general rule of thumb kendo isn’t too taxing on your muscles – not compared to a good gym session anyway! In terms of cardiovascular exercise a kendo match is like interval sprint training. There are a few periods of high intensity, and there are relatively calmer moments.
In training, the intensity of a session depends on what we’re focusing on at the time. Sometimes we’ll spend a session focusing on technique and you won’t feel like you’ve exerted yourself much, and sometimes we’ll focus on fitness and conditioning – and you’ll definitely still be feeling it the next day! Like in most sports, the training will cycle between periods of low and high intensity.
What does training consist of?
For the most part, the basic outline of a session will always look pretty similar. However the details will naturally vary depending on our current training focus.
Generally, sessions start with a warmup. This is followed by suburi (practice cuts). It’s very rare that these will change. After this we will gradually raise the energy levels. We start by practising our basic techniques and fundamentals, move on to a few drills and sequences, and finish with jigeiko (sparring).
This video is a great example of what exercises might appear in a typical kendo training session.