Okay - let's
get one thing straight - learning Kendo doesn't require fluency in Japanese. However, there are a few things that you should be
able to say in Japanese. If you're studying any traditional martial
art, from any culture, you should master the basics. Here's a few
be able to count from one to ten in Japanese. It's really easy.
One - ichi (pronounced
"eechee" - but a little short on the "ee")
Two - ni (pronounced as in "knee")
Three - san (close to "son")
Four - shi (pronounced "she")
Five - go (sounds kind of like it's spelled, except with a Japanese
Six - roku (actually, there's no R sound in Japanese - sort of roll
an L and you've got it)
Seven - shichi (see ichi)
Eight - hachi
Nine - ku (as in "kudos")
Ten - jyu (same "u" pronounciation as in "kudos")
to play with a new opponent, you should start with the following
- general translation "Please let me train with you"
finish playing an opponent, you should thank them:
- when bowing to a sensei (teacher), you should add "Domo"
to the front as an honorific.
Here is a list
of other kendo terms in alphabetical order. No pronounciation guides
Rival, competitor, opponent or adversary.
Action of two opponents in which both score a point in combat, simultaneously.
Armor used in Kendo, consistent of several protectors: Men (head
and face), Kote (forearms and hands), Tare (hips and stomach) and
Do (breast and ribs). Also known as Dogu.
Sword made from very hard wood, usually 1.05-m length, with the
real shape of a Katana (see Katana). Its use is identical to that
one of a metal sword. History tells that Miyamoto Musashi killed
his personal enemy Sasaki using a Bokuto made out of a branch. Also
known as Bokken.
Literally " the way of the combat ", this term was adopted
in the 20th Century to applied to Martial Arts in general, emphasizing
its pacific aspects. In addition to the physical discipline and
the different techniques, it implies an attitude of mind, spirit
and of certain ethics. The Budo term differs from the Bujutsu, in
which the latter is related more to real battle, whereas Budo emphasizes
not only the physical development, but also the mental control and
"Warrior". This was the name given to the ancient Japanese
soldiers from traditional warrior families. The Bushi class was
developed mainly in the north of Japan. They formed powerful clans,
which in the 12th Century were against the noble families who were
grouping themselves to support the imperial family who lived in
Kyoto. (See Samurai).
" Mid-level ", at the level of the chest. Chudan-no-Kamae:
usual guard position, with the end of the Shinai directed towards
the throat of the opponent.
Pair of swords used by the Samurai and Bushi of high rank. It consisted
of a Katana (or O-dachi) and a Wakizashi (or Ko-dachi).
Expert's degree. The most basic is the Shodan (first), which is
immediately superior to the 1st Kyu. In Kendo there is a maximum
of 10 Dan.
Protective piece destined to cover the chest and stomach. Hard and
rigid, it was originally made out of lacquered bamboo, although
modern ones are also made using synthetic materials.
Gill Sensei's terminology for small steps. You'll have to ask him
where it came from.
"Low-level". Gedan no-Kamae: low guard, with the Shinai
to the front and the tip directed downwards.
Training between students who have similar force and are more or
less at the same level.
The left part of the Do. It is a cut not used much in combat, but
can be very effective to the one who is able to master it.
Command that is told by the instructor at the beginning of an exercise
Skirt-like pants which are still worn in traditional ceremonial
customs in Japan. The Hakama has two folds in the rear, and five
on the front, each one with its own meaning.
"Masterful". Honorary title given to the teachers of higher
degree, meaning their appropriation and understanding (Kokoro) of
The internal center of gravity of the human body, usually located
four centimeters below the navel, between this one and the spine.
According to the Japanese belief, it is here where vital forces
reside, and it is also from this point where deep breathing must
Hasso no-Kamae: position in which the Shinai is maintained vertically
with the hands to level of the shoulder of the right or left side.
New Year's training, which lasts several days and finishes with
competitions and special events.
Left (i.e.: Hidari Do: Left part of the Do).
To evade. Hiki-Age: Action to raise the Shinai high after making
a cut, preparing oneself to do another one downwards. Hiki-Waza:
Backwards movement techniques. They are carried out when one is
in Tsuba-Zeriai or another close position in which the opponent
can be caught without consistent guard.
Literally meaning "cord ". It is used in Kendo to tie
the different parts of the Bogu (protective equipment).
The art of drawing a sword out of its scabbard, as fast and clean
as possible, with evident naturalness and fluidity, being the main
objective to cut the enemy long before he is able to draw his own
sword or use any other type of weapon. The great masters of this
art have gotten to be able to draw the sword and sheathe it back
again with the speed of a lightning. Iaido is a sister art to Kendo,
and is recommended when having certain experience in the latter.
Iaido is also internationally regulated by the International Kendo
A one-point combat.
