A brief history
Kendo (or Kenjustsu) has been practised for a very long time, in fact at the end of the Tokugawa period (c. 1876) there were possibly over 200 schools of Kenjutsu.
Originally Kenjutsu was practiced with live blades, but this practice with its obvious dangers was soon restricted and practitioners began to use the live blades only for Tameshigiri (cutting practice) or in kata.
Bokuto (wooden practice swords) were employed to reduce the danger inherent in the use of live or semi-live blades. However Bokuto (or Bokken) proved to be lethal in the hands or expert practitioners.
As combat with Bokuto became more common place, armour that resembled traditional Japanese war amour was used for protection. This is the origin of the armour (Bogu) we use today.
Kendo as we know it today was devised to safely practice and gain an understanding of the sword without injuring one’s training partner (or oneself).
Today we practice Kendo with Shinai for Jigeiko and Bokuto for Kendo Kata. The Shinai is made with four strips of Bamboo (or in some cases Carbon composite material) fastened together by cords to resemble a straight sword.
Kendo is formalised today and consists of three basic ways of using the Shinai: Kiri (cutting), Tsuki (thrusting) and Katsugi (deflecting or parrying). The targets are also formalised and Kendoka can only hit the armoured areas of the opponents body: Men (the head), Do (the lower part of the trunk of the body), Kote (wrists) and the Nodo (throat area).
Kendo should be practised with a view to improving one’s character and to foster self development. It’s also a great way to make friends and keep fit.