Parts of the Bogu and Valid Striking Points

Here are the various parts of the bogu (kendo armor):

Valid striking points during kendo shiai can depend slightly on what kamae is adopted by your opponent.

AGAINST CHUDAN-NO-KAMAE, the following indicates valid striking areas:
(RED areas/targets are not valid)
ATTENTION:  Note that against Chudan, the opponent's hidari kote is NOT a valid target area.  The opponent's hidari dou IS a valid target area, but the illustration above did not permit enough room to indicate this.

AGAINST JODAN-NO-KAMAE, the following indicates valid striking points:

ATTENTION:  Note that the above illustrates an opponent in HIDARI Jodan-no-kamae.  The same valid striking areas are also available against MIGI Jodan-no-kamae.

AGAINST NITO-RYU (TWO-SWORD STYLE), the following indicates valid striking points:

To emphasize the proper datotsu-bu (valid striking area) of each target, please take note:





Kendo Reiho/Reigi ~ Etiquette

Sometimes folks can get a little lax in displaying proper kendo etiquette in the dojo.
Recently, the Memphis Kendo Club has been concentrating more on this very, very important aspect of kendo and so I thought I'd take a couple of minutes to list 20 items of importance.
Kendo reigi is not limited to just these 20 items, but these are very common and every kenshi should be well-versed in how to properly behave in class (and out).

1. When entering or leaving the dojo, bow to the front (shomen).

2. After you put on the keikogi and hakama, examine your appearance. Be sure to straighten the keikogi so that it is as flat as possible and not hanging over the koshi-ita (the small stiff section of the lower back) of the hakama.

3. Stack all your personal items neatly against the wall as not to take up too much space on the floor.

4. Many dojos have everyone line up in seiza (kneeling) with bogu immediately in front and to the right. Because Memphis Kendo Club has so many people and our floor space is not overly wide, it has become our custom to line up standing without bogu, preferring instead to keep all bogu off to the side. When setting up your bogu, first place the kote on the floor with the kote heads pointing to your RIGHT. Next, place the men face down across the wrist joints of the kote. The men should stay in place and not rock over. Place the men himo (strings) INSIDE the men. You may optionally put your tenugui (head towel) either inside the men or across the top -- at some dojos, this is not an option. It's either one or the other. If you visit another dojo, watch everyone else and follow their lead.
You should be wearing the tare and the dou by the time you line up for class.

5. Always carry or hold the shinai or bokken properly. Do not lean or rest on it; do not use it as a cane or walking stick.

6. If your bokken or shinai is not in use, store it, or alternatively, you may rest it against a wall. If you do this, be sure to do so with the tip pointing UP.

7. Do not step over anyone's equipment -- including your own.

8. Do not TOUCH anyone else's equipment (even to move it out of the way) without first asking permission.

9. Do not step over a shinai or bokken that is on the floor. If your shinai or bokken is not in use, it is probably better to refer to rule #6 above so that people do not have to maneuver around the equipment area trying to avoid stepping over anything.

10. Do not walk in front of anyone, but if this cannot be avoided, politely bow and extend your hand slightly forward, saying, "Please excuse me" (in Japanese: "Sumimasen!" or "Gomen nasai!")

11. When you put on full bogu for class, follow these rules --
a. Put on the tenugui such that when you tie on the men, there is no "flap" sticking out from the back of the men. This is affectionately referred to by some as a "rooster tail."
b. After you have tied the men on, examine the men himo such that they are together, parallel, and not twisted.
c. When putting on the kote, put on the LEFT kote first, followed by the RIGHT.

12. During class, after you have finished an exercise with your partner, return to the center, pause, return your shinai to the sheathed position (osame to), take 5 steps back, and bow, saying "Thank you!"

13. If you MUST take a break during class, politely bow out. Take a moment to catch your breath or cool down if necessary and then work your way back into class. It is perhaps more proper that you ask permission to bow out AND bow back in, especially if you are visiting another dojo and are unfamiliar with their customs. No matter what, though, DO NOT take off the men unless you absolutely must do so. If you have to leave the floor for any reason, please let someone know.

14. During class, refrain from idle talk. Pay attention and concentrate on the lesson. If you are waiting for your turn to participate, much can be learned by simply observing others.

15. If you are sitting in class, sit in seiza (kneeling). If you are unable to sit in seiza (try to do so as long as you can), then sit properly. Do not "lounge back" with your legs extended.

16. When lining up at the end of class (as well as at the beginning of class), do so QUICKLY. Make sure the line is straight by checking the person immediately to your right.

17. The head instructor will call for the instructors to seiza, but the student line should wait for the head student to call, "SEIZA!" before kneeling. Start to kneel when the person to your right starts to kneel (much like a domino effect). Kneel quietly without moving until the head instructor calls for everyone to remove the bogu.

