Kendo is a vigorous martial art. In most kendo practices you will be in motion continuously for the entire practice. This sort of continuous practice contributes to a healthy life full of vigor and also helps build stamina, endurance, quick reflexes, speed, strength, and decisiveness.
A Kendo practice is composed of many types of training. Each type has a different purpose for developing the Kendo student. Kendo, like other martial arts requires discipline and a dedication to training. A new student begins with learning the basics such as: etiquette (reigi), different postures and footwork, and how to properly swing a sword. The student progresses through a series of skills preparing them to begin training with armor (bogu). Once a student begins to practice in armor, a practice may be composed of any or all of the following types of practice and this will depend upon what the instructor's focus is at a particular time:
- Kiri-Kaeshi: successively striking the left and right men, practice centering, distance, and proper cutting while building spirit and stamina.
- Waza-Geiko: technique practice in which the student learns to use the many techniques of Kendo with a receiving partner.
- Kakari-Geiko: short, intense, attack practice which teaches continuous alertness, the ability to attack no matter what has come before, as well as building spirit and stamina.
- Ji-Geiko: sparring practice where the kendoist has a chance to try all that he or she has learned with a resisting partner.
- Gokaku-Geiko: sparring practice between two kendoist of similar skill level.
- Hikitate-Geiko: sparring practice where a senior kendoist guides a junior kendoist through practice.
- Shiai-Geiko: competition matches which are judged on the basis of a person scoring valid cuts against an opponent.
Kendo practice is physically challenging and mentally stimulating. A typical practice at MSU Kendo consists of:
- Tai-so: Warm up and stretching exercises.
- Opening Reigi: Opening formalities to prepare for practice.
- Ashi-sabaki: Footwork practice.
- Suburi: Practice cutting without a target.
- Kiri-Kaeshi: Continuous basic practice, involving cuts to the alternate sides of the head.
- Kihon-Uchi: Practice striking with targets.
- Nidan/Sandan-Waza: Two and three cut attacking combinations.
- Uchi-Komi: Continuous patterned striking.
- Kakari-Geiko: Continuous free attacking practice.
- Waza-geiko: Practice in additional shikake (initial attacking) or oji (responding) waza (techniques).
- Ji-Geiko: Free practice.
- Post practice stretching.
Periodically we will practice kendo-no-kata. Kata are pre-arranged forms. The practice of kendo kata helps us to understand the theory and practice of kendo in a way that improves our work with the shinai. Shinai-kendo practice in turn brings about an understanding of how to create kendo in a way that helps to improve the performance of our kendo kata.
Here are some typical Kendo goals that are achieved throught practice:
- Reiho and Saho: (Respect and proper conduct) These set the stage for learning and development. Through reiho and saho, not only are our minds and spirits prepared to learn, but we learn to treat our fellow human beings with courtesy, honor and dignity.
- Form based practice: Perfection is a goal we all should strive for. Kendo fundamentals and kata provide a microcosm in which to learn how to search for perfection. Kendo kata is demanding of us mentally and physically. Kendo fundamentals distill pure, minimal actions that accomplish our goals. Other form based practices include suburi, and kihon uchi (pratice cutting with no target and basic cutting with targets).
- Uchikomi and Kakarigeiko: These require a continuity of purpose and thought. Through kakarigeiko and uchikomi (two types of continuous attacking practices), we learn to remain focused on our activity and objectives to the exclusion of outside and internal distrations.
- Jigeiko: Free practice, resembles fighting, but it is anything but. Jigeiko is the laboratory in which we experiment with our concept of kendo and life. The reality of a partner/opponent (aite in Japanese) shatters the opinions we have that are false, and reinforces those that are correct. In one sense, our partner/opponent serves as a mirror through which we get an honest unbiased view of ourselves.