Equipment and Clothing

As soon you have passed the beginners class, you have to wear a Keikogi (jacket) and Hakama (trousers). This will be after one to three months training. To take part in Jigeiko (free sparring) you need a Bogu (armour). Some clubs have set that they can lend you one, until you want to buy your own Bogu.

In Kendo, the armour is worn to protect the practitioner from injury, with protection being concentrated on the target areas and the groin. The current armour has developed over time. In the Edo period (1615-1868), special practice armour was developed: with padded iron-grid mask, bamboo breast plate, wrist shield (but not hand protection) and a wadded three flaps apron.

Bogu - kendo armour

A complete Bogu consists of:

Men, a mask made of cotton which protects the head and has an iron/ steel/ titanium face guard. The Men has also a throat guard and shoulder flaps hat protects the shoulders.

Do, a breastplate covering the stomach and parts of the chest. The Do is made of bamboo slats but can also be made of fibreglass or plastic.

Kote, gauntlets, that protect the hands and wrists. The Kote is padded over the knuckles and cotton wadding protects the wrist and forearms. The palms are traditionally made of smoked hide but also synthetic are used.

Tare, an apron that protects waist and thighs; it has five overlapping plates to allow movement.

A Tenugui or Hachimaki (soft cloth) is wrapped around the head and worn under the men. Under the Bogu, a heavy cotton jacket (Kendogi), and a wide, skirt-like trousers (Hakama) is worn.

 

Shinai - the kendo sword

The Shinai used in Kendo is a flexible sword that makes it possible to simulate combat with full power. The word Shinai derives from the verb Shinau, meaning to flex or to bend. Compared with the Bokken that is a rigid wooden replica of a sword the Shinai is very flexible. The Shinai was invented by Chuzo Nakanishi (1750) of Edo (ancient name of Tokyo) as training with Bokken many times caused serious injuries.

In the latter half of the Edo Era (beginning of the 19th century), new types of equipment were produced such as the Yotsuwari Shinai (bamboo swords united by tetramerous bamboo). This new Shinai was more elastic and durable than the Fukuro Shinai (literally, bag-covered bamboo sword) which it replaced.

The force of bamboo

The Shinai is constructed in a tubular form of four well seasoned, highly polished and equally weighted slats of bamboo. The slats are held together by a tsuba (hand guard), a Nakayui (middle leather strap), the Tsukagawa (leather handle sheath) and the Sakigawa (small leather cup) placed at the Kenzen (tip of the sword). The Tsukagawa and the Sakigawa are being joined by a Tsuru or Himo (string) that represents the back of the blade.

During Shiai (competition) only strikes with the Monouchi (striking zone), that is the part of the Shinai located between get points. A strike must be made by the Jinbu, the edge that is directly opposite the Tsuru (string).

Depending on age and gender of the Kendoka, the minimum weight and maximum length of the Shinai are regulated, varying depending on the age and sex of the Kendoka. Kendokas practising Nito-ryu are of course using Shinai of different length, a Shinai of normal length in the left hand and a short Shinai in the right.


 

  • Sakigawa - the leather cover on the tip of the shinai. 
  • Nakayui - the knotted leather thong tied around the shinai. 
  • Tsuru- the string along the back of the shinai. Tied to the sakigawa and tsukagawa, it holds all important components in place.  
  • Tsuba - the guard.
  • Tsuba dome - the stopper that holds the tsuba in place.
  • Tsukagawa - the lether cover on the hilt of the shinai.
  • Monouchi - the part of the blade that cuts the best.
  • Datotsubu - “striking part” of the shinai. Only strikes with this portion of the shinai are considered valid during shiai.
  • Jinbu - the part of the shinai that represents the edge. It is directly opposite the tsuru.
  • Tsuka - the handle.
  • Tsukagawa - the leather cover of the handle.

 

See the movie
Kendo glossary
Japanese expressions used in kendo. 
Osame-to and read more
The legendary samurai
Musashi won over 60 duels - often by using his two swords, and a peculiar strategy of arriving late to the scene. Read more
World Championships
Results of the kendo competitions held every third year since 1970. Read more
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