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Kendo and Sword Skill

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  • Kendo and Sword Skill

    I'm interested in taking up kendo, but I have a question. Could a skilled kendoka pick up a real sword and use it effectively? Or has kendo gone the way of fencing and moved more towards personal growth and/or competition fighting?

    Now, there's nothing wrong with this movement if it has happened. And, just to clarify, I'm a realistic person - I'm not trying to turn myself into a samurai, or anything like that. I realize that sword skill isn't very useful in the modern world. I'm very interested in self-development and competition fighting. This is just an academic question.

  • #2
    I'm only a beginner still, but from what I understand, since Kendo (in whatever form it took back then) is meant to be based upon how Samurai's learned how to fight, they was meant to learn one strike equals one kill. So if Kendo is the same, you put everything you have in your first strike because in the end you only want to strike the once for the kill. I think what we learn in Kendo is close to it.

    Forgive my humble concept.
    Last edited by IronWarrior; 26th October 2010, 10:18 AM.


    • #3
      Hm... Yeah, that makes sense.

      I was almost too embarassed to ask, seeing as how kendo is the "way of the sword," but I've encountered a lot of martial arts that have moved a long way away from their roots. I mean, I understand that kendo isn't quite what the old samurai's learned, but it's based on what they learned, like you said. But, like, in European fencing? I doubt a modern fencer could pick up a rapier and do much more with it than some guy off the street. Which is a little disappointing.

      ...Not that there's anything wrong with fencing. I just like tradition, I guess.


      • #4
        Anyone who has practiced thousands of cuts with a shinai,
        and has spent time in free sparring or competitions
        is of course going to have an advantage if they ever found themselves in an actual sword fight with someone with no experience.
        They could pick up a broom handle and have better muscle coordination and reaction times for that type of activity than the average person easily.
        As far as actual sword technique there are differences.
        Many stances are used less often or not at all in Kendo.
        Certain strikes, ways of holding the sword, etc., you wouldn't really see in Kendo.
        (Except for Kendo kata (practice forms))
        There are only a handful of specific main locations to get points in Kendo, so any technique attacking any other body parts is useless and not taught as far as Kendo goes, whereas in an actual sword fight the whole body would be fair game.
        The concept of the exact angle of the sword edge, while approximated in Kendo,
        is very different when you are dealing with an actual blade.
        Luckily, getting into an actual sword fight is right below getting struck by lightning just as you win a scratch off lottery ticket, as far as statistical averages go.


        • #5
          That is true, I remember my Sensei teaching us or telling us about different ways to hold the sword or how to handle it that are no longer used in Kendo.


          • #6
            I am pretty sure that a kendo player who thought that kendo had any benefit whatsoever would actually be disadvantaged if they tried to use a real sword in a real fight. A kendo player who thought it was useless might have some advantage over some random person off the street, but I doubt they would have anything over anyone else who has a similar amount of experience in any other kind of "fighting art" (including european fencing).


            • #7
              As Hyuna said, certain aspects of kendo would be a major issue if you believed they reflect actual techniques. If you were in armour, the surest way of dying would be focussing on hitting the most heavily armoured parts of the body like kendo teaches. If you aren't in armour, it would be likewise suicidal to be as all or nothing in attack as in kendo. Even the basic kendo kamae would give me concerns if I had a real sword, having dabbled in naginata I'd be worried how open it leaves an un-armoured leg, especially the inner right thigh


              • #8
                I will speak in defense of Kendo.
                Yes there are only a few target areas, but think for moment where those targets are.
                Kote is the nearest point, Kote is a good foot closer than an upper leg, and does not need a great effort to sever.
                At the time the upper leg is in range, so is the Men with a straight cut, no need to change the hasuji in order to cut a leg, and Men would finish a fight immediately

                I think that kendo WAS NOT developed for armored fighting, Kendo just added protection to the target areas.
                IMHO Kendo targets were selected as the most effective, then protected, and made the only targets to minimize the amount of protection worn.
                Fighting in full armor, Japanese or European, would be more expensive, more clumsy (for most) use different techniques, and lead to the development of war hammers rather than swords.

