Advanced Concepts
Kendo is a lifelong pursuit of mastering fundamentals (kihon), techniques (waza), and key concepts.

Key Concepts

  • Ki Ken Tai no Ichi
    Literally, spirit-sword-body as one. This seemingly simple statement takes many years of diligent effort to achieve.

  • Gan Soku Tan Riki
    The four key elements of kendo:
    • Gan (sight): the ability to see your opponents, not just their physical presence but also their character, feelings, and intentions.
    • Soku (footwork): the movement of the body.
    • Tan (courage): one's spirit and attitude toward one's self and fellow human beings.
    • Riki (power): the ability to put into practice ki-ken-tai no ichi to produce powerful strikes and a powerful presence.

  • Kyo Ku Gi Waku
    The four things you must conquer:
    • Kyo (surprise): do not be startled or taken by surprise.
    • Ku (fear): do not let awe of your opponent or fear of failure overcome you.
    • Gi (doubt): do not hesitate or enter into half-hearted action.
    • Waku (confusion): do not let your mind wander and become disordered.

  • Seme
    Literally, to attack. Seme means to apply pressure to your opponent. There are three basic kinds of seme.
    • Ki o korosu: break the opponent's spirit
    • Waza o korosu: kill the opponent's technique, for example, by changing the distance.
    • Ken o korosu: kill the sword, for example, by knocking the shinai to the side.

  • Datotsu no Kikai
    Literally, chance to strike. The five most important chances are:
    • Debana: as your opponent's attack is beginning.
    • Waza ga owaru toki: when the opponent's attack is finished.
    • Itsuka toki: when the opponent has settled. Observe patterns of breathing or movement.
    • Uke tometa toki: after a block or parry.
    • Mato toki: when the opponent is uncertain.

  • Mittsu no Sen
    The three basic categories of counter-attack (see also the section on Techniques (Waza):
    • Sen sen no sen: before the opponent attacks (e.g. debana waza).
    • Sen zen no sen: when the opponent's attack has begun but can be avoided (e.g. nuki waza).
    • Sen go no sen: when the opponent's attack has begun but can be countered with a parry (e.g. suriage waza, kaeshi waza, or uchi otoshi waza).

  • Maai
    The distance between one and the opponent. The ability to control this distance, and to apply techniques appropriate to a particular distance, is a measure of the maturity of the kenshi. The basic kinds of maai are:
    • To ma: far distance (shinai tips apart)
    • Issoku itto no ma: the distance from which one can strike the opponent with one motion (shinai tips slightly crossed)
    • Chika ma: close distance (shinai tips deeply crossed)

Good kendo builds upon fundamental kendo techniques. The beginning student must concentrate on the basics; letting the basics lapse or jumping too quickly into advanced techniques will lead to bad habits which may be extremely difficult to correct. The advanced student must also constantly review the fundamentals, in order to be able to properly execute the advanced techniques.

There are two broad categories of waza, shikake waza and oji waza. All waza starts with seme.

  • Shikake Waza (Offensive Techniques)
    • Ippon uchi (single hit technique), includes men, do, kote, tsuki
    • Nidan waza, sandan waza (two and three-step techniques) and renzoku waza (multi-step techniques), includes: kote-men, kote-do, kote-men-do, etc.
    • Harai waza (warding off technique), includes harai-men, harai-kote
    • Debana waza (attack-at-the-start technique), includes debana men, debana kote
    • Hiki waza (stepping back technique), includes hiki men, hiki kote, hiki do
    • Katsugi waza (shouldering-the-sword technique)
    • Maki waza (rolling-the-shinai technique)
    • Katate waza (single-hand technique)
  • Oji Waza (Receiving Techniques)
    • Suriage uchi (sliding upward technique), includes men-suriage men, kote-suriage kote, kote-suriage men
    • Kaeshi waza (block-counter technique), includes men-kaeshi do, men-kaeshi men, kote-kaeshi kote
    • Uchiotoshi waza (striking-down technique), includes do-uchiotoshi men
    • Nuki waza (avoiding technique), includes kote-nuki men, men-nuki do
  • waza can also be classified according to the type of attack addressed, such as men ni taisuru waza (techniques against men strikes), kote ni taisuru waza (techniques against kote strikes)

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