18. When removing the bogu at the end of class, follow these steps --
a. RIGHT kote is removed first, slightly to your front and right, with the kote head pointing to your RIGHT.
b. LEFT kote is removed and place IN FRONT of the right kote.
c. Remove the men. Do NOT let the men himo flail about haphazardly. When finished, place the himo INSIDE the men.
d. Before placing the men on top of the kote, hold the men with one hand in front of your face. Remove your tenugui with the other hand and use it to wipe away any sweat from your face. Finally, place the men on top of the kote (as previously described). Place the tenugui either inside the men or across the top. REMEMBER -- at other dojos, this may not be optional. Watch others and follow their lead if you are visiting another dojo.
e. Remove the dou, placing it in front of the kote and men. Be sure that the dou himo are not scattered about, but rather are neatly concealed.
f. Remove the tare. There are at least a couple of different methods of folding the tare obi, but the point is, do not just set the tare in front of your dou, leaving the tare obi lying out.
Although some people at Memphis Kendo Club (myself included) occasionally tie the dou and tare together at this point, the traditional custom of the club is to place the tare in front of the dou (which is in front of the kote and men) so that your name --- if you had a zekken with your name on it --- can be easily seen by the instructor.

19. After removing all the bogu, remain in seiza with your back straight.

20. After class has been dismissed, it is customary to come forward and bow once more to the instructor(s) individually. Also take the opportunity to bow to your dojomates individually. Again, this is customary and should always be done from seiza.

General Kendo Terminology

The Memphis Kendo Club has been blessed to have so many new people take up kendo, and more importantly --- stick with it.

The purpose of this post is to help those who are still relatively new to Kendo.

Reiho // Reigi (respect/manners/etiquette) is vitally important in kendo. Respect is demanded when entering/leaving the dojo and throughout practice. This means that when instruction is being given, we need to be attentive and cut out the side chatter. While practice can be fun, it needs to be conducted and received with a manner of respect and seriousness.  Take full part in practice -- even in warm-ups --- with good energy and loud voice.  Please refer to this post for more detailed information on Kendo etiquette:

Excercising more etiquette will make practice much more serious and fulfilling for you and your dojomates.

A few terms which you have heard in class but may be unsure of...

Shugo! or Seretsu! -- the command for everyone to line up
Seiza! -- the command to adopt a kneeling/sitting-on-the-heels posture
Mokuso! -- meditation/"quietude"
Kiotsuke! -- attention!
Shomen ni rei! -- bow to the front
Sensei ni rei! -- bow to the sensei
Otagai ni rei! -- bow to each other

Onegashimasu! -- "Please practice with (teach) me!" or generally, "Let's please begin!"
Domo (arigato gozaimashita) -- "Thank you very much"
Sonkyo -- a crouching posture (noticeably used prior to beginning free fight with a partner)
Osameto -- to put away the sword (or to sheath the sword) following practice/excercise
Sumimasen (or) Gomen nasai -- "Sorry!"
Hajime! -- start or begin
Yame! -- stop or end

PARTS OF BOGU (Kendo Armor):
Men - the head
Kote - the wrist
Dou - the trunk/body
Tsuki - literally, "thrust," but it typically is used to refer to the throat
Tare - the hip protecting skirt

Mai - forward
Ushiro - backward
Migi - right
Hidari - left

-- the distance between opponents
Issoku-itto-no-maai -- the distance at which you can strike the opponent by taking one step forward
To-ma -- far distance, i.e., a distance greater than issoku-itto-no-maai
Chika-ma -- close distance, i.e., a distance shorter/closer than issoku-itto-no-maai
Yokote-no-maai -- the defined, specific distance at which the tip of your shinai and the tip of your opponent's shinai are just crossing.

Kihon - basics
Ai-te - opponent, generally during shiai-geiko or jigeiko.
Kakarite - attacker
Motodachi - the person who acts as a receiver to kakarite's attacks, typically during kihon practice
Sho-men(-uchi) -- the center of the men; a strike to the center of the men
Sayu-men -- a strike to the sides of the men at (approx.) a 70-degree angle
Taiatari -- body contact/crash after an attack
Kirikaeishi -- practice with a partner where the attacker strikes the men, performs taiatari, then proceeds to strike sayu-men four times forward then five times backwards.
Kikari-geiko -- attacking-without-pausing practice
Ai-kikari-geiko -- kikarigeiko practiced by both partners at the same time
Ji-geiko -- free practice/free sparring
Shiai-geiko -- tournament sparring
Ippon-shobu -- in jigeiko, this refers to "last point" (before stopping)

Waza is divided into two categories: Shikake waza (attacking technique) and Oji-waza (defensive/counterattacking technique). While this is not meant to be an exhaustive list...

