Kendo is a Japanese style of fencing derived during the Meiji period in Japan (1868-1912), from the two-handed sword fighting techniques of the samurai. Today kendo, which means "way of the sword", is practiced with shinai (bamboo swords), and fighters wear protective equipment covering the target areas: the head, wrists, and abdomen. The bogu (protective gear) consists of a men (face mask), a do (breastplate), kote (fencing gloves), and the tare, a kind of apron to protect the stomach and hips. Under the protective gear, kendoka (students of kendo) wear a hakama, or wide split skirt, reaching the ankles. The weapon used in Kendo is the shinai, or bamboo sword. The shinai is approximately four feet in length and is made of four carefully formed bamboo slats bound together to form hollow cylinder. A cord runs along the length of the shinai. To make a valid cut a player must strike his opponent with the side opposite the cord. In addition the point must be stuck with the top third of the shinai.
Kendo is not very well suited as self-defense — quite the contrary, it is a very aggressive martial art! There are no blocking techniques which are not counter-attacks: you must attack quicker than your opponent to defend yourself! Kendo is a full-contact martial art — unlike most other martial arts, the cuts are not just marked, but they are delivered with only a minimum of restraint. Still, injuries (other than occasional blisters on the soles of the feet) are very rare. The injury frequency is in fact equal to the one in curling.
To avoid injuries, the kendokas use protecting armor (bogu). The different parts of the bogu are:
Men — a fencing mask combined with shoulder flaps for protection of the head, face, throat and shoulders.
Do — a breastplate, covering the torso and stomach.
Kote — a pair of padded gloves for the hands and the wrists.
Tare — an apron which is worn around the hips to protect the thighs and the groin.
The concept of Kendo is to discriminate the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana. The purpose of practicing Kendo is:
To mold the mind and body,
To cultivate a vicious 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.
Thus one will be able to love his country and society,
To contribute to the development of culture,
And to promote peace and prosperity along all people.