Skip to main content

The Importance and Purpose of Etiquette in Kendo

Thanks to Robin P sharing his knowledge in the 2008 Beginner Class.

* * *

The Importance and Purpose of Etiquette in Kendo
- by Robin Parrington -

One of the first things newcomers notice when they watch a kendo practice is that there seems to be a lot of bowing.

We bow when entering the dojo, we bow to Shomen, we bow to Sensei and we bow to each other at the beginning and end of every rotation of partners.

To understand why we do this we have to consider the origins of Kendo. That origin is from the samurai of Japan.

The samurai were the military nobility and lived by their code of conduct known as Bushido or the way of the warrior. For the samurai good etiquette and proper behaviour were often a matter of life and death, for if he was to offend a superior or not show proper respect the consequences could be dire! Also, the conduct of samurai served as role model behaviour for the other social classes.

Over the years samurai developed Kendo as a safe way to practice their sword skills and it began to take its modern appearance during the late 18th century with the introduction of protective equipment: the men, kote and do and the use of the bamboo sword, the shinai. The use of the shinai and protective armour made possible the full delivery of blows without injury. This forced the establishment of new regulations and practice formats which set the foundation of modern Kendo … and for the samurai etiquette was an essential part of those regulations.

We are not and never will be samurai so you well may ask “why do we still need to use the samurai etiquette?” The answer is simple ... If we forget about these courtesies and manners then we aren’t practicing the martial art of the samurai called Kendo at all, we are just fighting with bamboo sticks. Just as etiquette was an essential part of samurai daily life, it was an essential part of his Kendo. It is as important to Kendo as our shinai or our bogu. Without proper etiquette there is no Kendo!

OK, so now we know why it is important to Kendo and you may ask “But what purpose does it serve?”

The answer to that is it serves the same purpose as in any civilized society. Consider, if, when walking along the street, perhaps in a hurry, someone is standing in your path, you shout angrily “Get out of my way! Move!” What the reaction you may receive? Compare that to the reaction you might get if you asked politely “Excuse me, May I pass please?” Both use the same number of words but the end results may be quite different.

I suspect that the first example could quite easily turn into a confrontational incident, where as the second example will most often result in the other person moving out of your way, giving you a smile and saying “Sorry”.

In Kendo we strike each other with a weapon, sometimes this may cause pain or discomfort. Correct etiquette and good manners help us to keep order, control our raw emotions and cultivate respect and humility.

Much of Kendo etiquette is quite easy to remember and is common sense. We should however try our best to execute all these courtesies to the best of our ability and not simply go through the motions or do them in a slap dash or haphazard manner, in that way we show respect to our teachers, our peers and to Kendo itself.

Kendo starts with Rei and Kendo ends with Rei!

Manners maketh man! They define your character.


Benjamin said…
Shunryu Suzuki was a Zen teacher who went to America in the 1950s to teach Zen. Traditionally, at some point in Zen custom (I'm not sure where) a student is expected to bow three times. Suzuki said that his American student must bow 9 times instead. This was because bowing was a battle for them: although they did the bowing they did not want to do it, they resisted internally.

In the same way in kendo, if you do not want to be polite, or if you do not care, you are losing a battle with yourself.

Popular posts from this blog

2020 Kendo Beginners information

Our first 2020 training (keiko) starts from Wednesday 8 January
You are warmly invited to join us and 
start your New Year resolutions as a Modern Samurai. 

--- Information for Year 2020 Beginners ---

Starting Dates:
Class A: 1.30 – 3pm Saturday 11 JanuaryClass B: 1.30 – 3pm Saturday 14 MarchClass C: 1.30 – 3pm Saturday 11 JulyClass D: 1.30 – 3pm Saturday 10 October
Note: The Class B is postponed one week (from 7 Mar to 14 Mar) due the the current corona-virus status. 

Course Information:
No previous experience required.Regardless of gender, ages from 8 to 80 are all welcome.First lesson is your Free trial.Fees: 99.00 — 10 weeks course (equipment rental included)Family discounts: the 2nd family member is 50.00, the 3rd one is 25.00, and from the 4th one is free.Full membership after the Beginner Class
Programme Objectives: 

By the end of the course, you will be ready to put on Bogu (armour) and start your Kendo journey as a modern Samurai!

School of Education (SOEGymGate 4, Hill…

Koboitchi – 2019 Yamagami Sensei Seminar in New Zealand

Photo Credit: Auckland Kendo Club
Original text in Chinese by Sam Tsai English Translation by David Pan 

This is the fourth time I have had the pleasure of attending Yamagami Sensei’s Kendo seminar.
In 2016, the seminar topic was about the fundamentals of kendo: The five sections of the shinai – Jin-Gi-Rei-Chi-ShinIn 2017, the seminar topic was regarding the “heart(mind) of self-control”, namely: 克己心 / こっきしん / kokkishin: the mindset of overcoming the self平常心 / へいじょうしん / heijoshin: everyday mind 不動心 / ふどうしん / fudoshin: immovable mind In 2018, the seminar topic is 三殺法 / さんさっぽう / San-satsu-no-ho or San-sappo 「竹刀・太刀を殺す」: Kill the sword 「技を殺す」: Kill the waza 「気を殺す」: Kill the spirit

The topic this year is 攻防一致 / Koboitchi. Most kenyu probably heard of it by the more classical term 懸待一致 / けんたいいっち / kentaiitchi, a realm or level of understanding which we hope to attain one day thru training. That said, how do we actually work on this in our daily training? I think this is a question that many ke…

Do not give up just because something is not going your way - Carl Ann

Best wishes to your anticancer pharmaceutical research project!
Life is full of obstacles and challenges but they shouldn’t stop you from moving forward, meaning, do not give up just because something is not going your way. In fact, they should be the driving forces of your progress. I don’t know everything about Kendo, only what my sensei(s) and my mother have told me. There are some steps which I can’t do but I still train because that is how a person makes progress. You cannot improve if you don’t do anything. Being the person I was and still am (a total weirdo), I never really understood what giving up meant before. I had never so-called given up on anything I started because I didn’t know what it was. It sounded like a silly human sentiment to me. How can you stop doing something that you have not mastered? Doesn’t it feel incomplete? Shouldn’t it motivate you to try harder because it feels good to master something or it enriches your life ie. makes your life more meaningful?