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.