When you start to train Kendo you have to be barefoot. You don’t have to wear a Bogu (armour) when you start to practise; a t-shirt and long trousers are enough. For the first lessons most clubs are lending the necessary equipment. In some Dojos the beginners Bokuto or Bokken (wooden sword), but most common is Shinai (bamboo sword). All three simulate the Katana, the primary sword a samurai carried.
A beginner’s course differs from Dojo to Dojo but the first weeks more or less all of them teach:
- Kendo Reigi (etiquette) and terminology
- What is a Shinai, Bokuto or Bokken
- How to hold a Shinai and properly swing it
- Stand correctly (Kamae) and basic footwork
- The target areas.
After a couple of months you start learning Kendo Kata (forms).
The kendo etiquette
Of special importance is the Reigi (etiquette) that in Kendo means correct behavior towards other people and our daily life. Without Reigi from the first day you start with Kendo this will not be an art anymore and instead Kendo will become merely a bashing of an opponent where the only goal is to win.
When you enter and leave the Dojo you bow; when a lesson starts, the group kneel together, bow, and then stand up and the lesson can begin. A Sensei (instructor) leads the class and counts in Japanese.
Good to know
- Most classes are 60 minutes long.
- Nito-ryu, using one long and one short Shinai, is also trained in some Dojos.
- In some Dojo the students approach the sensei after class and sit in front of him while he does a quick review of what they have practised and what the students need to work on.
- Some Dojos also emphasis Kendo is a descendent of Kenjutsu.