Part 1: Structures

Part 1: Structures

By Kim Taylor

 Welcome to the newly reformulated Kendo World website. This column will deal with topics concerning iaido and jodo, those two “other” arts in the kendo federation. What they are, and why they are in the federation we will leave for now, it’s likely of more use at the beginning to work out the mechanics of how these arts integrate with kendo. Any organization can be defined as its structure so let’s look at the layout of our kendo federations. In other words, who is in charge and where do my fees go?

In most countries you will find an administration consisting of a President and some executive members, typically a Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary at a minimum. These folks will often be under the direction and control of a board of directors, which is the legally required structure of a company, and sports organizations which incorporate as a national body are usually required to look like companies. This will be the group that collects membership fees (which invariably define membership), keeps track of that membership and issues grading certificates. It is this group that interacts with the government of the country, making sure that laws are followed and money is tracked. This group also talks with the International Kendo Federation (the FIK), usually at a president to president level.

The FIK is a “horizontal” organization, with each country connected directly, rather than through another country. Below the national level can be regional (state/provincial/prefectural) organizations, but their international connection is through a single body representing the country.

Those who practise other martial arts such as aikido or karate may be shaking their heads at the moment, not quite understanding a single national organization, but the FIK has created and maintained this structure due to the World Kendo Championships (WKC). A single national organization, which puts forward a single national team, is mandated by the FIK, and while some exceptions to this rule have cropped up, the rule is eventually enforced.

The FIK deals with the WKC, membership in the FIK, and the issuing of standard guidelines for grading which supports the cross-recognition of rank between countries. Each country pays a membership fee based on its population, so the monetary support comes overwhelmingly from Japan. The FIK is itself affiliated with other sports bodies through Sportaccord, an organization that is recognized and affiliated with the International Olympic movement, but this has little interest to the “rank and file”.

Back at the national level, each country has, or is allowed, the three arts of kendo, iaido and jodo. These are usually organized into an instructional side which may be integrated to various degrees with the administrative side. While the admin side may be voted in by the membership (if required under the national laws of incorporation), the instructional sections will almost inevitably be hierarchical and based on the rank/seniority system we are all familiar with through our gradings. Speaking of gradings, these are issued by each country, not by Japan, nor are ranks registered in Japan as in some martial arts. Membership in the FIK includes recognition of grades from other countries. It is the instructional side which most students will interact with on a daily basis, with the administration being noticed perhaps no more than once a year at registration time and when grading fees are due.

There is no particular mixing of duties between administration and instruction beyond specific funding programs for teaching, or gradings and tournaments. That is not to say that instructional sections do not manage money. The majority of funding raised is for instruction, renting of rooms, purchase of equipment, travel to tournaments and much more. These are the day to day running funds of the organization and are generally not considered part of the administration, so members will pay their local/dojo, regional and national dues and also kick in for equipment, travel and other expenses as needed.

To recap, the FIK is an international organization for kendo, iaido and jodo. The members of the FIK are the various national bodies, including the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF), which pay membership fees and participate on behalf of their memberships. While every nation is “equal” in the FIK, the influence of Japan, whose membership dwarfs the rest of the world, is of course large.

The national members of the FIK (your country) may have dojo and/or members who practise any of the three arts, and anyone who wishes to participate in the WKC must be a member of one of these national organisations. Iaido and jodo, with no international championships, are much less dominated by the FIK or the national kendo organisations. Therefore, not all the iaido or jodo students in your country will be members of the kendo federation.

National kendo organizations have a small administrative group which collect membership fees and register grades, and a larger instructional group which will teach and coach the arts. This instructional group will also collect fees from you and spend them for your education.

The above has explained about the money and where it goes, but let’s now look more specifically at iaido and jodo and just what it is that the kendo federation administers. In a word, that is “seitei”.

The FIK and its members provide instruction, ranking and competitions in the AJKF iai and AJKF sets that are usually called “seitei“. To be very specific, we are talking about the two sets of 12 kata which were developed within and belong to the kendo federation. The FIK has nothing to say about the koryū (lit. old school) arts of iai, or the kenjutsu arts from which kendo is derived. That is not to say that these koryū are not practiced and taught by sensei who are also members of the federation, but that the federation itself does not administer or claim these arts. The koryū arts are organized (or not), tested (or not) and certified (or not) outside of the kendo federations.

Of course, life is not really so simple as all that, and the kendo federation recognises that its iai and practices come from somewhere (the koryū), so at some levels a koryū kata or two may be required as part of a grading test. However, the rank granted is “in seitei” and not a certification of that koryū.

I will speak more about the place of koryū in the federation another time, but please understand for now that the iaido and jodo of the kendo federation is quite similar in intent, flavour and underlying principles, to the Nippon Kendo Kata. While the federation provides separate certification in its iai and arts, it folds the Nippon Kendo Kata into the grading system for kendo. This separate certification has quite powerful effects on the structure of the federation because it creates three instructional sections – one each for iaido and jodo along with the kendo section. This means that there are three heads of section, three standards of instruction and grading, and three sets of students who will cross train in the arts to various levels.

I hope that this article has given you a rough idea of the structure of kendo federations from the international to local level. My next article will look at the position of iaido and jodo in the kendo federations.


  1. Kindly advise any Kendo class in Singapore
    If yes, pls adv contact person and name

    Thank you.

    6262 3888 (Singapore)

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