Kendo is a Japanese martial art, often descended from kendo, which makes use of wooden swords and protective armors. However, today it has become widely accepted throughout the world and is widely practiced even in Japan and other countries around the globe. While vendor initially had a negative reputation as a violent sport, the art has since changed and Kendo today is a safe and fun sport for everyone to participate in. This martial art is sometimes referred to as “the true method” or “the path” and is gaining popularity in the western world. Today it is very popular in high schools, colleges and recreational sports.
There are many different styles of Kendo. There are three main schools of kendo, or “sensei” which means teacher/sono in Japanese sensei kaiko which means student/kin in Japanese and ryuuseki which is the most commonly taught version of keno. All three kendo styles share the same basic training concepts including breathing exercises and relaxation. However, each school will emphasize a particular aspect of the discipline such as stance, technique, balance, uniformity, speed and power. The goal is to increase self-awareness and precision while also learning self-defense techniques.
Most people are familiar with classical karate, which is the oldest martial art in Japan. Classical karate is the foundation of most modern styles and was derived from various studies of ancient warrior disciplines. Today there are a wide variety of martial arts, but the two most common are karate and Kendo. These forms of combat originated from the same origins and have kept the same core elements of striking, blocking, locking, defense and stepping. They differ primarily in the level of emphasis they place on striking, and karate is strictly better at this than Kendo.
Samurai swords make up the majority of the uniforms used in Kendo and in competitions it is not uncommon to see students wearing them. Students will begin their training by wearing shin guards or socks made of cloth used as an obi and will eventually work their way up to wearing a kimono (long robe) worn over their uniform. They practice with wooden weapons called uchiha which are very similar to modern kendo swords. The purpose of these weapons is to replicate the swing of an actual sword, and students will often times alternate swings with their wooden weapon until they feel comfortable with the posture and the technique.
One of the key elements of both kendo and Japanese swordsmanship is the concept of relaxation.
Both disciplines require students to be very confident in their own skill and ability before attempting to execute techniques. There is no need for fear in the practice of Kendo or Japanese swordsmanship; the focus is on precise technique and motion. The focus is on perfecting the strike, the flow of the movement and the timing of each attack. Mastering this art does not require years of training, but rather a simple understanding of the physical movements and breath control that go along with using a katana.
The history of Japanese swords dates back to the 7th century and is part of the samurai culture. Samurai warriors would use Japanese swords when combat became too difficult or when they were required to retreat. Over the centuries the style of Kendo has evolved into one that is recognized the world over as a form of combat and weapon. Kendo is not actually part of the Japanese military; however, many Kendo schools do offer a few classes specifically for military personnel. Many Japanese swordsmen still keep their original sword when they retire from the military.
Today Kendo, like many forms of karate, is taught in both Japanese and American styles. Classes are offered both in traditional Japanese style schools and at the more popular international styles. Classes are taught to both students seeking to understand the historical roots of kendo, as well as students wanting to learn a basic introductory level martial skill. Many instructors at local Kendo schools will take either American or Japanese lessons, and often the only difference is the terminology used.
A student learning Kendo must learn three important aspects of karate, spirit (zetsubin) form, bokashi, and kuchiki. These aspects of kendo are used in order to perform a specific technique or exercise within a class. Students are also expected to study anatomy, which is an important part of learning Kendo swordsmanship. Students who successfully complete their studies and pass the final test, the so-called bench kaishi, are awarded a certificate of training and a title known as shinasai.
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