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File:54th-All-Japan-Kendo-Champ2006-2 8636.jpg

The modern form of the Japanese art of sword fighting, based on the more traditional Kenjutsu.

Kendo is the modern day equivalent of Japanese sword fighting to classical or Olympic fencing.

Practioners of the sport are usually called Kendoka or Kenshi.

The sport is a very physically and mentally challenging activity that combines strong martial-arts values with sport-like physical elements.

Equipments consist of:

  • Keikogi - The jacket worn under the bogu. Similar to Judo/Karate Gi, but thicker.
  • Hakama - Traditional japanese trousers.
  • Tenugui - A traditional Japanese head towel, worn on the head under the Men.
  • Bogu - Armor set, which consists of:
    • Men - The grilled mask that serves as the head protector.
    • Kote - The gloves.
    • Do - Chest Protector.
    • Tare - Protective flaps worn on the waist.
  • Shinai - Bamboo sword for training and sparring.
  • Bokken - Hardwood katana, made for kata practices. Trope Maker for Wooden Katanas Are Even Better.

There are several types of acceptable striking targets in Kendo:

  • Men - Strike to the head.
    • Yoko-Men or Sayu-Men - Strike to the either sides of the head.
  • Kote - Strike to the forearm.
  • Do - Strike to the torso area.
  • Tsuki - Thrusting strike to the throat.

Most schools in Japan typically have a Kendo dojo, and inter-school tournaments are very common in the country. The sport is also practiced in several other countries around the world and governed by the International Kendo Federation. In Korea, the sport is reffered to as Kumdo and for obvious reasons its Japanese orgins are downplayed. Though there are some minor stylistic difference between Korean Kumdo and its more "orthodox" Japanese cousin. Many schools overseas the trace their orgin to Korean Schools also use the name Kumdo.

A related art is Atarashii Naginata, which uses similar equipment and rules, but which arms its participants with bamboo naginatas rather than swords. It used to be that kendo was for boys and Naginata for girls, but this has broken down since the Turn of the Millennium. Naginata adds an additional bit of protective gear, the sune-ate, which covers from the knees to the ankles, and an additional valid attack ("Sune"), to the sune-ate. Kendo and Naginata actually sometimes compete against one another, in matches known as isshu jiai.

Tropes involving Kendo:

  • Attack! Attack! Attack! - There's a saying in Kendo: "bogyo no tame no bogyo nashi" ("there's no such thing as defense for defense's sake"). Kendo practitioners are trained to respond to attacks by themselves attacking and trying to get there first, rather than focusing on defense.
    • It should come as no surprise, as this is a culture whose warriors never got around to inventing the shield.
      • Pre-Heian period Japanese shields exist. Also, flat rectangular bales of straw, small turtle-shell bucklers, and stationary man-height shields were used. It is better to say that individual shields went out of fashion as unimportant equipment for both the horse archers and the fast-moving infantry. One wonders what medieval Japanese army would do with an enemy in tight shield formation...
    • The drill kalled kiri-kaeshi, which consists of a total of 21 men strikes done in succession, on the move.
    • Also the practise called kakari-geiko, where the protagonist makes continuous attacks against a defensive opponent yielding openings for strikes.
  • Blade Lock - Also known as tsuba zeriai in the sport.
  • Calling Your Attacks - Arguably the Trope Maker, if not Trope Codifier. In Kendo sparring matches or tournaments, points are only given for attacks that are properly called and executed properly.
  • Counter Attack - Nearly half of the techniques are based on this trope. Bonus points go to debana waza, in which you counter attack before the opponent has even moved.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome - The counterattack called men-nuki-do. In that move your opponent aims his strike on your head. You take a small side-step, avoid the blow, and simultaneously strike horizontally his right side torso, effectively cutting him in half. Men-nuki-gyaku-do is the same on your opponent's left.
  • Dual-Wielding - The style called nito-ryu
  • Flynning - Completely averted.
  • Lighter and Softer: Modern Kendo compared to Pre-WWII Kendo, which is much more aggressive and violent. Legal moves included grappling, chokeholds, tripping the opponent, and picking him up bodily and tossing him out of the ring.
  • Kendo Team Captain - Usually one of the top tier fighter in the dojo.
  • Kiai - Related to Calling Your Attacks, and a very important element of proper Kendo technique.
  • Kid Samurai - Practically all young Kendo practitioners.
  • Master Swordsman - Modern real-life incarnations of the trope.
  • Samurai - Kendo is the modern evolution of Kenjutsu, so many Samurai traditions and concepts survive through the sport.
  • Single-Stroke Battle - Quite common during sparring matches. Kata #7 is a very good example of this.
  • Suicide Attack - There are some higher level moves that, essentially, only work if your comfortable with dying: the trade off for success is leaving yourself very open during the attack. Sort of a cross between Taking You with Me and Death or Glory Attack. They're for times when (a) you'll probably lose the fight anyway and/or (b) when your opponent dying is more important than your survival.
    • Actually, many techniques start with sudden charge toward the opponent, which if mistimed, would send you hurtling straight past your opponent and leave your back completely open, but furtunately you are not allowed to stab your opponent in the back
  • Sword Fight - Self explanatory.
  • Twinkle Toes Samurai - Basic Kendo footwork is this, also known as Ashi Sabaki. Its purpose is to make it harder for your opponent to notice that you have begun charging towards him
  • Wooden Katanas Are Even Better - Basically the entire concept of the sport.

Media that portrays Kendo, or is inspired by Kendo:

Anime and Manga


  • The noir film, The Crimson Kimono, directed by Sam Fuller, has an exhibition kendo match between the two protagonists that degenerates into a violent brawl through their rivalry over a woman and racial conflicts.
  • Star Wars - Lightsaber duels from the Original Trilogy are based on Kendo movements.
  • The Yakuza - One of the main characters runs a kendo school, and his skills become important later.
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