Kendo, literally the “way of the sword”, was one of the earliest “martial ways” (budo) to appear. In the early Edo period, swordsman such as Miyamoto Musashi began using the term ken no michi to indicate the evolution of a spiritual emphasis in their pursuit of perfection via swordsmanship. By the late 1600s schools such as the Abe Ryu were using the term kendo to indicate a similar shift in emphasis. During the 1700s the movement away from an emphasis on field combat, in combination with the evolution of protective gear, inspired the development of competitive matches called uchikomigeiko, and accelerated the trend toward a more popular competitive, sportive version of classical Japanese fencing. Many schools contributed to this evolution, including the Jiki Shinkage Ryu, the Hokushin Itto Ryu, various branches of the Nen Ryu, and others.
With the end of the Tokugawa period in 1867 and the dissolution of the samurai class, many martial traditions simply disappeared. If not for the promotional efforts of former samurai like Sakakibara Kenkichi (fourteenth headmaster of the Jiki Shinkage Ryu) and others, kendo and a number of other classical martial disciplines might have been lost as well. Furthermore, in 1876 the Satsuma Rebellion occurred, in which thousands of samurai revolted, using swords as their primary weapon. This uprising forced the Japanese government- particularly the police and the military- to see the necessity of including swordsmanship training in their curriculum. Consequently the police commission of 1886 created a standardized training curriculum which included kendo-like shinaigeiko and paired and solo forms (kata). Paralleling this development, the Butokukai created a commission to form its own system of kata and competitive match rules in 1906. This project, which was completed in 1912, resulted in the creation of the Imperial Japanese Kendo Forms (Dai Nippon Teikoku Kendo Kata).
Kendo continued to evolve, and by the early part of the twentieth century had become and intrinsic element of the Japanese school system. Today it is practiced by thousands of enthusiasts all over the world.
Concept and Purpose
In 1975, the All Japan Kendo Federation developed then published “The Concept and Purpose of Kendo” which is reproduced below.
Kendo is a way to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the katana.
- To mold the mind and body.
- To cultivate a vigorous spirit
- And through correct and rigid training,
- To strive for improvement in the art of Kendo.
- To hold in esteem human courtesy and honor.
- To associate with others with sincerity.
- And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.
- Thus will one be able:
- To love one’s country and society;
- To contribute to the development of culture;
- And to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.