Shikake waza can be sub-divided into:
Harai waza - technique of striking the opponent's shinai off center to create an opening for attack
Debana waza - technique of using seme to force the opponent to move to attack, then attacking first (debana kote is very common)
Hiki waza - striking while moving backwards

Oji waza can be sub-divided into:
Suriage waza - warding off the opponent's shinai as it attacks with a sweeping, upward movement
Uchiotoshi waza - striking the opponent's shinai downwards
Nuki waza - technique of luring an opponent to strike, then dodging it and following up with an attack
Kaeishi waza - technique of receiving an opponent's strike on your shinai and using that energy to launch your own attack.

FOOTWORK (Ashi-sabaki):
Suri-ashi -- "sliding feet"; the standard way of moving the feet in kendo, i.e., sliding them on the floor as opposed to picking the feet up from the floor
Okuri-ashi -- standard kendo footwork whereby the right foot moves forward first, followed by a strong/quick bringing up of the left foot.  With this footwork, there is no crossing of the feet.  Graphically, this footwork looks like this:
Starting from the basic position (right foot in front, left foot in back, left heel slightly raised from the floor), your okuri-ashi looks like this:

With okuri-ashi, the most important thing to remember is that the feet NEVER cross. 

Ayumi-ashi -- alternate stepping (crossing of the feet)
Fumikomi-ashi -- attack stepping (the "foot stomp" when attacking)
Hiraki-ashi -- "crossing" footwork

Ki-ken-tai-ichi -- literally "Spirit-sword-body-as one" ... where the movement of your body, your spirit, and your strike culminate to strike the opponent's target at one point simultaneously.

Seme -- "Pressure". A difficult concept to define. There are different types of seme which are developed at different levels of kendo. In abstract terms, there can be physical seme or mental seme or a combination of both. When starting out, physical seme is most often used. Generally, it is the idea of pressuring by physically moving toward the opponent and pushing in with the kensen (the tip of the shinai), to cause the opponent to lose the center position or to break his kamae, thus creating an opening or opportunity for attack. Developing good seme is vital for success and is a never-ending process.

Zanshin -- "Resolute will". Another very difficult term to define. In simplistic terms, it is the physical and mental disposition and preparedness you exhibit after striking the opponent.

Putting on Keikogi, Hakama, and Bogu

The attached link is an extremely handy resource with easy-to-read/understand instructions and "how to" illustrations related to putting on and wearing keikogi, hakama and bogu for kendo practice. There are also some helpful hints on cleaning, folding, and storing your gear included.

Keep this link handy. If you opt to print it out, be advised that it's about 25 pages in length.
The information is copyrighted, so do not print it out and sell it.

There is NO DEFENSE; There is ONLY ATTACK!

Some of the things we at Memphis Kendo teach our beginners is the importance of footwork, moving forward, basic seme, big swing techniques, big voice, and ki-ken-tai-ichi. On top of all that, there is the old addage: THERE IS NO DEFENSE.. THERE IS ONLY ATTACK.

When beginners start to transition into a more active participation in class (read: wearing bogu and taking part fully in jigeiko) they sometimes tend to forget everything they've learned the first 3-6 months. Many times, people get into bogu and fall back to a basic human instinct of defense only. Some people are able to effectively carry over the concept of "ONLY ATTACK!", and they do so without regard to the consequences of their attack. In essence, they attack without fear (which is good at that level), but one of the drawbacks of this --- especially when they face someone of equal experience and rank --- is that one side attacks using a big men strike from always the same distance and with always the same timing. When this happens, the other side typically falls into the same pattern and the end result, usually, is that both sides continue to hit each other's shinai before reaching the men and a successful strike eludes both players for, seemingly, an eternity.

It is important that beginners use what they learn in regular practice, attacking without hesitation or fear, however, they cannot learn opportunities for attacking by repetitively using the same technique from always the same distance and with always the same timing.

Keep in mind that jigeiko is not "regular/kihon practice". Jigeiko is a real opportunity to work on what you've learned in class in a very practical way. It's not enough to simply kiai, push seme, and attack.... you will soon learn that that doesn't always work when the opponent is not acting simply as a target for your practice, and some real frustration can result from this.

Once you know how to do a very basic men strike in regular practice, try to use jigeiko to experiment with how to actually pull off a very basic men strike. Pulling off a very basic men strike is not as easy as some think!

So, you know how to do big men... you have great voice... you have decent timing and ki-ken-tai-ichi. Works great in practice, but now you're having trouble in jigeiko.

What to do?

Gain the center and create an opening to attack!

Whoa. What does this mean? What is center?

In case you don't know, "center" is perhaps most simply described as "keeping your shinai pointed at the opponent" (i.e., your shinai is "in the center").

Great. Now that I know what center is, Why do I need to break it?

