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Kendo and "real" sword fighting... is there a connection?

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  • Kendo and "real" sword fighting... is there a connection?

    Well of course there is a connection! I just wrote that to get your attention. However, I am fairly new to Kendo and have noticed something that I do not understand. Being new to Kendo does not mean I am completely naive about the martial arts. I have practices various martial arts and do have some knowledge about them. I've recently started researching Kendo and through that research, I found this very nice site. On some of the videos of Kendo matches, I notice the following things occurring through out the matches:

    1. The shinai touch various parts of the opponent's body and no points are given. Sometimes the two opponents will lock shinai at very close distances and slowly seperate. During this seperation, they will touch the points of their shinai on the oponents arms, neck and head.

    2. At close distances, there is no kicking.

    3. There are no attacks targeting the legs.

    Now let's take the first thing I noticed. Why aren't these contacts being called as points? I'm assuming that Kendo is meant to be a way to practice for real sword combat. In real combat, I am sure that such contacts would cause injury, and therefore should be considered a point (imho ofcourse).

    No kicking also seems to place arbitrary limitations on what might truly be faced against a real live opponent.

    Has Kendo been diluted, like Boxing, for the sake of sport (and/or safety)?

  • #2
    if im correct, kendo is supposed to be majoritivley the fencing(to make an analogy to western sword fighting) portion of japanese and korean sword fighting. iaido being the drawing and cutting. IMHO(wich is only mildly educated so others may smack me down here) Kendo is not diluted, but merely one part of a whole. Its the practicality of swordfighting, but not the physical side of hand to hand combat, nor does it cover what cuts would be most effective, nor how to cut from the scabard(i know nothing about iaido but was told this is a main focus). look at the training a japanese swordsman would be given as anolgous to a marine. Hes trained in hand to hand combat and marksmanship. While he may eventualy tie the two together he doesnt train with both until much later on when in actual preperation for a battle(excuse the brevity of that......no offense to the jarheads.....i mean marines on hear )


    just my two pennys

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    • #3
      I think Kendo is a Martial Sport, and with all sports it has rules, and differences from it's predecessor, Kenjutsu.

      Dress 2 Kenjutsu students up in Bogu and give them Shinai, and they will fight much differently than Kendo students.

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      • #4
        I think many misunderstandings about kendo stem from the problem that people do not realise what kind of combat the techinques are meant for. Kendo waza are if I am not mistaken meant to be effective in a one on one unarmoured swordfight, a duel. They are not meant for battle. That is why we attack only areas of the body which armour would protect: the wrists, the head and the abdomen are very vulnerable, therefore they are protected by armour both in battle and in kendo, practice for unarmoured swordfighting. Get it?

        Trying to cut to the legs will leave you very vulnerable to a debana- or nuki style counterattack. It is more feasible if you wear armour or if your weapon has a longer reach. Kendo represents combat between unarmoured opponents similarily armed with swords, so there are no cuts to the legs.

        To answer your first question, points are only awarded for attacks that would immediately end the fight.

        Kendo teaches how to fight a unarmoured duel with swords, while old kenjutsu styles often teach how to use the sword in many other situations. That is why many of the waza are so different.

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        • #5
          The rules of Kendo before WWII permitted the use of jujutsu or judo techniques also. Many times the combats ended with the opponents in the floor. After WWII to make Kendo acceptable in schools the Japanese focused only in the sparring technique and just didnt use any more the other techniques that gave it a military training look or else the USA occupation forces would not allow the teaching of Kendo again. Only the Japanese or Korean Senseis that practiced Kendo before WWII remember how it was (hard) on those days. Today the focus is only on striking in the head (men) on the forearm (kote) and on the side of breastplate (do). When two kendokas are very close in tsubazeriai they cant stay like that for a long time (rules) and a way of going to the right distance avoiding being beaten is putting the shinai on the shoulder protection of the opponent blocking the other shinai.
          Maybe you can sy it was dilluted to survive.
          Last edited by Akechi; 3rd January 2005, 11:16 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Akechi
            The rules of Kendo before WWII permitted the use of jujutsu or judo techniques also.
            damned that should have been devastating...

            i have to find infos about that... i really didn't know that...

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            • #7
              Forgot to add: Kicking? Why would anyone want to kick when they (and their opponent) have a sword? It is not a good idea: the chance of doing your opponent any significant damage is very slim, while the chance of opening yourself wide to a counterattack is great.

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              • #8
                the Samurai would have certainly practiced a combination of Techniques when fighting (jujitsu .. karatejutsu as you have mentioned) but modern Kendo is only extracting one Martial Art from the Samurai's roster..

                also there is a school of Kendo in which all hits are counted, and it usualy ends up in messy fights in which people just bash their shinai at each other... the fact that you have to excercise correct Ki Ken Tai Ichi and make a clear and composed cut bearing in mind your posture etc.. thats what allows you to nurture true skill, it really aint that hard 2 kill sumone with a sword, but in order to better yourself and your mind etc etc etc you should practice Kendo (which is meant to be above mere "technique".... thus it being a Do or a "way"_

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                • #9
                  Kendo and "real" sword fighting... is there a connection?

                  I would say YES, if practiced properly

                  I also think, that if you master men, kote and do cuts (in shinai Kendo and kata), you will be able to perform other cuts.

