About seven years ago, I took Kendo classes in a small group in Leiria that now grew up to be the Kendo Club of Leiria. Although it was temporary, Kendo seems to have left some impact on me and I hope to one day practice it again. For this reason and being an object of reflection for me, it is still part of my life and therefore I want to share it with you today. This martial art has so much to offer to each one of us!
The kendo or “way of the sword” as it is literally translated is a Japanese martial art developed from traditional sword fighting techniques – Kenjutsu. This technique was practiced by the samurai, warriors of the Japanese aristocracy who lived according Bushido (“the warrior’s way”) – a concept that deprecates a moral code of conduct and way of life. The path itself, arise in a moral code that combines frugality, fidelity, mastery of the martial arts and honor to the death. Nitobe describes Bushido as a “code of moral principles in which the samurai is required or instructed to observe”.
The modern art of kendo, practiced nowadays, is an evolution of the technique and thinking carried out by the samurai on the battlefields. That is, when in the Tokugawa period Japan found a time of stability and peace, martial arts, including Kenjutsu, acquired a new meaning. With no more wars to overcome, military arts began to be studied as methods of self-development as in an aesthetic and spiritual way. It is at this point that Kendo makes its first appearance. And its beginning, is symbolically referred when Naganuma Shiro proposes in a Kenjutsu training the use of a bamboo sword – the shinai. No longer seen as a combat techinique, Kenjutsu was understood as a defense art.
But in the nineteenth century, after centuries of isolation (Sakoku) and with the arrival of Commander Perry to Japan, the country proved old-fashioned and outdated in warlike terms, compared to the nations of the West. And if somehow the isolation before the rest of the world had been a means for martial arts to be transformed into rich and fascinating warrior antiquities with their symbolic and spiritual rituals, they had no chance against the devastating power of the foreign nations, who replied with guns and firearms. The Meiji Restoration that followed, ended the shogunate (title and military distinction of the samurai) and led to a restructuring of the country, recreating it based on the latest technologies and ideas from the West. The martial arts, like the Kenjutsu, fell into disuse, due to the Japanese’s perception of their impracticability on a near future.
Fortunately for us, there are still many schools in Japan and in other countries that encourage the practicing of martial arts. And even though Kendo has undergone some changes over time, its spirit and fighting techniques remain untouched by time.
In its core, Kendo is much more than just learning combat techniques. It is also, in the words of the All Japan Kendo Federation, “a way to discipline the character of Man through the application of the principles of Katana.” According to, the federation, Kendo purpose is:
To mold the mind and body,
To cultivate a vigorous spirit,
And through correct and rigid training,
To strive for improvement in the art of Kendo,
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honor,
To associate with others with sincerity,
And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.
This will make one be able:
To love his/her country and society,
To contribute to the development of culture
And to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.
For these same reasons, Kendo as to be understood as so much more than a simple sport or martial art and should be seen as a way of life that presents a wide range of benefits to our health and well-being, improving our:
- Problem-solving skills
- Education for self-transcendence
Teaching Kendo also passes on a code of etiquette that reinforces values such as respect, courtesy, persistence, mutual aid, courage, resilience and patience.
Kendo can be used, also, for therapeutic purposes. It can help you:
- Reduce stress
- Correct spinal and cervical problems
- With lumbar pain (caused by poor posture and sedentary life)
- Eliminate toxins and other harmful substances to our body (by accelerating the metabolic functions of our organism, helping increase vital energy – chi energy).
It’s a certainty, that practicing martial arts can result on several advantages to your well-being whether it be on a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual way.
If somehow Kendo caught your attention, click here to learn more about this fighting art! And, if in some way you’re curious to try it, you must do it, it’ll be a good experience, plus you’ll have a lot of fun playing samurai!
This post was originally written in Portuguese. Click here to read the Portuguese version.