Basically, if your opponent controls the center, then you will not be able to attack.


Because --- without going into greater detail --- if you move to attack without getting your opponent off center, the opponent can do a number of things to nullify your attack, one of which being if he doesn't move at all and just holds his kamae, you could just kill yourself on the tip of his sword.

Ok, so how do I break the opponent's center?

Well, now you're starting to think like a kenshi. HOW to break the opponent's center is the basic, most important tactic in kendo and, regardless of how simple the concept is, pondering the "how" is what develops into more complicated and effective waza (technique) as you advance in kendo.

There are several ways to break the opponent's center, but the simplest way is to physically move the opponent's shinai off the centerline by using your own shinai.  For example, you can attempt to push the opponent's shinai down/to the side (called OSAE-WAZA) or you can attempt to push/knock it left, right, up (called HARAI-WAZA).

This particular concept of manipulating the opponent's shinai is known as "Killing the Sword" or "Killing the Kensen"...

If you regularly kiai, push forward, then attack.... You can attempt to ALTER YOUR TIMING.  Try: kiai, kiai, push forward, kiai, push forward, then attack. Or you might push forward, kiai and stomp your front foot to see what kind of reaction you get from the opponent. This is what is meant by "changing your timing".

If you experience some frustration with your attacks in jigeiko (Can't Seem to Land ANYTHING!), try experimenting with timing variations.... alter your footwork, play with your kiai (when you attack, is your kiai significantly different from when you're NOT attacking?), attack the opponent's shinai (Kill the Sword!), try to avoid the same patterns (1-2-3-GO!) of attack and change it up a little (1-GO!... 1-2-3-GO!... 1-2-GO!... etc.)


As you progress in kendo, you will start to develop a better of sense of reading the opponent, recognizing his patterns, recognizing opportunities for attack, and so forth. You'll also learn different types of waza and over time, you'll get better at knowing what to use and when to use it. You'll discover that you can use some waza better than other waza. The kendo learning process is neverending, so, don't get too ahead of yourself.... there's plenty of time.

High-level kendo players use the same kendo basics that beginners use. The difference comes in their understanding and application of those basics which are ONLY able to develop through experience over time. There is no "quick path" to strong kendo. If such existed, 1.kyu-level players would defeat 5.dan players on a regular basis. So in the early stages of your kendo journey, continue to work ONLY on what you know and try to perfect it. THAT is the natural progression to "advanced kendo."

Some of the items in this post were taken from Dr. Sotaro Honda's article "Learning of Tactics for Kyu-grade Holders". Honda-sensei is the head coach of the British National Kendo Team.

Rank in Kendo

If you've ever wondered about rank in kendo, the general bottom line is that (achieving) rank is not the ultimate goal of kendo. The ultimate goal is just to get better at kendo. Perhaps you've noticed that no one in kendo wears any outward sign to denote their rank. Why?

When you go to practice, things like rank, age, sex, weight have no true meaning because in kendo, technique will determine the winner in a match. By way of illustration, at the U.S. National Tournament in Las Vegas (1999), I saw a 5'2, 100 lb girl defeat a 6'+, 200 lb man in the team competition by scoring a beautiful men. Technique is the variable which makes all kendoka "equal".

That said, rank (and achieving rank) can be a positive thing in kendo. It can give us a sense of where we are (in terms of kendo ability/knowledge) and where we're headed or what we can look forward to. In our goal-driven society, rank can be a source of encouragement as well.

In the past, the Memphis dojo has not held any in-house promotionals. The primary reason for this is that we haven't had enough people in class with enough rank to sit on a panel of judgment. The International Kendo Federation has recently laid out new laws governing the guidelines for kyu-rank promotionals. In former years, all that was required for a grading panel up to 1.kyu (the level immediately below 1.dan) was three 3.dan+. The FIK changed their own rules to require a minimum of five 4.dan. The AUSKF changed their own policy to be in line with FIK regulations and this has now filtered down to the individual regions which make up the AUSKF.

As of 2008, Memphis Kendo Club has four active 4.dan in class which gets us closer to the AUSKF requirement. The SEUSKF has also created "sub-regionals," placing Memphis in the SEUSKF Western Region along with Nashville and Knoxville. We will continue to plan joint shinsa with those two groups, which will typically mean at least one 7.dan (Yazaki-sensei of Nashville) and one 6.dan (Hyun-sensei of Knoxville) to sit on a grading panel.

