Kendo vs Kenjutsu: What Is Real Difference In Strategy, Technique And Blade Use?

by Bunka Japan May 28, 2021 5 min read

What are the differences and similarities between Samurai and Kendo?

It's a widespread misconception that kendo and kenjutsu are the same conventional Japanese martial arts style. They both are distinct, with their own traits, including certain similarities. Both skills are considered as the main martial arts for ancient samurai.

Traditional Japanese martial arts such as kendo and kenjutsu are very common. They may seem to be the same to the untrained eye. However, upon closer inspection, you'll see that this isn't the case. So, what's the difference between kendo and kenjutsu?

How do they differ in strategy, technique and blade use? Continue reading and find out below.

 

Kenjutsu and the origins of sword fighting in Japan

Kenjutsu

(Image Source)

Kenjutsu is a broad term for a variety of martial arts styles. It's kind of an umbrella term for all forms of Japanese sword-based martial arts.

Kenjutsu is a martial art that emerged in feudal Japan, where samurai warriors prioritized swordsmanship in their everyday lives. In reality, the term "kenjutsu" simply translates to "sword art."

There are several different kinds of kenjutsu classes, each focusing on a different ability, such as drawing ( iai), attacking ( battoiu), or disarming an enemy ( shinken shirahadome). Suburi, on the other hand, is the most common kenjutsu form today, which entails practicing swings and punches.

Regardless of which ability the kenjutsu school teaches, bamboo practice swords are typically used rather than actual, metal swords.

This, too, isn't a brand-new trend. Samurai warriors practiced with bamboo practice swords also in feudal Japan to minimize the chance of injury and shield their real swords from destruction.

 

The Basics of Kenjutsu

The Basics Of Kenjutsu

(Image Source)

Kenjutsu is a Japanese sword practice that originated with the Samurai class. It means "the technique of" the sword. It entails actual sword combat, with the Katana serving as the primary weapon, while wooden bokkens may be used to minimize the risk of serious injury.

Some schools will practice with a bamboo sword wrapped in leather (fukuro shinai), particularly if a student is new to the art form and has no experience with a sword, which can result in injuries to the sparring partner.

Kenjutsu is a martial art that can be done individually or with a partner. Swinging a powerful sword around increases body strength and endurance, so practicing Kenjutsu by itself has become a means of self-improvement and physical growth.

A Kenjutsuka is a Kenjutsu master, and it takes months, if not years, of dedicated preparation to reach this stage. This results in qualities such as coordination and posture, concentration, and self-confidence that can be used in daily life.

The Meiji Restoration in Japan, which began around 1868, saw the abolition of the Samurai warrior class, resulting in the fall of Kenjutsu as an art form. Kenjutsu, on the other hand, regained a lot of interest in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries as a sport as well as a form of self-improvement and self-defense.

 

Kendo

Kendo

(Image Source)

Kendo, on the other hand, is a genre of Japanese martial art that focuses on swordsmanship and the use of specialized weapons. It was established in the mid-eighteenth century as a more systematic method of sword training and practitioners often train in Kendo dojo or Kendo clubs.

The definition of kendo, according to the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF), is to "discipline the human character through the implementation of the katana's principles."

Two Kendo practitioners threaten to attack each other with practicing blades in Kendo. However, there are unique locations on the body that practitioners must hit, and only hitting these areas can result in points being awarded.

At the conclusion of the play, the professional with the most points is proclaimed the winner. Regardless of who wins, all practitioners bow with gratitude at the conclusion of the match.

Kendo practitioners must wear and use a variety of weapons, including practicing knives, goggles, body Kendo armor, Kendo helmet, belts, and gloves, among other things.

It's also a very loud sport, as participants are allowed to use their voices to demonstrate their battle spirit and taunt their rivals.

Kenjutsu, on the other hand, is said to be more restrictive than kendo. Although all have their own set of rules, kendo provides for greater flexibility.

 

The Basics of Kendo

The Basics Of Kendo

(Image Source)

Here are some of the most fundamental elements that any Kendoka can master at the start of his or her Kendo journey. Basic Kendo methods are represented by both of these.