"One step, one blow" See Maai.
(ITTO= 'one' sword; RYU= school). School created by Itto Ittosai,
who used a single sword with both hands. This style had a great
influence in the development of Kendo.
Free style combat, used for training Kendo. More than having a competitive
character, it seeks to give the students an opportunity to apply
the different techniques that they have learned.
Technique based in the traditions and teachings of a school. A technique
can be acquired only after years of training and study.
Victory (used usually at Shiai - competitions).
Very special training, carried out as a combat, in which a Kendoka
takes one opponent after another, successively and without any time
to rest, until getting to physical and/or mental exhaustion and
suffer defeat. The final winner is the one who has obtained most
Basic attack techniques studied as part of essential training. During
Kakari Geiko, the student puts into practice every technique and
movement he or she has learned, usually during a short period of
time but without pauses between attacks.
A strong attack.
Guard or posture. The three basic Kamae in Kendo are the following:
Jodan (high), Chuudan (mid) y Gedan (low).
Kendo forms or sequences, which involve an Uchitachi (the one who
attacks - the pupil) and a Shitachi (who counterattacks- the teacher).
Kendo Kata are 7 using a Dachi (long sword) and 3 with a Kodachi
A slightly curved sword, with its convex edge sharpened, used since
the Ashikaga period (1333-1474). It was one of the weapons used
by the Bushi class, especially the Samurai, which used it together
with a shorter sword called Wakizashi. The Katana has been endowed
with a sacred element, since it comes from the work store of a member
of the Shintoist priesthood. The two swords together are called
Daisho (long and short), and were used by Samurai of all the ranks.
Technique using the Shinai with one hand. It requires great strength
in the wrist.
Shoulder movement that allows giving a blow with the Shinai or shunting
Training designed to perfect oneself in the art and technique of
Kendo, exceeding (Kei) what has been achieved before (Ko).
"Sword". Name given to the ancient straight and double-edged
Although it literally means "an expert in Kendo" it is
usually applied to everyone training Kendo. Kenshi is used as a
more correct term.
Training jacket, made out from thick cotton, used under the protective
"The Art of the Sword". The art of using the sword after
it has been unsheathed in order to be able to attack the enemy.
Iaido is included among the Kenjutsu techniques. It was the warrior
art par excellence, practiced especially by the Samurai. The Kenjutsu
gave origin to the art of Kendo.
One of the most complicated and important concepts of the Japanese
philosophy. It concerns directly the daily life , being not less
than the vital energy of that life.
A kind of explosive sound, some type of controlled and customized
shout that seeks to inspire courage and determination in the one
who emits it and to frighten the opponent, interrupting at the same
time the concentration of the latter. It is originated in the center
of gravity of the body, located approximately two centimeters below
the navel. It makes use of the KI, or " vital force ",
the equivalent of the Chinese CHI (Qi).
Basic Kendo movements and techniques. Kihon is repeated until the
movement becomes almost instinctive, obtaining a perfect action.
NO ICHI: Literally it means "soul, sword and body are one".
It represents the inseparable nature of these three elements in
Kendo. If these are not combined, a blow in a combat cannot be delivered
A warming-up exercise in which the students carry out cuts with
the Shinai, one after another and without stopping, lifting the
Shinai over the head before each blow. Kirikaeshi must be executed
until physical or mental exhaustion.
Short sword, also know as Wakizashi. See Wakizashi, Katana, and
Forearm. Special gloves that cover this part of the body, including
the hands. Point that is scored in this part.
Global concept that comprises time, space and an interval between
two things or two moments.
It means the distance / time that separates two things. In Kendo,
it means the precise distance to carry out a movement or technique.
There are three basic distances in Kendo: Chika-ma - short distance;
To-ma - long distance; and Issoku-Itto-No-Maai - between these two.
The latter means, literally, "distance of one step - one blow".
In front, forward.
Protective mask with metal rods for the face, which also covers
the head. Three basic blows to the Men exist: Hidari Men (left),
Migi Men (right) and Sho Men (to the center).
Right (i.e.: Migi Men: Right Men).
Moment of silence and meditation that is made generally when starting
and finishing Kendo training. It seeks to free the mind, calm the
spirit and prepare the student for training.
"Without a Dan". Term that is used to refer to the students
who have a Kyu, that is to say, that still do not have a Dan.
Attacking or defensive movement, completely spontaneous and without
the intervention of the thought, anticipating the actions of the
opponent. The Musoken represents a type of sixth sense.
Small leather cord that limits the superior third of the Shinai,
and that in addition aids to maintain the four bamboo rods together.
Distal part of the Shinai, with which all contact must be done during
a blow. A cut will not be correct if it is not delivered with this
part of the Shinai. This area is limited downwards by the Nakayui.
