What Is Kendo?
Kendo is a combination of two Japanese words – “ken” meaning “sword” and “michi” or “do” meaning “road” or “way” ; the result being “sword’s way” or “the way of the sword.”
Kendo was derived from one of the oldest of the martial arts – Kenjutsu (swordsmanship, or the technique of the sword) of which written records date back to the seventh century.
Kenjutsu was born during the early Tokugawa Period (1603-1867) when Tokugawa Ieyasu ruled as the shogun, and pressed the other provincial lords to cease hostility among themselves. There was a special need for the samurai of that day – something other then just the practice of swordsmanship. This is when Kenjutsu made its beginning.
Since old-fashioned training with real steel swords and hardwood swords caused so many unnecessary injuries and deaths, bamboo practice swords were created around 1710 developed by Japanese armourers and Japanese sword masters. Around 1740, Japanese sword masters and Japanese armourers improvised chest and head protectors as well as heavy gloves. As can be imagined, the original bamboo practice swords and protectors were quite primitive and of simple construction. Over the centuries, these were refined by Japanese armourers into the attractive and practical Kendo equipment as seen today in Japan.
Subsequently, Kenjutsu has undergone various refinements, such as the introduction of protective equipment, a substitute weapon for the sword, techniques, etc. Kendo emerged in the late 19th century.
Although Kendo is regarded today as physical sport, the mental development portion must still be considered an important function.
Kendo, the art of Japanese swordsmanship, is a way of life designed to contribute to self development through training in the guiding principles underlying the art of the sword. Through rigorous training in Kendo classes at the Toyoda Center, the student strengthens his or her body and mind, develops a strong spirit, learns to treat people properly, to value truth, to be sincere, to always strive for self-development, love society and country, and contribute to the peace and prosperity of humanity.
In modern Kendo classes, as they are taught at the Toyoda Center, there are two types of attacks: strikes and thrusts. Strikes are allowed to only three points on the body-the top of the head, the right and left sides of the waist and the forearms. Thrusts are usually permitted only to the throat. Unlike western fencing where two opponents show each other only their sides, in Kendo the opponents stand face to face and these four target areas were chosen because they are the most difficult. In competitive matches, it is not enough for your bamboo sword to just touch the opponent; points are awarded only when the attacks are done properly to the exact target with good control and a yell or Kiai. The first person to win two points wins the match.
As of 2000, several million people practice in Kendo classes in Japan, including about 1.2 million who have been awarded a black belt-rank in the art. Kendo is enjoyed by about one million practitioners abroad. The International Kendo Federation (IKF) has members in 41 countries. Much like the increasingly popular mixed martial arts, or mma, Kendo is not only a popular sport but a great way to get in shape and develop the individual character as well!
The Toyoda Center of Aikido and Kendo is the first place in West Michigan to offer classes in Kendo . The Chief Instructor, Mr. Yutaro Matsuura, is a 6th Dan (sixth degree black belt) under the Midwest Kendo Federation and is one of the most sought after Kendo instructors, not only in West Michigan, but throughout the midwest. Matsuura Sensei was the coach of the 2008 National Kendo Team representing the Midwest Kendo Federation.
The Kendo program at The Aikido Center (Toyoda Center) is on winter break and will hopefully resume in mid 2014.