Southern California
Kendo Federation



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

The four key elements of kendo:

  1. Gan (sight): the ability to see your opponents, not just their physical presence but also their character, feelings, and intentions.
  2. Soku (footwork): the movement of the body.
  3. Tan (courage): one's spirit and attitude toward one's self and fellow human beings.
  4. 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:
  1. Kyo (surprise): do not be startled or taken by surprise.
  2. Ku (fear): do not let awe of your opponent or fear of failure overcome you.
  3. Gi (doubt): do not hesitate or enter into half-hearted action.
  4. Waku (confusion): do not let your mind wander and become disordered.
Literally, to attack. Seme means to apply pressure to your opponent. There are three basic kinds of seme.
  1. Ki o korosu: break the opponent's will.
  2. Waza o korosu: kill the opponent's technique, for example, by changing the distance.
  3. 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:
  1. Debana: as your opponent's attack is beginning.
  2. Waza ga owaru toki: when the opponent's attack is finished.
  3. Itsuka toki: when the opponent has settledd. Observe patterns of breathing or movement.
  4. Uketometa toki: after a block or parry.
  5. Matou-toki: when the opponent is uncertain.
Mittsu no Sen
The three basic categories of counter-attack (see also the section on Techniques (Waza):
  1. Sen sen no sen: before the opponent attacks (e.g. debana waza).
  2. Sen zen no sen: when the opponent's attack has begun but can be avoided (e.g. nuki waza).
  3. 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).
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 kines of maai are:
  1. Tou ma: far distance (shinai tips apart).
  2. Issoku ittou no ma: the distance from which one can strike the opponent with one motion (shinai tips slightly crossed).
  3. Chika ma: close distance (shinai tips deeply crossed).
Other Fundamental Concepts
There are many other important points in kendo, including the ones below. Their last placement in this list is not a indication of lesser importance; rather, these points are so fundamental that they are difficult to elaborate upon.
  1. Kiai: more than just loudly shouting, kiai means the showing of your spirit and courage through your voice.
  2. Zanshin: alertness, especially after completing an attack.
  3. Kime: literally, to decide. Kime means to strike without hesitation and, more importantly, to finish the strike with decisiveness and conviction.
  4. Shisei: posture.
  5. Taisabaki: body movement.
  6. Kigurai: poise.
  7. Kensen: presence and power in the sword tip.

Copyright 1999 by the Southern California Kendo Federation
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