1. What is Kendo?
Kendo (meaning 'the way of the sword' in Japanese) is the martial system which was created out of the sword techniques used by the samurai warriors of feudal Japan.
Today kendoka (students of Kendo) use shinai (bamboo swords) to strike the head, wrist or body which are protected by men, kote and do (mask, gloves and body-armour) while making kiai (cries expressing spirit). Bokken (wooden swords) are also used to practise Kendo kata (formal sequence of techniques) and some students may also progress to study Iai (the art of drawing the sword) using katana (real sword).
In traditional Kendo, it is expected that at all times kendoka must observe rules of correct behaviour and it is often said that Kendo begins and ends with this, known as reigi.
2. How much does it cost to start Kendo?
The training itself is inexpensive relative to some other martial ways, since in traditional Kendo, no money changes hands for the teaching.
You only pay your share of the actual running costs of the dojo, which is insurance and hall rental, and works out at approximately £60 per quarter plus an annual renmei fee of about £45. Concessionary rates and a reduction for paying annually are available.
After watching a session, if you want to start you are expected to pay for your own clothing - hakama and keikogi which comes to about £75 and your first shinai, which is about £40. It is expected that you will buy your shinai via the dojo, as we import good quality shinai from Japan, and while cheaper ones may be obtainable elsewhere they may endanger other people and so not be allowed in the dojo.
A shinai should last up to a year.
After about 9 - 12 months, you will need to go into armour (men, do and kote - mask, body-armour and gloves). The dojo has a number of new and second-hand armours which can be bought outright or on hire purchase and second-hand armours which can be rented.
(The hire rate is £60 per quarter).
At first dan level, students are usually expected to buy their own armour. The cost of armour starts at a few hundred pounds, the cost being variable and dependent on the exchange rate and other fluctuations in the state of the Japanese/world economy.
PLEASE NOTE: All the costs quoted here are accurate at November 2018 and are subject to change.
3. Can women practise Kendo?
Although Kendo is a full-contact activity requiring explosive physical exertion which can appear highly aggressive, it is welcoming to all. In fact we have had many women members in the past and some of the most experienced and formidable members of the dojo have been women.
All of the women who have practised with us in the past have become ranked (yudansha)
Unlike some other martial ways, at the higher levels Kendo is more dependent on timing and accuracy than strength, and therefore it is very suitable for women and anyone of a smaller build including teenagers..
So the answer is, yes, of course women can and do practise - very effectively - and women are always welcome.
4. Is Kendo dangerous?
We use bamboo shinai or practice swords, wearing protective armour. Training is under the watchful eyes of the Sensei, as discipline is necessary to master the sword techniques and ultimately oneself.
Because Kendo is a full-contact activity with its origins in martial discipline, safety is a primary concern and Kendo has developed a number of safe-guards (e.g. effective armour protection and strictly-observed rules of behaviour while in the dojo)
The armour is sufficient to cushion the impact of any 'cuts' from the shinai and beginners need not fear, since they do not receive any at all during the first few months of training. They are trained by cutting on the seniors. So the risk of being hurt is negligible.
However, as in any rigorous physical activity, injuries may result from ordinary accidents such as trips or collisions. On the other hand, the continual observance of reigi and the considerable experience of the dojo seniors ensures that such injuries are extremely rare in kendo.
5. Are there different types of Kendo?
There is a fundamental difference of purpose between Traditional Kendo and Sports Kendo, which is reflected in practise, but otherwise the techniques of modern Kendo are more or less the same everywhere in the world.
6. How long does it take to reach 1st dan?
For the average student it takes about two years, although this may vary with aptitude and application. However, traditional Kendo is not particularly concerned with ranking.