Note: for bokuto ni yoru kendo kihon waza keiko ho see kihon kata

Kendo Kata Overview
Nihon kendo kata consists of predefined sets of attacking and defending movements, performed with metal or wooden swords (katana or bokuto, respectively). In practicing kendo kata, one gains a better appreciation of handling and reacting to "real" swords, as opposed to shinai kendo.

Kata emphasizes several principles which are sometimes neglected in shinai kendo:

  • focus: there should be no relaxation of concentration from the initial rei to the final rei
  • kigurai: dignified bearing
  • kamae: proper ready position forms, including some not typically used in shinai kendo
  • maai: proper distance for strikes and thrusts
  • sword movement: correct line and blade angle
  • ashisabaki: silent, gliding (suriashi), keeping toes down

There are 7 long sword (tachi, or daito) forms, and 3 short sword (kodachi, or shoto) forms.

The following must be performed for shinsa (promotional examination) according to International Kendo Federation (FIK) regulations:

  • 1 kyu: tachi forms 1 - 3
  • 1 dan: tachi forms 1 - 5
  • 2 dan: all tachi forms (1 - 7)
  • 3 dan and above: all tachi forms (1 - 7) and all kodachi forms (8 - 10)
At Norwalk Dojo, kenshi learn kata at least one level above the FIK regulations.

There are 5 basic kamae used in kendo kata, 6 if you count the two jodan forms separately. Unless otherwise specified, step forward to assume the kamae, the hands and tip of the blade are aligned with the centerline of the body, and the body faces straight forward. The back heel is always slightly raised.
  • chudan no kamae. Middle kamae, basic kamae with the tip pointing to the opponent's throat. One test of the proper tip level is to imagine the sword being 8 feet long; the tip of the extended blade should be in the face of the opponent.
  • migi-jodan no kamae. Overhead kamae, right foot forward, blade at 45 degree angle, left hand one fist from the forehead.
  • hidari-jodan no kamae. Overhead kamae, left foot forward, blade at 45 degree angle, left hand one fist from the forehead. The hands are positioned with the left above the left eye and the right above the right eye, so the tip is slightly to the right, behind the head.
  • gedan no kamae. Lowered kamae, tip slightly lower than the knee.
  • hasso no kamae. Similar in form to hidari-jodan, but the kamae is slightly above the right shoulder instead of overhead. The right hand is even with and about one fist away from the mouth, the left hand is aligned with the centerline of the body, blade at 45 degree angle.
  • waki gamae. Behind the body kamae. Step back with the right foot, and position the blade so that it angles edge down with the tip hidden from the opponent, with the left hand near the right hip. The body turns to the right.

Uchidachi and Shidachi Roles
Uchidachi and shidachi must work together harmoniously to perform kata.


  • has the senior role (teacher)
  • initiates movement (leads shidachi)
  • kiai "ya"
  • has the junior role (student)
  • responds to uchidachi's movement
  • kiai "toh"

The basic reiho used for shinsa is briefly summarized first. For starting reiho:
  • start 9 paces apart
  • rei at sageto with sword in right hand
  • switch sword to left hand with left thumb on tsuba
  • assume taito with tsuka gashira at centerline
  • 3 big steps forward
  • assume chudan no kamae while drawing the sword and going down into sonkyo
    • start drawing the sword during the 3rd step
    • the sword tip traces an arc cutting diagonally down from the opponent's right shoulder
    • kissaki (blade tips) are just crossing, yokote-kosa (2-3 finger wide overlap)
Ending reiho basically reverses the above steps.

Reiho with kodachi adds procedures for setting down and retrieving the kodachi and tachi.

The full reiho used for enbu (exhibition performance) adds additional procedures for entering the exhibition area and zarei. See video.

Tachi no Kata (Long Sword Forms)
The following list briefly summarizes the starting kamae and primary ("ya" / "toh") cuts for the uchidachi / shidachi roles. Click on the numbered link for a video clip of the kata, taken from the latest AJKF Nippon Kendo Kata video.
  • 1 hidari-jodan / migi-jodan; men (through torso) / nuki-men
  • 2 chudan / chudan; kote / nuki-kote
  • 3 gedan / gedan; tsuki / tsuki
  • 4 hasso / waki; tsuki / men
  • 5 hidari-jodan / chudan; men / suriage-men
  • 6 chudan / gedan; kote / suriage-kote
  • 7 chudan / chudan; men (through torso) / do

Kodachi no Kata (Short Sword Forms)

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