Introduction to the Way of the Sword:
The sword was the weapon of choice in Japan for over a
thousand years. About two hundred years ago, many sword schools began using a
practice sword made of bamboo (shinai) to reduce the chances of severe injury or
death resulting from sword training. Today, the All Japan Kendo Federation or ZNKR
promotes kendo as a way to discipline the human character through the
application of the principles of the katana.
The ZNKR explains the purpose of practicing kendo as follows:
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 honor,
To associate with others with sincerity,
And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.
Thus will one be able to love his country and society,
To contribute to the development of culture,
And to promote peace and prosperity among all people.
The ZNKR promotes kendo and kendo kata. As a supplement to this training, the ZNKR also promotes a system of iaido called the seitei gata iai or standardized iai, which is a set of twelve kata practiced solo that were distilled from ancient schools of iai. It is not necessary for a student to study both kendo and iaido, although many choose to do so.
Testing, tournaments, and rank are separate in the two arts, but both follow similar standards and use the same
"kyu" (basic) and "dan" (black belt) levels. Belt color is not reflected in the uniform and is not overtly emphasized, although class structure emphasizes the respect and obligations that run between senior and junior students. Respect
and responsibility are large components of kendo and iaido; the bows and other
acts of courtesy we practice should not be construed as worship.
Modern kendo bears little resemblance to its feudal origins
or the swash buckling movies. The story of modern kendo begins with the samurai
and extends over the culture of several centuries. No short synopsis can do it
By the end of the 12th century, the authority of the Japanese
government had declined. Bands of warriors grouped together for protection,
forming local aristocracies. Feudalism had come of age and was to dominate Japan
for several centuries. With the establishment of the shogun, a new military
class and their lifestyle (bushido) gained prominence. Bushido stressed the
virtues of bravery, loyalty, honor, self-discipline, and stoical acceptance of
death. The word "samurai" means one who serves.
Unlike the warriors of feudal Europe, the Japanese warrior
had no contempt for learning or the arts. The art of swordsmanship gained new
prominence and took on religious and cultural aspects. Sword making became a
revered art. Zen and other sects of Buddhism flourished in the warrior class,
and samurai often devoted their free time to poetry, calligraphy, and tea
During the Muromachi period (1336-1568), the number and
prominence of of kenjustu schools rose. Real blades or hardwood swords without
protective equipment were used in training, resulting in many injuries. These
schools continued to flourish through the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), with the
Itto-Ryu or "one sword school" having the greatest influence on modern kendo.
Kendo began to take its modern appearance during the late
18th century with the introduction of protective equipment (men, kote, do) and
the bamboo sword (shinai).
With the Meiji Restoration (1868) and Japan's entry into the
modern world, kendo suffered a great decline. The samurai class was abolished
and the wearing of swords in public outlawed. This decline was only temporary,
however. Interest in kendo was revived first in 1877 when uprisings against the
government showed the need for the training of police officers. In modern Japan,
police officers are still highly trained martial artists.
In 1895, the Butokudai was established as an organization
devoted to the promulgation of martial arts. In 1911, kendo was officially
introduced into the curriculum of schools. In 1923, a set of regulations for
kendo were published. In 1938, as Japan prepared for war, kendo became a
required course for all boys.
After the war, kendo was outlawed and the Butokudai
disbanded. By 1952, was reintroduced into public schools as a sport (shinai
Kendo is promoted
in the U.S.A. by the All United States Kendo Federation (AUSKF),
of which River City Iaido & Kendo Kyokai (RCIKK) is a member.
The AUSKF is organized into various regional federations, including the
Southern Kendo &
Iaido Federation, of which RCIKK is also a member.
These organizations promote kendo and iaido and offer
opportunities for advancement through testing and competition events.
by River City Iaido & Kendo Kyokai, All rights reserved.
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