Having said that, it is also perhaps noteworthy to mention that it is neither necessary nor required that adult kenshi "start" at the lowest kyu rank and progress one step at a time as they approach 1.dan. All kenshi start with NO rank and then are generally placed at a certain kyu level after their first shinsa (testing). After that, a person can easily skip kyu-levels based on the award of a testing's grading panel, with the following exception: By SEUSKF regulations, NO person may test for 1.kyu as his first rank, which is to say, everyone MUST pass some kyu-level shinsa prior to being eligible to test for 1.kyu. Obviously, this means, too, that no one may test for 1.dan before first passing 1.kyu, even if it means you've been doing kendo for 20 years. Also, if you hold, for example, the rank of 3.kyu, you may -- with your instructor's permission -- challenge for the rank of 1.kyu, however, if you fail the exam, you will remain at your current rank (i.e., there is no longer the idea of "auto-promoting" above your current level, just short of 1.kyu).

The following link provides more information about general expectations at a promotional examination:

So... should you worry about testing? The first testing can be a bit stressful because you want to do well. You know what the judges expect you to be able to do, but you may not know how well the judges expect you to do it! In the end, it's nothing to get worked up over. Some of you who may have experience in other martial arts may have heard, witnessed, or even participated in rank testings which have lasted several hours. This is simply not the case with kendo. At best, you may be on the floor in front of the panel for 5 or 10 minutes total. The jigeiko portion of your exam is supposed to last a total of 180 seconds (90 seconds per match). This obviously may add to your stress as you feel you don't have enough time to fully demonstrate what you can do. Promotional panels have a lot of experience, though, and have the ability to see your potential even when you're not "picture perfect". So, when you go in for testing, simply do what you know how to do and let the judges do their thing. No sense in worrying about it! Whether you hold a rank of 4.kyu or shodan, you'll always find yourself practicing and sparring people with more experience and higher rank. Anyone, of any rank, can score a point or win a match against anyone else on any given day.
Regardless of rank, kendo is an ongoing learning experience. You might consider using promotionals as an encouragement to better your kendo, but ultimately, rank is not the end-all/be-all of kendo.

Something to keep in mind....

Kamae (Stance)

There are a number of kamae (stance; fighting posture) found in the art of Kendo.  Some have more practical use than others in fighting, and others are pretty exclusive to Kendo Kata.  As a brief overview, here they are:

Chudan is the most basic, most standard kamae used in kendo.
Looks like this:

From the side, it looks like this:

When facing an opponent, the tip of your shinai should be pointed at the opponent's throat.
If you are not facing an opponent, the tip of you shinai should be at the level of your own throat.

When kendoka speak of Jodan, they typically refer to HIDARI (left) JODAN, which has the practitioner with his left foot forward (whereas most kamae have the right foot forward) and the shinai is held over the head at a slight angle.  Hidari-Jodan is the standard Jodan kamae.  MIGI (right) JODAN incorporates the same foot position as Chudan-no-kamae (right foot forward) with the shinai held over the head in a straight line.  AGE-TO is a variant of Jodan-no-kamae where the practitioner holds the shinai overhead with only one hand.

Migi-jodan is not completely uncommon in kendo shiai, but it is more recognized in Kendo Kata Ipponme (#1) for Shidachi.

Hidari-Jodan looks like this:

Gedan's most standard use is in Kendo Kata Sanponme (#3) for both Shidachi and Uchidachi, and again in Kata Ropponme (#6) for Shidachi.  A "modified" Gedan is occasionally used (at risk!) by some players during shiai, often as an attempt to lure an opponent into breaking his own kamae.

In the image below, note the upper picture illustrates proper Gedan for Kendo Kata, while the lower picture illustrates the typical "modified" Gedan used in kendo shiai:

Hasso is used almost exclusively in kata, specifically, Kendo Kata Yohonme (#4) for Uchidachi.  Hasso is a variant of Jodan-no-kamae and there can be both a 'right' and 'left' side with Hasso.  Typically, Hasso-no-kamae is adopted with the left foot forward, the left hand in the center of the chest, the tsuba near the mouth, and the sword itself slightly angled over the right shoulder.

In kendo shiai, Hasso-no-kamae is typically a transitional kamae when moving from Chudan to Hidari Jodan.  This may not be the proper way to articulate things, but Hasso could also be understood as a position from which Katsugi-waza is launched by an attacker (check YouTube for video examples).

Waki is exclusively used in kata, specifically, Kendo Kata Yohonme (#4) for Shidachi.  It arguably has absolutely zero value in modern kendo shiai.  It looks like this:

For informational purposes, it is worth noting that Kendo regulations permit the use of two sword in shiai (NITO-RYU).  Kamae for nito-ryu can vary with either the left or right foot forward, with the daito (long sword) and shoto (short sword) held in either the right or left hand:

Shinsa (rank testing) expectations

Since some of you are soon to test for the first time, this is a good opportunity to consider what you might be expected to do once you get on the floor.

