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Kendo (??, kendo?), meaning “Way of the Sword”.

The term kendo when used to refer to both classical and modern forms of swordsmanship presents certain conceptual and definitional problems for although the term kendo is recorded as early as the mid-seventeenth century, its use was by no means common or standard until the creation of the modern form by the Dai Nippon Butokukai in 1912. The distinctive feature of modern kendo being protective equipment (bogu), a bamboo sword (shinai), free-style training and refereed competition is the result of a transitional development in traditional kendo during the mid- and later-Tokugawa periods (from the mid-eighteenth century).[1] The majoritet of the modern kendo is standardized by All-Japan Kendo Federation but there are still many kendo groups in Japan which are independent dojo registered with the All-Japan Kendo Federation. In this matter it is simplification to define all kendo as modern kendo. The minority group which not is standardized represent an important model for many dojo whetever they are traditional or modern in theirs concept.[2]

In 1975 the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF) developed then published the book, The Concept and Purpose of Kendo,[3] the outline of which is below, showing the concept and purpose of the art.

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

Since the earliest samurai government in Japan, during the Kamakura period (1185-1233), sword fencing, together with horse riding and archery, were the main martial pursuits of the military clans. In this period kendo developed under the strong influence of Zen Buddhism. The samurai could equate the disregard for his own life in the heat of battle, which was considered necessary for victory in individual combat, to the Buddhist concept of the illusory nature of the distinction between life and death.

Those swordsmen established schools of kenjutsu (the ancestor of “kendo”) which continued for centuries and which form the basis of kendo practice today. The names of the schools reflect the essence of the originator’s enlightenment. Thus the Itto-ryu (Single sword school) indicates the founder’s illumination that all possible cuts with the sword emanate from and are contained in one original essential cut. The Muto (swordless school) expresses the comprehension of the originator Yamaoka Tesshu, that “There is no sword outside the mind”. The ‘Munen Muso-ryu’ (No intent, no preconception) similarly expresses the understanding that the essence of kenjutsu transcends the reflective thought process. The formal kendo exercises known as kata were developed several centuries ago as kenjutsu practice for warriors and are still studied today, albeit in a modified form.

The introduction of bamboo practice swords (shinai) and armour (bogu) to “ken” training is attributed to Naganuma Sirozaemon Kunisato during the Shotoku Era (1711-1715). Naganuma developed the use of kendo-gu (bogu) (protective equipment) and established a training method using the shinai. [4]

In addition, the inscription on the gravestone of Yamada Heizaemon Mitsunori’s (Ippusai) (????????(???), 1638 – 1718) third son Naganuma Sirozaemon Kunisato (?? ????? ??, 1688–1767), the 8th headmaster of the Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu Kenjutsu, states that his exploits included improving the bokuto and shinai, and refining the armour by adding a metal grill to the men and thick cotton protective coverings to the kote. Kunisato inherited the tradition from his father Heizaemon in 1708, and the two of them worked hard together to improve the bogu until Heizaemon’s death. [5] [6]

This is believed to be the foundation of modern kendo. Kendo began to make its modern appearance during the late 18th century. Use of the shinai and armour made it possible to deliver strikes and thrusts with full force but without injuring one’s opponent. These advances, along with the development of set practice formats, set the foundations of modern kendo.

Concepts such as mushin (??, ????), or “empty mind” are borrowed from Zen buddhism, are are considered essential for the attainment of high-level kendo. Fudoshin (???, ??????), or “unmoving mind”, is a conceptual attribute of the deity Fudo Myo-O, one of the five “Kings of Light” of Shingon Buddhism. Fudoshin, implies that the kendoka cannot be led astray by delusions of anger, doubt, fear, or surprise arising from the opponent’s actions. Thus today it is possible to embark on a similar quest for spiritual enlightenment as followed by the samurai of old.

The Dai Nippon Butoku Kai was established in 1895 to solidify, promote, and standardise all martial disciplines and systems in Japan. The DNBK changed the name of Gekiken (Kyujitai: ??; Shinjitai: ??, “hitting sword”) to kendo 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 militarization of martial arts instruction in Japan. Kendo was allowed to return to the curriculum in 1950 (first as Shinai Kyougi “Shinai Competition” and then as Kendo from 1952). [7] [8]

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