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Rules & Etiquette of Kendo

Etiquette is a very important part of Kendo. It is based on respect and is a display of how serious you are about Kendo and Martial Arts in general. Etiquette is hard to explain, but fairly easy to adopt; on the other hand, it is very hard to follow perfectly. Failure to try adhering to proper behaviour can be taken as a sign of poor instruction and personality. Nowadays, the rules of social conduct are quite relaxed and this causes much chaos in our world. To become better people and aim for a better world, it is essential to know basic etiquette in Kendo. So every Kendo students must try hard to apply all forms of etiquette if he/she wants to learn Kendo and become good at it.

What follows are basic guidelines to help you develop good Kendo etiquette.

Always bow when entering or leaving the practice area

Please arrive on time for the practice, which means at least 10 minutes before the practice starts.

You are allowed to bring anyone interested to observe (friends, parents) as long as they follow basic rules of courtesy and etiquette

Turn off you cell phones as you enter the practice area. No phone calls are allowed on the premises

As you enter the practice floor, keep your voice down before and after the class

Running around or sword playing is prohibited before and after the class

Before the class starts, you are encouraged to warm-up and stretch or to practice basic techniques by yourself or with others as long as you do it safely

If absolutely necessary, you can leave before the end of the class, but only if you informed the instructor before the class started

Water breaks are given during a class so you should normally not need extra breaks.

Other kinds of breaks will not be permitted unless they are for serious health reasons

If you need to take a break for a serious health reason, immediately ask for permission

If you are expecting to be late to class, please inform the instructor so he can adjust accordingly. Being late once or twice isn’t a problem, however always being late is disrespectful to your co-students and instructors.

Bring a towel with you and a clean Kendo head cloth (tenugui) if you were given one.

Always check for splinters on your shinai before, after and during the practice

Always hold your shinai or bokken with two hands, either in front of you (on guard / kamae position) or lower it to the right side

Never use someone else’s shinai or bokken unless you get their permission

Always hold your shinai or bokken by the handle, never let the part representing the blade touch the floor or any part of your body. Handle your sword respectfully

From time to time, maintain your shinai at home by cleaning it up, tightening up the strings and sanding off the splinters. Ask for help if necessary.

Cut your nails (fingers and toes) before the practice, to reduce the risk of injury.

Before wearing the armour (bogu) make sure it is in good condition and report problems to the instructor

After wearing the armour make sure to wipe off sweat from the headgear as a courtesy to your classmates

Do not step over a sword (shinai and bokken) or other equipment lying on the ground

Always hold your shinai lowered to the right when the instructor is talking

Never use your shinai to rest on it, or use it as a cane

Never sit casually (unless told to do so) or lean on the walls

Try to limit your questions for between the exercises or after class

Do not stop in the middle of an exercise to talk with a classmate

Always make sure to look around you in order to avoid collisions with classmates

If your exercise is finished but the instructor is busy helping others, start over your exercise in order to avoid dead time

Never leave the room to attend to a personal matter unless you ask permission from the instructor

Always make sure your body is properly stretched (especially your legs) during the practice. If necessary, at any time during practice you are encouraged to stretch tired or tight muscles

Always trust your instructor and follow enthusiastically his/her directions. Ask for additional help if necessary

If there are obstacles in the practice area (floor damage, lights, fans, wires, posts,…) make sure you know where they are and position yourself in order to avoid them

Frequently Asked Questions

As defined by the “All Japan Kendo Federation”, “The concept of Kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the sword”. Through Kendo you will learn to be a better person by developing your spirit, mind and body. In the process you will also learn to move your body more efficiently, increase your stamina, become excellent at dealing with people, become more confident in yourself and develop a keen ability to avoid conflict. It’s also very likely that you will get in better physical shape, learn to breath, sit and walk properly and increase your body flexibility.

Some people learn Kendo for the exercise, for the competitive aspect, for the formal atmosphere or to learn traditional Japanese etiquette. Some people learn Kendo to become better persons, working professional, artists, karateka,… Only you have the answer to that question.

It takes a whole life to master Kendo. In Japan, where kendoka start learning Kendo as early as 6 years of age, nobody would pretend having mastered Kendo even at 90 years old. Kendo is a lifelong journey; as in life, the more you grow old, the more you become wise. The wiser you get, the more you realise you have a lot to learn.

No, probably not. Unfortunately, the movies or books you may have seen are stories dating many centuries ago. There are no samurai alive that can teach those skills nor are there any fights to be fought with swords. Also, samurai didn’t spend all their time fighting and only part of their training was Kendo. They trained to become better swordsmen as well as better humans, which you should also attain if you practice long and hard.

All you need for the first few months will be provided free of charge by the club. After that you will eventually need to buy a Shinai (bamboo sword) that costs about TT $ 250. After about 4-6 months of regular training you will also need to purchase an armour. The armour is a significant investment so before you purchase one, you should know for sure if you want to do Kendo for a long time. In the meantime you can borrow the armour from our organisation.

Yes you will. You will be encouraged to enter to all Kendo tournaments that are being held locally and regionally once you have gathered enough experience wearing the armour (bogu). This may take anywhere between 6-12 months depending on your attendance and progression. In addition to club mini-tournaments, we organize a yearly National tournament. Also many events are held regionally every year and we regularly visit North and South American countries for seminars and tournaments.