What is Kendo

Kendo, 剣道 kendō meaning “The Way of the Sword”, is based on traditional Japanese
swordsmanship and is today a modern Japanese martial art. Kendo is a unique product
of Japanese culture and is an offspring of Kenjutsu, the classical Japanese sword art.
Kendo is a lifelong activity. Age and gender doesn’t matter. The purpose when you practise
kendo is not only to improve your techniques but also your mind and physical fitness.
Kendo is practiced wearing traditional Japanese clothing and armour (bogu), using one or less
commonly two bamboo swords (shinai).

A practitioner of kendo is called kendoka, “one who practises kendo”, but is sometimes also
called kenshi which means “swordsman”.
Kendo is practiced worldwide and there is more than 6 million people training.
In 1970 the International Kendo Federation (FIK) was established and today around
60 national or regional federations are members.
The World Kendo Championships is held every three years since 1970.

History of Kendo

Swordsmen in Japan established schools of kenjutsu (the ancestor of kendo), which continued for
centuries and which form the basis of kendo practice today. The formal kendo exercises known
as kata were developed several centuries ago as kenjutsu practice for warriors.
They are still studied today, in a modified form.
The introduction of bamboo practice swords (shinai) and armour (bōgu) to sword training is
attributed to Naganuma Shirōzaemon Kunisato during the Shotoku Era (1711–1715).
Naganuma developed the use of bōgu and established a training method using the shinai.
Chiba Shusaku Narimasa, founder of the Hokushin Ittō-ryū Hyōhō (北辰一刀流兵法), introduced Gekiken (撃剣)
(full contact duels with shinai and bogu) to the curriculum of this koryū in the 1820s. Due to the
popularity and the large number of students of the Hokushin Ittō-ryū Hyōhō at the end of the
Edo period, this kind of practice contributed greatly to the spread of shinai and bōgu all over
Japan. After the Meiji Restoration in the late 1800s Sakakibara Kenkichi popularised
public gekiken for commercial gain, but also generated an increased interest in kendo and
kenjutsu as a result. The DNBK changed the name of the sporting form of swordsmanship,
called gekiken, to kendō in 1920.

Kendo (along with other martial arts) was banned in Japan in 1946 by the occupying powers.
This was part of “the removal and exclusion from public life of militaristic and ultra-nationalistic persons”
in response to the wartime militarisation of martial arts instruction in Japan.
The DNBK was also disbanded. Kendo was allowed to return to the curriculum in 1950,
first as “shinai competition” (竹刀競技 shinai kyōgi) and then as kendo from 1952.
The All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF or ZNKR) was founded in 1952, immediately after Japan’s
independence was restored and the ban on martial arts in Japan was lifted.

It was formed on the principle of kendo not as a martial art but as educational sport,
and it has continued to be practiced as such to this day.
The International Kendo Federation (FIK) was founded in April 1970; it is an international federation
of national and regional kendo federations and the world governing body for kendo. The FIK is a
non-governmental organisation, and its aim is to promote and popularise kendo, iaido and jodo.

The principals

In 1975 Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR) or All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF) developed
and then published The Concept and Purpose of Kendo.

The concept of kendo

Kendo is a way to discipline the human character through
the application of the principles of the Katana.

The purpose of kendo

To mold the mind and body,
To cultivate a vigorous spirit,
And through correct and rigid training:
To strive for improvement in the art of Kendo,
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honour,
To associate with others with sincerity,
And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.
This will make one be able:
To love his/her country and society
To contribute to the development of culture,
And to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.

Physical and Mental Benefits

The physical benefits of training Kendo are strength, endurance and overall fitness. But a
more important benefit when practising Kendo is the mental training that is a natural part of
Kendo. The mental training involved in Kendo has always been a part of Bushido which means that
the importance has been known for centuries. The Bushi (warrior), also known as the Samurai,
often practised Kendo in connection with their studies of Zen.
To get maximum out of mental training you have to be focused. And that is one “secret” of
Kendo, all the time you practise you develop your focus. When faced with stressful situations
the Kendoka know how to maintain mental calmness and balance because of the Kendo training.
While the physical and technical exercises are critical aspects of Kendo practice,
a high value is also focused upon performing with full spirit.
But more important is to understand that when you adopt modern
Kendo it is a way of living than winning over an opponent.


The shinai is meant to represent a Japanese sword (katana) and is made up of four
bamboo slats, which are held together by leather fittings.
Hard wooden swords (木刀 bokutō) is also used to practice kata.

Protective armour is worn to protect specified target areas on the head, arms and body.
The head is protected by a stylised helmet, called men (面), with a metal grille
(面金 men-gane) to protect the face, a series of hard leather and fabric flaps
(突垂れ tsuki-dare) to protect the throat, and padded fabric flaps (面垂れ men-dare)
to protect the side of the neck and shoulders. The forearms, wrists, and hands are
protected by long, thickly padded fabric gloves called kote (小手).
The torso is protected by a breastplate (胴 dō), while the waist and groin area is protected
by the tare (垂れ), consisting of three thick vertical fabric flaps or Faulds.


In Kendo, the kyu-Dan system is used. Practitioners start from the 6th kyu and proceed until
the 1st kyu and then from 1st Dan to 8th Dan. Previously there were grades 9th and 10th Dan,
but have now been abolished by Z.N.K.R. In addition to the Dan grades there are Shōgō
(Renshi, Kyōshi, Hanshi), which are awarded to holders of at least 6th, 7th and 8th Dan


Ioannis Karampatsos (4th Dan) was born in 1980 in Athens, Greece and his journey in kendo
started in 2003. His love, dedication and knowledge for kendo led him to a great journey
to Japan in 2016. He represented Norway at the annual Foreign Kendo Leader’s Seminar in
Kitamoto, Japan. He participates in many kendo seminars in Europe and
since 2015 he is member of the national team.
His main accomplishments as a competitor have been:
Bronze medal in individual category in competition, Greece
Silver medal and bronze medal in team category in competition, Greece
2010 Gold medal in team competition – Norwegian Championship
2014 Bronze medal in team competition – Norwegian Championship
2016 Gold medal in individual competition – Holmgang
2017 Bronze medal in individual and team competition – Oslo Open
2017 Bronze medal in individual competition – Norwegian Championship
2017 Bronze medal in individual competition – Summer Games Kristiansand
2018 Bronze medal in individual and team competition – Norwegian Championship

Mikkel Wettre (5th Dan) was born in 1974 in Freetown, Sierra Leone and he is practicing kendo
since 1990. He was participant for the Norwegian national team at the world kendo championships
in Paris 1994 and Glasgow 2003. His main accomplishments as a competitor have been
individual silver from Oslo open, team silver for the Norwegian national championships and
team bronze from Sugo-cup. He has served as a main instructor for Oslo kendo club, assistant
instructor for Oslo university kendo and currently Bergen kendoklubb.

Daniel Mjeldheim (3th Dan) was born in 1993 in Bergen, Norway. His interest for kendo grew
through reading manga and he started kendo in 2007.
He travelled to Japan during the 16th World Kendo Championship in 2015 and attended
trainings before the WKC with the Norwegian team at Waseda University.
His main accomplishments as a competitor have been:
2012 Silver medal in team competition – Norwegian Championship
2013 Bronze medal in team competition – Norwegian Championship
2016 Silver medal in individual competition – Holmgang
2017 Bronze medal in team competition – Oslo Open
2018 Bronze medal in team competition – Oslo Open

Leave a Comment