This page is intended to answer common questions about Hizen Dojo and kendo in general.
If you can improve/supplement an answer that is here, please contact us.
- How do I start kendo?
- At what age can I start kendo?
- What about kendo for women?
- How do I find a kendo club?
- How do I know if a club is good / reputable?
- How much does it cost?
- Why does armour vary in cost?
- Is kendo dangerous?
- Does a shinai blow hurt?
- How is kendo graded?
- What are kendo competitions like?
How do I start kendo?
Find a club in your area, go along at practice time to watch a session, and talk to a senior member. Some clubs have specific joining times for beginners’ classes, for example at the beginning of school terms. At Hizen Dojo, if you have watched a practice session and like what you see, you are welcome to start the following week. You will be looked after in a beginners’ group during practice.
At what age can I start kendo?
Kendo can be practised from childhood to old age. Hizen Dojo takes students from the age of 18 years. Adults in reasonable health can join at any time.
Kendo favours speed and agility over strength and is particularly suitable for women. Kendo training is identical for men and women, so practice is mixed. However, tournaments are separated into men’s and women’s matches. Hizen Dojo has several female members.
All UK clubs are listed at the British Kendo Association (B.K.A.) website. Check the Links Page on this site for the B.K.A. and other national sites.
All clubs should be members of their National Federation which in turn belongs to the International Kendo Federation.(I.K.F.). When visiting a club, see if the club is well-attended and if you feel comfortable there; ask any questions you may have and see if they are answered to your satisfaction.
When you begin kendo, you do not need to use armour right away, so the initial cost is just club membership and the practice fee for each session. In the UK, you are also required to join the B.K.A. Membership costs about £60, depending on your status, and provides you with insurance whilst training. After some sessions, you may wish to buy a shinai to practise with at home, and this will cost about £25.
When you are ready to wear armour, a certain amount will be available at the club to borrow during practice. Therefore, you may practise kendo cheaply for many months while finding out if it is right for you. Eventually, you will want to buy your own armour, which can range from £150 for a second-hand set, to thousands for hand-stitched sets.
Armour quality can vary a lot, due to the way it is constructed and where it comes from.
Basic differences in armour are:
a) stitching; measured in millimeters – smaller stitching is better/more expensive, hand-stitched is more expensive than machine-stitched.
b) do (chest protector); the number of pieces of bamboo used, usually between 40–60 pieces – the more pieces, the more expensive.
c) mengane (face-grill); material used, from steel (cheapest) to various alloys and titanium (most expensive).
d) decoration; there are many subtleties to the decoration, which can enhance the armour (and its price), including how many lines of decoration on the tare (waist protector), decorative stitching on the men and do-gawa, to the materials used in the do – (cherry wood is a beautiful finish on some more expensive dos.
For beginners, a well-fitting, cheap, machine-stitched bougu from a reputable supplier or purchased carefully second-hand is fine, and will last you for a good few years.
Kendo injuries are rarely more serious than a bruise. Although you may experience some strains, usually associated with the feet and ankles, these can be prevented with a proper stretching programme.
Other possible injuries include: bruised heel caused by improper fumikomi-ashi (stamping attack step), wrist injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, from overuse, and hazards from tripping over the Hakama.
Generally, etiquette (reigo-saho) in the dojo prevents dangerous practices.
A correct shinai blow which lands on target (the armour), doesn’t hurt. You feel the hit, but no pain (except the bruised ego!).
The shinai is designed to flex and absorb the blow. A cut that misses the armour usually causes nothing worse than a bruise, although it certainly can hurt at the time.
Kendo is graded on the kyu-dan system used in Japan. The kyu grades descend in order from 6th kyu to 1st kyu, after which you move to a dan grade (equivalent to a black belt in other arts) which then ascend from 1st dan to 8th dan. No belt or other indication of grade is worn – higher grades are evident by ability. There are time limits to how long one has practised at a certain grade before being permitted to take the next grading. Detailed grading information is available from the B.K.A.
Tournaments called shiai consist of matches where two competitors fight on a 11m square area. The first competitor to achieve two clean correct hits on his opponent wins the match. Matches only last for a few minutes but are intense and dynamic.