                All those "other targets" are further to reach and less effective then the 4 Kendo targets, once you accept that Kendo is unarmored fighting where we wear protection during practice.
                I think a skilled Kendoka with a real sword would exhibit enough zanshin to discourage an attack.
                I am intimidated enough facing Sensei WITH protection and knowing it is only a shinai.
                A strong kamae goes a long way.


                • #9
                  I'd give kendo a zombie apocalypse rating of 3/5. Useful until tsubazeriai impulses kick in. Or if it's icy out.


                  • #10
                    Kendo = four target areas + screams + dressing like a tranny + big helmet = dead easy.

                    Actually, that is miles from the truth. Kendo is probably one of the most mentally and physically challenging things I have done. It is hard work and very frustrating but a lot of fun.

                    The transvestite bit is true though.


                    • #11
                      My two cents: if what you are really wondering is if in picking up Kendo you will get a flavor for sword fighting, I would say yes. I bet that's why a lot of people start it (certainly outside Japan where it's just not going to be traditional in the same sense). We could all be playing badminton instead, but we choose to join an art in which we wear armor and use a split bamboo sword and talk about cutting an opponent. But I wouldn't think of it like "how is this preparing me for real sword fighting" -- I would think of it like "how is improving my kendo improving me as a person" and just enjoy the sword-theme along the way.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by stealth_monkey View Post
                        Even the basic kendo kamae would give me concerns if I had a real sword, having dabbled in naginata I'd be worried how open it leaves an un-armoured leg, especially the inner right thigh
                        The leg is easy to reach with the naginata, not so much with a sword.

                        At any rate, if you want to learn how they used to fight with swords, or a least how we think they did given it's been some hundreds of years of transmission since anyone used this stuff regularly for real, check into koryu. Any of the old schools will provide instruction in how to handle and cut with a real blade, and attacking a wider variety of targets than kendo uses.

                        Kendo does that too, with the kata that we practice. Most people don't practice them that much but there's a lot of content in those 10 short forms.

                        Shinai kendo is a different beast but it hasn't entirely lost touch with reality. But still, I don't think anyone who is serious about kendo thinks they are practicing to fight with swords for real.


                        • #13
                          My take on it ... To understand what you're asking about, you have to understand a bit about the sword arts, and where kendo came from. All of the koryu sword arts teach several things: how to properly manipulate the sword, how to properly manipulate distances, how to develop proper timing, how to force and recognize openings. Kendo originated as the Itto ryu's answer to the latter three. Most of the koryu utilize two person kata to achieve these results. Some, such as Yagyu Shinkage ryu, utilize fukuro shinai for the same thing. From this beginning, kendo evolved to point scoring to allow people from various schools to engage in simulated combat. However, it is still very good for what it was originally created; how to learn proper distance, timing, and the creation and exploitation of openings. Will it make you a super-duper swordsman? Not by itself. Will it go a long ways toward creating a well rounded swordsman? Absolutely!

                          P.S. Don't worry, you won't have to wear heels with your dress.
                          Last edited by pgsmith; 27th October 2010, 12:04 AM. Reason: added afterthought.


                          • #14
                            Well since we are the in the realm of speculation and fantasy I will say this:

                            Most people with several years of experience have probably had some expereince with a complete beginner who does something outside of of what we consider normal and taken one by surprise. A beginner has no preconecptions of what is considered right or wrong by a given arts orthodoxy, outside or what they might have seen in movies. In that sense they are more dangerous than an experienced martial artist who knows how to hit properly/controled/within a given ruleset. On the other hand a neophyte lacks experience with timing, distance, proper technique etc, so they can either get lucky or do something strange. If kendo players were less restricted in their target areas this would be less of a danger. Given that one isn't likely to get into a swordfight, its not much of an issue.

                            I will disagree with Neil, the thighs are easy to reach if you are doing upwards cuts, but doing so leaves you open to all sorts of other cuts. Cutting the shin probably wouldnt be my first choice if I was going to cut the legs.

                            If your goal is to be an effective swordsman or study swordsmanship you should take up an art which does test cutting and a pressure testing element in addition to the regular curriculum.
                            Last edited by hl1978; 27th October 2010, 12:09 AM.


                            • #15
                              Yeah, I guess the thigh wouldn't be as hard. Just from my experience with isshu-jiai, reaching the shin is tough.