Basic Concepts (Kihon)
Kihon, the fundamentals of kendo, is based on the following elements:
Rei-Ho (Etiquette)
Rei-ho refers to the doctrines or concepts of courtesy and respect. Rei-ho is related to rei-gi, and includes the following elements:
  • Chaku-so: the manner of wearing keikogi, hakama, and bogu. Chakuso is considered a good indicator of one's kendo abilities and attitude.

  • Rei: bowing. Rei demonstrates courtesy, honor, respect, humility, and gratitude. There are two basic rei positions:

    • ritsu-rei: standing rei
      Ritsu-rei is performed from shizentai, the natural standing position. Stand relaxed but straight, with the heels barely touching and the toes slightly spread apart. The chin is slightly tucked. The arms hang naturally at the sides. The left hand holds the shinai at the sage-to position. Bend forward from the waist to bow, keeping the chin slightly tucked.

      The shomen-e-no-rei is a ritsu-rei toward the shomen. The angle of the upper body is about 30 degrees and the eyes look down.

      The sogo-no-rei is a ritsu-rei toward the opponent. The angle of the upper body is about 15 degrees, and eye contact is maintained with the opponent.

    • za-rei: seated rei
      Za-rei is performed from the seiza, or formal sitting, position. When sitting in seiza, the knees are close together, the shins and tops of the feet are on the floor, the big toes are touching, and the rear end is on the heels. The back is straight and the chin is slightly tucked. The arms hang naturally at the side, and the palms are placed on the upper thighs with the fingers together. The shinai is on the floor on the left side, with the tsuba even with the left knee.

      To perform za-rei, move the hands directly from the upper thighs to the floor about one fist away from the knees, with the thumbs and index fingers forming a triangle. Bend forward from the waist to bow, without raising the rear end. The nose should end up centered over the triangle. The chin stays slightly tucked so the eyes end up looking at floor, however awareness always remains forward.

      Note: when taking the seiza position, put the left knee down first. When rising from the seiza position, raise the right knee first. When raising or lowering yourself, keep your back straight, and do not use your hands to assist.

  • Drawing and returning the shinai
    To draw the shinai: From shizentai, perform ritsu rei with your opponent. Bring the shinai to the tai-to position and take three big steps forward starting from the right foot. Draw the shinai with the tip following a diagonal path from the opponent's right shoulder down and ending in the chudan no kamae position. While drawing the shinai, simultaneously go down into the sonkyo position. Keep your back straight and look forward at all times.

    To put away the shinai: from the chudan no kamae position, go down into the sonkyo position, then return the shinai to the taito position. Keep your back straight and look forward at all times. Stand and take five small steps back starting from the left foot. Return to shizentai and perform ritsu rei.

  • Mokuso (meditation) is also performed from the seiza position. Mokuso is performed at the beginning and end of practice.

    The left hand rests on top of the right hand, both palms up, with the tips of the thumbs touching. The oval thus formed is centered in front of the tanden. During mokuso, focus on abdominal breathing, which involves use of the diaphragm and awareness of the tanden. The command to end mokuso is "naore."

Shisei (Posture)
Shisei is very important in all aspects of kendo, from rei to kamae to footwork to striking. Shisei is more than just posture, it also reflects one's physical presence and mental attitude.

Kamae (Ready Position)
Kamae is the stance from which one is prepared to strike or respond to the opponent. There are five kinds of kamae, the most basic being chudan-no-kamae (middle stance).

In chudan-no-kamae, the posture is upright and the shoulders and hips are square to the front. The right foot is forward and the toes of the left foot are in line with the heel of the right foot, Both feet are pointing straight forward, and the left heel is slightly raised. The weight is distributed between both feet, i.e. one foot is not "floating".

The shinai is held with the right hand just below the tsuba and the bottom of the left hand even with, or slightly overhanging, the tsuka-gashira. Both hands are angled (not perpendicular) to the tsuka. The hands should be between one and one-and-a-half fists apart; if not the tsuka/shinai are not the right size.

Hold the shinai with the left hand in front of the tanden, about one fist away from the body. The extension of the kensen should point in the range between the opponent's throat and eyebrows. The kensen should be kept at the centerline of the opponent.

Metsuke (use of the eyes) is very important in kamae. When looking at the opponent, one is looking into the eyes but is also aware of the kensen, hands, and entire body of the opponent. One should be able to see through to the opponent's abilities and state of mind.

Other forms of kamae include:

  • jodan no kamae (over the head)
  • gedan no kamae (pointing down)
  • hasso no kamae (at the right shoulder)
  • wakigamae (at the right hip)

Ashi-Sabaki (Footwork)
Ashi-sabaki is used both when attacking and evading an opponent. Shisei (posture) is very important when performing any kind of footwork. There are four types of footwork, the most basic being okuri-ashi.

Okuri-ashi may be used to travel in any direction. The feet always start and end in the basic kamae position, with the right foot in front and the toes of the left foot even with the line of the right heel. First move the foot closest to the direction of movement, i.e. the right foot when moving forward or to the right, or the left foot when moving backward or to the left. As soon as the first foot has moved, immediately move the other foot as if to send it into the first foot.

It is important to use suri-ashi so that the center of gravity does not shift up and down. In suri-ashi, the feet do not lose contact with the floor, so the body glides smoothly, providing a stable base for striking and countering.

Other forms of ashi-sabaki include:

  • ayumi ashi (the right and left feet alternate)
  • hiraki ashi (side to side)
Uchi-Kata (Way of Striking)
includes suburi, basic strikes, tenouchi, kirikaeshi, taiatari

More than just loudly shouting, kiai means the showing of your spirit and courage through your voice. This includes kake-goe (the vocalization before the strike) as well as calling out the point as it is struck.

Literally, to decide. Kime means to strike without hesitation and, more importantly, to finish the strike with decisiveness and conviction.

Correct mental and physical posture after completing an attack.

©2006. Norwalk Kendo Dojo. Everything within these pages are property of Norwalk Kendo Dojo and may not be used without written permission.