Two-sword technique. It is used generally a Katana in the right
hand and a Wakizashi in the left. This style was introduced by Miyamoto
Musashi. Also called Nito, or Nito Ryu.
See Nihon Katana. The Nito Ryu is a style of Kendo, using two Shinai
in a combat, although it is rarely practiced nowadays.
Technique in Kendo with which the Shinai of the opponent is lowered
to the floor, after which a thrust to the throat is made (tsuki).
Evasion. Nuki-Waza: Evasion techniques. They include a step backwards
or a turn made to evade the attack, which causes it to miss, hitting
nothing but air. Taking advantage of the sudden loss of balance
of the enemy, one can effectively counterattack.
Large sword. See Katana.
Action of hitting or pushing downwards the opponent's Shinai, generally
with a quick but powerful blow of one's own Shinai.
"Respect, veneration". Part of each Dojo's etiquette,
it consists of a bow (with the inclination of the superior part
of the body) to the opponent, before and after each training. It
can be done standing or during Seiza.
School or style. I.e..: Nito Ryu.
Small leather piece that covers the end of the Shinai.
A type of warriors (see Bushi), united to a lord in the Imperial
Court. The Samurai were there for the protection of their lords,
and they were highly trained in the martial arts. The Samurai were
the only ones who were allowed carry two swords with them (Daisho).
The ethical and moral code of the Samurai has been transmitted through
the roots of Kendo.
The base of Kendo competitions, it means "three-points combat
". Many tournaments now run on an "ippon-shobu" basis,
meaning one point against you and you lose the match.
Scabbard or case of a sword.
Position taken during rest or while waiting orders, before or during
training. One sits on his heels, with the dorsal part of the feet
in contact with the ground, just like the knees. Facing the front,
the person's back is completely straight, like "a smoke column
that rises on a calm day", looking always to the front.
Threatening attitude, adopted just before lifting the Shinai to
make a cut. Seme implies showing spiritual force to the opponent.
SEN SEN NO
Win by anticipating the opponent's intention.
Competition between two or more opponents.
WAZA: Technique in which the Kenshi takes advantage of the low
guard of his opponent.
Sword traditionally made from bamboo, which is used in Kendo training.
It consists of four rods put together in a careful design that provides
damping for each blow. There are many sizes and weights, according
to the Kenshi's age and stature. Recently, synthetic Shinai have
been introduced, made from carbon graphite.
Judge or referee in a match.
When Kata is made, this is the name given to the one who counterattacks.
It previously meant a death match between two martial artists. Nowadays,
in Kendo, it represents a match or competition. Shobu Hajime (Hajime!):
Judge's words for initiating the match. Shobu Ari: Judge's words
announcing a victory.
A direct blow to the center of the head using the Shinai. Also referred
to as Men.
Position that is taken in Kendo before and after a combat or training
between two people. The legs are bent, the heels are close to one
another, whereas the back stays completely straight. The chin is
in a horizontal position, with the look towards the eyes of the
opponent. The Shinai is taken exactly in the same way as it is done
when the person is standing, aiming towards the throat of the opponent,
always ready for a counterattack.
Exercises with the Shinai or sword, which consist of a repetition
of the basic cuts. A lot of emphasis is made in these exercises,
one has to perform thousands of Suburi before reaching perfection
in the different techniques.
WAZA: Technique in which the opponent's Shinai is lifted with
one's own, managing to obtain an opening and deliver an attack.
Lifting the Shinai and attacking are part of the same movement.
Small piece of light cotton that is put in the head, similar to
a turban, under the Men.
A Shinai's guard; the part of a Shinai that protects the hands..
Term used to describe a situation in which the competitors are so
close one another that the Tsuba of their Shinai is in contact.
"Handle" of a Shinai or sword.
Tsuka Gawa is the leather piece that covers the handle of the Shinai.
Name given to the direct thrust to the throat, using the tip of
the Shinai. Tsuki is a relatively dangerous technique in a real
match, so that it is only used by advanced students.
Word meaning "blow"; [Men Uchi], for example, means "a
blow to the Men"; [Kote Uchi] "a blow to the Kote",
When Kata is made, this is the name given to the one who attacks
and initiates the sequence of movements.
A type of lateral guard, with the Shinai in a horizontal position,
aiming to give a blow with the tip.
Short sword, a Katana's "companion". Known also as Kodachi.
See Katana, Daisho.
Command used to finish and exercise or a match.
/ lateral. I.e.: Yoko Men: cut given to the side of the head.
Situation in which the swords of two opponents are crossed.
The "name pouch" or "tare marker" that identifies
the kendoka by club and surname.
DACHI: Position with the weight of the body towards ahead and
resting mainly on the leader leg (in this case, the one that is
more ahead), with the back leg extended backwards.
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