 

Kiai

Screams! yell, shout or do something else that is loud and confident. Almost all kendo breaks, moves, and even more advanced techniques are followed by Kiai, or at least should be.

Of course, Kiai can be used in all Japanese martial arts just like how ancient samurai used it to motivate themselves during warfare, and this stylish war cry is meant to reflect inner power, energy flow, and resolve while also showing to everyone (especially your opponent) that you're in it to win it. When beginners are forced to do this, they always feel like fools, but this feeling fades after a while.

It's important to remember that Kiai is a personal experience; there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for everybody. Kiai, in my experience, changes along with his customer, being louder in some cases and quieter in others. Anything is well as long as it happens normally.

 

Kendo Footwork

Okuri-ashi translates to "sliding stage." It's normally just a few seconds long and is used to get around between strikes. This movement strategy is thought to have evolved out of necessity: as soldiers battled on unstable terrain where a stumble or a fall meant death, they created this super-safe poking method of walking so they could hold their eyes on the enemy.

Fumikomi-ashi is a strange stomping step/leap (not a jump) that causes the user to collide with her or his rival. This motion is used when striking and/or hitting, and it was most likely developed under the influence of general samurai offensive doctrine, which demanded a fast, lethal, and easy response in all situations.

There is a number more, but these two movement techniques are crucial in any part of Kendo.

 

Wielding A Shinai (The Kendo Grip)

To begin with, despite its appearance as a stick, the shinai is actually a sword. It has a palm grip, handguards, a front side, and a backside and is made out of four elastic bamboo strips. Shinai is only used for striking in the last third of its length, but the whole length can be used for paring or blocking.

In Kendo, all cutting/hitting methods are based on a single general downward cut – many fencing schools in Japan developed their own styles over the years, but only a few proved worthy for real fighting in wartime. Both of them are quick and straightforward, and new Kendo aggressive cuts are no exception.

This means the shinai is held in both hands, and strikes or cuts are made up of three elements: movement, strike, and Kiai. The action begins in the lower abdomen and moves in two directions from there: to the upper body, or the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, which deliver the blow, and to the lower body, which propels the practitioner to his or her mark.

The strikes can be directed at the head, the left or right side of the abdomen, the wrists, or the throat. Naturally, bogu provides protection to all of these areas (armor).

When the shinai is raised over the practitioner's head, the cuts can be long or complete, or they can be reduced when the shinai moves the shortest distance possible, reducing response time.

The first option includes the practitioner's shoulders and knees, while the second option mostly involves the practitioner's elbows and wrists.

Men-uchi (hit on the head), Kote-uchi (hit on the forearm, generally the right one), and Do-uchi are the most common wounds (a hit on the side of the abdomen).


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Japanese Samurai Bushido Culture

Top Famous Japanese Samurai Names And History

by Bunka Japan August 20, 2021 12 min read

The samurai were a very well respected and powerful group of people. They followed the bushido code which is an honor-bound set of rules that prescribes how to live as a warrior, emphasizing practices such as martial arts mastery, integrity in life and death; courage; respect for one's opponents or superiors regardless of rank or social status (read more here). The Meiji Revolution abolished their power but they still had some influence on Japan way into present day because many became businessmen, professionals etc., while others helped shape Japanese culture!

Here are a list of famous Japanese samurai names and history:

Read More
Best Guide For Samurai Sword Names And Types

by Bunka Japan August 19, 2021 6 min read

The Samurai sword is one of the most recognizable weapons in history. It is an essential weapon for not only warriors, but also martial artists and collectors. If you are thinking about purchasing a samurai sword, then this article will be perfect for you! Here we have compiled a list of the best Samurai Sword Names And Types to help you find your perfect match!
Read More
Top Lessons You Can Learn From The Samurai Bushido

by Bunka Japan May 30, 2021 10 min read

The history of Japanese Samurai dates back thousands of years. It has placed a strong focus on virtue in warfare throughout its lengthy history. To be respectable, a Japanese warrior, unlike in other regions of the world, must be full of virtue. The term bushido, which means "warrior's way" in English, alludes to just that.
Read More