Kendo for Beginners
2. Kendo Etiquette
Here, basic rules about practising Kendo is described. Precise details are given for what is normally done at the Oxford University Kendo Club (Oxford). All dojo’s have their own method in everything, but the basic principles are the same.
Leaving the dojo
Always let a committee member or the sensei know you are leaving the dojo for any reason during practice.
In Japan, bowing is a way of showing respect and greeting others. You should bow towards the dojo every time you enter or leave it. In Oxford, we practice alongside Sul Ki Do and Karate. It is recommended that you show respect to their dojo as well. We also bow to the teacher at the beginning and the end of each lesson. It is considered polite for younger or lower grade person to keep their heads down for longer than older or higher-grade person.
Handling your shinai
The shinai is a representation of a sword. Although it is made of bamboo you should treat it as if it was a metal sword. The tsuru, is the back of a cutting blade. Therefore, the side directly opposite the tsuru is the blade. It is rude to walk over someone else’s shinai, use someone else’s shinai without permission, lean on your shinai like a walking stick, lean the shinai on the wall with the tip on the floor, stand on a shinai, kick a shiani or drop a shinai. In competitions, you will be given a hansoku if you touch the blade side of the shinai with your hands or drop your shiani during the match.
When handing a shinai to someone else, point the blade side to yourself and hand it over with both hands. Etiquette for shinais applies to bokkens as well. When carrying your shinai, hold it on the blade side of the tsuba and let the sword hang at around 45o to your body with the blade facing up. When carrying bokken, hold it in your right hand in a similar manner. You will transfer the bokken to your left hand and hold it like the shinai when you prepare to fight.
The most polite way of sitting is the seiza. This is when you sit with your shins on the floor and bottom on your heels. This is quite difficult for some, so it is advised you practice this at home, especially after having a bath or a shower, when your muscles are warm and relaxed. Bowing in this position is also the most polite form. Remember to put your fingertips on the floor on the centre line of your body when bowing sitting down. If you are required to sit for a length of time, you may relax and sit cross-legged, provided you do not show the soles of your feet.
This is when you squat before and after a fight. From the basic standing position (see later), turn your left foot outwards slightly and bring your heels together as you squat. Remember to keep your back straight. It is most common to have your sword ready and pointed at your opponent’s throat. As with seiza, it is recommended you practice this at home, as beginners tend to wobble.
Watching and learning in a Kendo practice is called “mitorigeiko” and is as important as physically practicing, especially in higher levels. Every practice session on Mondays, you will be required to sit and watch for the last 30 minutes while the seniors do jigeiko. This is a good opportunity for you to see what you’ve learned used in practise.