                  The reason, why those light contacts are not considered as points, IMHO is, that in Kendo we strive for a perfect hit (cut or thrust) with sufficient power (and other stuff like zanshin), so in order to motivate contestants to fight in this way, insignificant hits are not counted. This is just a part of the Kendo practice.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Valid Strikes

                    To get a point, a strike has to be landed on a certain area (men, kote, do, tsuki) and be made with good form, including asserting zanshin after the cut. It the defender's shinai touches the attacker's shinai before the blow lands, even if it doesn't appear to deflect it, there is no point. Finally, it your opponent's shinai is touching you, you cannot get a point. So, when combatants are separating one often touches the other to nullify the possibility of a quick blow getting a point. (When you are close, things can happen very quickly, and this is the easiest defense.)

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by don quixote
                      I think many misunderstandings about kendo stem from the problem that people do not realise what kind of combat the techinques are meant for. Kendo waza are if I am not mistaken meant to be effective in a one on one unarmoured swordfight, a duel. They are not meant for battle. That is why we attack only areas of the body which armour would protect: the wrists, the head and the abdomen are very vulnerable, therefore they are protected by armour both in battle and in kendo, practice for unarmoured swordfighting. Get it?

                      Trying to cut to the legs will leave you very vulnerable to a debana- or nuki style counterattack. It is more feasible if you wear armour or if your weapon has a longer reach. Kendo represents combat between unarmoured opponents similarily armed with swords, so there are no cuts to the legs.

                      To answer your first question, points are only awarded for attacks that would immediately end the fight.

                      Kendo teaches how to fight a unarmoured duel with swords, while old kenjutsu styles often teach how to use the sword in many other situations. That is why many of the waza are so different.
                      A cut ot the leg in the right area would end the fight almost immediately.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        stuartwilson: thank you for clarifying that to me, now it's making more sense. This is interesting because if samurai swords are half as sharp as they are thought to be, I am sure that even light contact would cause considerable injury and/or pain. Now this brings up another point....

                        Would the act of continually practicing and competing in kendo actually ingrain behaviour (such as allowing oponents to rub swords on your body) that could actually be very detrimental to oneself in a real sword fight? Take boxing for example. If one were to trained in the art of boxing and found himself surrounded by opponents in a Korean bar, would he actually be prepared to counter attacks to his legs by opponents kicking him? I would say that he probably would not be. In addition to that, he would probably have ingrained behaviours that would make any such attacks very hard to defend. This would be because he has been "taught" and "trained" to simply disregard them.

                        Are there any practictioners of Kendo that do allow a more wide variety of attacks in competion? Also what is the type of Kendo that counts every contact as a point?

                        Thanks in advance for any answers =)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I actually can't think of any good reason there aren't cuts allowed to the legs. The targets in kendo are generally considered to be chosen because a) they're easy to protect with light armour and b) if you can hit them, you can hit anywhere. I can tell you from personal experience that a) we already have the armour readily available and b) doesn't apply to the legs - training men, kote and doh doesn't really prepare you to attack or defend the legs. If you ever try isshu-jiai (match against naginata) you will find the legs to be ... problematic.

                          At any rate, the point of kendo is not to prepare you to be the world's most badass swordsman. If that's your goal, you're considering the wrong art. Kendo is based on authentic technique but it has wandered some from it's origins. You have to evaluate it in and of itself. Kendo is very deep - it has a lot to offer. But if you get caught up in worrying about whether you'd survive a real swordfight, you're missing the point. Pun intended.

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                          • #14
                            If you ever try isshu-jiai (match against naginata) you will find the legs to be ... problematic.
                            So this implies that legs are a valid target in a isshu-jiai competition/match... now I am truly confused. And to add to that confusion....

                            Do the rules allow a kendoka to wield two swords simutaneously (ie miyamoto musashi) and if so are the rules of engagement altered any? Are the legs a valid target at this point? Also, I would assume, that having 2 weapons will make scoring at close range much more easy than with one. So does the locking of swords and rubbing swords against opponent's bodies still happen when two swords are used?

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                            • #15
                              The shin is consider a target if you practice naginata. Therefore, in isshu-jiai, kendoka has to wrap up his shin.

                              I don't know the reason the shin is not considered a target in kendo. However, the goal of practicing kendo is not to learn how to kill but to develop oneself both physically and mentally. Four targets (men, kote, do, and tsuki) are more than enough.

                              DarthMaul, in modern days, the chance you find yourself in a fight with another guy using swords is very remote. Moreover, masters of martial arts (including kendo) do not go out and seek fights with others. They know how to diffuse the situation so that it does not have to come to physical violence. Personally, I have not seen anyone who are highly trained in martial arts gets into a fight. It is often times the guys who neither know how to fight nor controll their temper.

                              Finally, although kendo does not teach how to fight in combat like kenjutsu, kendo is still useful when it comes to unavoidable situation that you have to use physical violence. First, I am faster and more agile than the average person who does not practice kendo. Second, i have confidence in using a stick (whether it is a shinai or a pool stick). Third, while my opponent is still thinking about what to do and how to use his stick, my fast men to his head will knock him out and end the brawl quickly.

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