From the AUSKF website:

6.kyu through 2.kyu
These ranks can be awarded at the dojo level depending on the regional federation.  Other federations formally test for these grades and some have age restrictions for children.  While it is normal to have both adults and children testing for the same level of kyu, there can be a great deal of difference in the basic skills between the adults and children.  Most often, the children have been doing Kendo much longer and have much better basics than adults.  However, when the mental maturity of the adults is factored in, this should not be a problem.  An experienced examiner will understand this kind of situation and grad accordingly.

The expectations for ranks 6.kyu through 2.kyu are not set in stone, but speaking very generally, what most examiners look for is:
1. wearing the bogu properly and having a neat appearance
2. very strong use of voice
3. nice posture/kamae
4. proper footwork
5. proper swinging
6. sense of timing
7. proper run-though after attack
8. proper demonstration of zanshin after attack
The concept of "scoring points" is immaterial for shinsa at this level, which means, your ability to pass the examination is not at all dependent on your ability to score a valid point(s).
Examiners are looking to judge your knowledge and understanding of the most basic, fundamental concepts of kendo.
The expectations for the rank of 1.kyu are the same as those for 6.kyu-2.kyu, with the addition of being able to enter and leave the court properly, to strike with ki-ken-tai-ichi, to demonstrate good energy, and 1 or 2 yuko-datotsu.
In addition to all of items expected for ranks 6.kyu-2.kyu, it is expected that 1.kyu candidates show more polish in their kendo.  1.kyu candidates should demonstrate proper ki-ken-tai-ichi in order to achieve yuko-datotsu (valid point).  The idea trying to be expressed here is that if an 1.kyu candidate can score yuko-datotsu, then he will have properly demonstrated good footwork, good voice/energy, proper timing, ki-ken-tai-ichi, proper run-through, and proper zanshin.
At the 1.kyu level, there are other "intangible" things that judges look for.  If you have poor appearance or if your bogu becomes untied while you're on the floor, etc., your chances for failure increase, regardless of the quality of your kendo.  Appearance is a part of kendo etiquette, and etiquette is an incredibly important concept in kendo.  Always make sure that your keiko-gi and hakama are properly worn.  Always make sure your men himo are parallel, together, and not twisted.  Always make sure that your tenugui does not extend and flap around outside of your men. These are very small things that are easily addressed, but they require your attention because they are a breach of appearance and etiquette, and they are immediately noticed by the grading panel.  A good, nice appearance indicates a proper respect to the art of kendo, and this is something judges like to see.  Breaches of appearance and etiquette can (and do!) result in automatic failure at higher kendo levels (even before the judges see your actual kendo!!), so you should take the time to always check your appearance and make adjustments, making it a regular part of your kendo preparation routine.
Assuming that your appearance is proper, in order to decrease your odds of failing, you should AVOID the following:
- "defensive kendo" instead of "attacking kendo" in your footwork (i.e., stepping backwards instead of going forward)
- excessive blocking of the opponent's strikes
- stepping backwards when coming out of sonkyo
- hesitating or waiting too much too attack
- spending too much time in tsubazeriai
Keep in mind that poor kamae, poor posture, crossing your feet, poor voice, poor striking, etc. are all things that increase your chances of failure as well.

Kendo Basics ~ by Jeff Marsten-sensei, Kyoshi 7.dan

This is a short clip from YouTube highlighting a new DVD series being introduced by Jeff Marsten-sensei, Kyoshi 7.dan of the Pacicif Northwest Kendo Federation (PNKF). Marsten-sensei is a former President of the All U.S. Kendo Federation (AUSKF) and currently serves on its Board of Directors as Auditor.

After looking at the YouTube clip, if you are so inclined to order the DVD, it's available at for about $30.

YouTube videos ~ Kendo Basics

Here are a few YouTube links of some older videos of kendo basics put out by the All Japan Kendo Federation. They're done in English.

Very basic stuff but very good review material, touching on subjects ranging from proper etiquette, how to put on bogu, kamae, footwork, basic excercises, kikarigeiko, uchikomigeiko, kendo kata, etc.

This is pretty all-encompassing and may be of some help for folks, regardless of experience levels.


Section 1, Part 1:
Section 1, Part 2:
Section 1, Part 3:

Section 2, Part 1:
Section 2, Part 2:
Section 2, Part 3:

Section 3, Part 1:
Section 3, Part 2:
Section 3, Part 3:

Ordering Zekken/Nafuda (name tag) for Memphis Kendo Club

Some of you new folks in bogu have been involved with kendo long enough for you to need a "nafuda" (or "zekken" or "thing-with-your-name-on-it-that-fits-on-the-tare").

This is something you need to think about (and order) if you are new to bogu, or not yet in bogu but are certain that you'll be sticking around for the long haul. Normally, I might suggest that you wait to order nafuda until you've been in bogu for a little while because if people don't quit kendo early in the process, many will quit kendo soon after getting into bogu.

