The Japanese Way of the Sword
Kendo is the art of Japanese sword fencing. Ken-do is a martial arts way. Yes, it is a martial art, but it is also designed to be a path to self discipline and spiritual improvement. (The Chinese call it a Tao.) Kendo is not just a physical pastime, sport or a way of keeping fit… it is all of these and much more.
Kendo students wear Samurai-like armor to protect themselves, and attack each other fiercely with bamboo wooden swords called Shinai and with loud, blood-curdling Ki-Ai battle-cry screams.
Many senior Kendo students go on to do Iado as well, which is the Japanese art of drawing the sword fast, and killing quickly and efficiently with a live (sharp) sword. It is done only as kata… very formal movements, practiced again and again, looking for perfection.
Kendo and Judo have long been a form of traditional sports and physical education in Japanese schools and universities. But countless martial artists in other countries do it as well.
Another traditional Japanese weapons martial art which is similar to Kendo is Naginata-do. The students wear the same clothing as Kendo people, but their weapon is the Naginata – the long halberd or sword-on-a-pole that the Samurai women used to defend their homes with.
Naginata-do used to be the traditional PE (physical education) for women in old traditional Japanese girls’ schools. Those women were real warriors in the Samurai tradition, and would often practice with their Kendo counterparts, training sword (ken) against halberd (naginata) or sword (ken) against spear (yari).