Kendo ("way of the sword") is the modern fencing martial art, developed from traditional Samurai techniques of Japanese swordsmanship known as kenjutsu. In the past, this martial art of the two handed sword katana was called Gekiken ("hitting sword") until it was changed to Kendo in 1920 by Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (the Japan Martial Arts Foundation).
After the WWII, Kendo (as the most of Japanese martial arts) was banned but in 1950 it became a sport. In 1952, the All Japan Kendo Federation was established and in 1975, it stated the goal of Kendo as "to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the katana". Kendo combines martial arts values with sport elements, with some practitioners stressing the former and others the latter.
Kendo presently plays an important role in school education and it is also popular among the young and old, men and women alike. Several million Kendo practitioners of all ages enjoy participating in regular sessions of Keiko (Kendo training). The Keiko session includes intensive rotation exercises shiai geiko. In the first period of the practice, kendo practitioners (kenshi or ) work with sensei (master, teacher) and then with each other.
In modern kendo, there are two types of attacks - strikes and thrusts. Strikes are allowed against only certain areas on the body (datotsu bui). The following body parts are valid targets: top of the opponent's head (men), the left and right side of the opponent's head (sayu-men or yoko-men), right wrist (kote) at any time, the left kote when it is in a raised position (such as jodan), the left or right body side (do). In fact, in tournament situations, points are rarely awarded for striking the left side of the opponent's do. Thrusts are only allowed to the throat (tsuki). However, since a wrongly done thrust could injure the neck, thrust techniques are often left out at the starting level and practiced at later levels.
In matches, a point is only awarded when the attack is done firmly and properly to any of the allowed targets with spirit, sword, and body as one (Ki-ken-tai-ichi) as well as continuation of awareness (Zanshin). This means for an attack to be successful the shinai must strike a proper target at the same time the attacker's front foot makes contact with the ground and at the same time of a kiai or shout that displays good spirit.
Like in many other Japanese martial arts, Kendo masters must not only be able to fight with katanas against each other but also to perform a set of formal exersises, kata. Kata describes detailed patterns of defense-and-attack movements practiced either solo or in pairs. In Kendo, two people participate in kata - a student (sidati) and his/her teacher (utidati). The teacher and the student deliver (indicate) attacks in turn, the teacher delivers the first one and the student - the last one, which must symbolise the victory of the student. There are 10 Kata which are performed with either a wooden sword (bokken/bokuto) or occasionally with a blunt edged sword. Kata 1~7 are performed with both partners using a bokken of around 102 cm. Kata 8~10 are performed with one partner using a bokken and the other using short sword kodachi of around 55cm.
The protective armor (Bogu) consists of helmet (mask), forearm armor kote, body protector do and waist protector tare. Usually, training "swords" being used in kendo, are made of split bamboo (shinai) consisting of four bamboo strips attached together.
In a tournament, there are three judges (shimpan), each holding a red and a white flag in either hand. Each competitor has either a white or red ribbon attached to his or her back. For a point to be awarded, a minimum of two judges must agree. To signal this, the judges lift up the color flag of the player who scored the point. The first to score two points wins the match. If the time limit runs out before two points are awarded, several things may happen: If one player has one point and the other does not, then the player with one point wins. In cases of tie, the match may be decided by a period of overtime, sudden death overtime (the first to score a point wins regardless of time left), or a judges' decision (hantei).
In outward appearance, kendo matches look very different from the regular sport fencing - the most of the time, kendoka keep their katana upward waiting for an opportunity to attack the opponent.
Technical achievement in Kendo is measured by advancement in grade, rank or level. The "kyu" and "dan" system is used to assess the level of ones skill in kendo. There are kyu ranks below dan (from 4 to 1 for adults and from 6 to 1 for kids). At least three months must pass between the exams for kyu. The dan levels are from 1-dan to 10-dan. 1-dan (sho-dan) to 8-dan (hachi-dan) are awarded after a physical test and submitting an examination paper (the age limits are established for each dan as well). There is no physical test for 9-dan (kyu-dan) and 10-dan (ju-dan), those levels are awarded by a special committee set up for the purpose. In kendo there is no external sign of rank.
The International Kendo Federation (IKF) has members in 45 countries. The international championship tourmaments are held every three years since 1970, when the IKF was founded. 12th World Kendo Championships took place in Glasgow, Scotland in July 2003 - a women's individual competition was added, and at this year's event, the women's team competition became an official event. All women's medals in the individual tournaments have been taken by Japanese (Keiko Baba, Yuka Tsubota, Kei Okada, Shizuka Asahina); in the team competition, Japan takes gold, Korea - silver, Taiwan and Canada - bronze.
Women Kendo Championships 2010 - Final
German Kendo Championship 2009 - Women Individuals Finals
S. Kumpf (red) vs. D. Yokoo (white)
IGA Kendo Club Women's Tournament Match 8
Dardsie (red) vs. Lex (white). Match won by Dardsie on two men-uchi.
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