If you compete at a tournament, AUSKF rules actually mandate that you have one. It's also very handy to have if you go to seminars and such just so people can identify who you are.

In order to maintain consistency (letter style, size, etc.) with those who already have them, we ask that you please place your order with E-BOGU at .... and look/search for "ZEKKEN" or "NAFUDA" (same thing, different term) under "Kendo Accessories".
Ordering instructions:
1. access the above website and click on the link to the Zekken

2. click on "add to cart" and go through the process of filling out your information AND paying for the item

3. In the product description, you should see a link for "Download Zekken Order Form".  Print out that form...
4. Once you have the printed form in front of you, write MEMPHIS across the top line; write your last name in Romanji (that's "English") on the bottom line; write your last name in Katakana (or Kanji, if applicable) vertically down the center. It doesn't have to be perfect handwriting, but it must be legible.
If you are not absolutely 100% certain of how to spell your name in katakana, please consult the consortium of native speakers of Japanese at class.

5. after filling out the form in full (be sure to have your order # handy to write on the form as well), FAX the form to E-bogu. ***Obviously, you'll need several of these forms if you order as a group ****  It might also be possible to fill out the form, scan it, and email it to E-bogu, but check with them first.

Kendo Kata (1 through10) from the 1800s

This film was shot in the late 1800s.
As you can see, very little has changed in Kendo Kata between then and now...

For your enjoyment:

Kendo Kata (video)

Here is an EXCELLENT instructional video clip for Kendo Kata Ipponme (#1).
(the only error I can tell from this video is that at the very beginning, the narrator says "Uchidachi starts with the migi-jodan-no-kamae and Shidachi with the hidari-jodan-no-kamae"
...this is exactly opposite of what's correct.) Everything else in the video looks great.

And here is a video link for all 10 kendo kata for your review.

For now, beginners should concentrate on the first three kata. You will need to know the first three by the time you eventually test for 1.kyu. Levels below 1.kyu do not require kata at testing.

..more info/details to come on this topic...


*** WARNING ***

Memphis Kendo Club has been very fortunate in the past couple of years to have many people start kendo and, more importantly, stick with it long enough to get into bogu.

Since we have so many newbies now taking part in full keiko practice, this seems to be a good time to explore the most common type of "injury" in kendo --- BLISTERS (aka "kendo foot").

No matter who you are, you WILL deal with this at some point although you may actually be fortunate enough not to experience the full glory of the pictures I've attached below.
At the end of this, I'll provide some information on how to deal with these minor inconveniences so that you can get back to practice as soon as possible.

You can click on the pictures below to expand them. I've labeled 3 areas of the foot for ease of reference. While kendo foot is not limited to the left foot, blisters and well-developed calluses typically occur there.

(A) big toe
(B) ball of the foot
(C) the whole area of the upper foot, beneath the toes

(A) is unremarkable and typical of a well-developed callus on the big toe. By expanding the picture, you may also notice a very nice callus in the crease of the big toe. This is also a common area for blisters to form... think of that area as "(A), Jr."

(C) reflects a relatively large blister that formed and either ruptured on its own or was popped/sliced by the foot's owner. In any case, the skin has dried and this is -- in my experience at least -- the best way to deal with blisters of all sizes. Pop the blister and get all the pus out of the thing, allow it to dry and then cut away the dead skin. The time it takes for this to occur will vary from person to person. More details to follow...

Now, this is a real beauty. Every kenshi should WANT to get one like this at some point in his career. (Insert gratuitous comment about "REAL kendo people..")

The area at (A) is slightly remarkable in that the toe has a callus, yet a blister still managed to form. It is starting to heal very nicely with this foot's owner routinely removing dead/dried skin from the area. This will help in the callus-building process.

Area (C) is really choice. In the previous picture, it was obvious that a blister was formed and properly addressed when there was no significant ripping of the skin. In THIS picture, the blister may have ruptured significantly on its own such that the foot's owner needed to actually clip it off. Major tearing of the skin can happen in the course of practice and on this point, I speak from personal experience. It is NOT cool. If you experience this and there's just a small rupture, you might be best served to leave it alone and let it dry out (per picture 1). If you've got a flapper, best thing is to just clip off the skin and follow these steps:

To help with the drying process, be sure to clean your blister with hydrogen peroxide first.
Follow that up with a nice bandage, making use of an antibiotic gel like Neosporin, for example. This is good for when you have to wear shoes all day long at work. At night, take off any bandaging and let the blister dry.

Repeat this as often as necessary. You should be good to go for practice the following week.

If by the time you get back to practice the blister hasn't healed (or healed well enough), you're probably going to need some kind of protection if you want to take part in class. Some people like to use a tabi-like thing such as this:

These things are designed with a small patch of leather on the bottom to help grip the floor a little bit. The one time I used one, I didn't like it because it was actually slippery and made pushing off with the left foot virtually impossible. Your mileage may vary on the use of this thing.
Without question, though, a time-tested solution is plain ol' athletic tape.

KENDO FOOT (Part 2) - healing process with pictures

This is a follow-up to the original (and WiLdLy popular!) KENDO FOOT entry I made back in 2007 here:

In this sequel, I'd like to show a fairly common, albeit wimpy, blister as it goes through the healing process. The purpose of this is perhaps to give folks an idea of what to expect over time.

Much appreciation goes out to one of the newest members of the Memphis Kendo Club who was kind enough to provide these pictures and document the progress.


DAY ONE (click to enlarge photo) - Saturday
After two classes, here we go....

So, the picture above is the aftermath of a two-hour class on Saturday afternoon.

Very, very common place for blister formation, especially for new folks who are just learning proper kendo footwork. It never hurts to state the obvious, so I'll take that opportunity now. This blister in the crease underneath the big toe of the left foot is caused by standard kendo footwork (okuri-ashi), pushing the whole body with the left foot/leg. It's also common to see blister formation(s) form in the center of the foot, just beneath the toes in the middle.

Above, the blister appears to have ruptures on it's own. The foot's owner has cleaned the damaged area (note: his foot is in the sink) with tap water, followed by hydrogen peroxide (rinse and repeated three times, I'm told). Did not immediately dress the are for the rest of the day. Later that night, the foot's owner went out to dinner, having prepared the damaged area with Neosporin, band-aid, socks (clean ones, obviously) and good-breathing tennis shoes. Upong returning from dinner and just prior to bed for the night, he rinsed the area again with tap water and hydrogen peroxide.

DAY TWO (no picture available) - Sunday

Cleaned the area again with clean water and hydrogen peroxide. Did not bandage. Left to air dry all day.

DAY THREE (no picture) AND FOUR (pictured below) - Monday and Tuesday

Repeating the same cleaning process, Neosporin and band-aid for work all day, followed by removal of the band-aid after dinner. Decided to cut away the skin flat at this point.

The above doesn't appear to portray a whole lot of progress after four days.
My suspicion is that this is because the skin flap was not removed on Day One. Had the skin flap been cut off at that point, it's possible the area would not look as fresh/red as it does. This is not to say that what he did was necessarily bad or wrong. The foot's owner reported no pain/stinging on Day Four in any case.

DAY FIVE - Wednesday (Kendo practice night) (no picture available)
Foot's owner reports he simply rinsed the area clean with water before heading to class.
Did not feel it necessary to tape up the toe and had no discernable problems throughout the standard beginner's class (approx. 40 minutes of a lot of basic footwork).
DAY SIX and SEVEN - Thursday and Friday
Foot's owner reports he has not done any further treatment of the area since Wednesday evening. Continues to have no issues with the damaged/healing area (no burning/stinging sensation normally associated with blisters).
DAY EIGHT - Saturday (Kendo practice at 10am)

This picture was taken immediately after getting home from practice.
The blister area has dried out very nicely. Practice room was very, very cold and remained so throughout class. Worth noting in the picture above is that the skin has split. That doesn't always happen, but it's not uncommon. Taping up the toe prior to practice might have prevented this from occurring, but it's hard to say. In any case, you will experience this at some point.

This picture was taken after showering. Foot's owner reported a sharp stinging sensation in the shower (that's normal). As you can see, though, the area has healed quite nicely and the skin split is actually not at all very deep.
Taping up the toe for the next practice should not be necessary.


The latest victim of a good case of kendo foot is former-Memphis Kendo Club member, Jon Kahre, who came down from St Louis to practice recently.

Perhaps it's fitting that this should have happened at a Memphis practice.

Kendo foot start date: 1/27/10: (click images to enlarge)

As of 02/02/10 (one week later), Jon reports his course of treatment:
In the morning - peroxide, neosporin and a large band-aid/pad. Had to add a strip of tape (running front to back) to hold the band-aid in place.
In the evening - peroxide and left open [to air dry]

Bogu rental

Please keep this in mind starting with March 2009...

If you are using club bogu, there will be a $5 charge per month.

This is SEPARATE from the dues you pay directly to the Community Center.

If you pay in cash, fine.
If you pay with a check, please make it out to Memphis Kendo Club.

In either case, payment should be put in an envelope with YOUR NAME and the MONTH clearly indicated. Payment should be given to me or Mr Yasuda.

The reason this rental fee has been instituted is two-fold:
1. wear and tear on club bogu necessitates repair(s) and/or replacement over time, and
2. after using club bogu for a while, people need to be encouraged to purchase their own so that other beginners can use available club bogu.