We practice kendo under the guidance of the Houston Budokan and Sensei Darrell Craig, who have strong ties to the Chiba family of Osaka, Japan (Hokushin Kan Itto Ryu). Our club is also affiliated with the Southern United States Kendo & Iaido Federation and the All United States Kendo Federation.
Kendo classes on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month are open to younger students. In Japan, kendo is very popular and is taught in schools, as well as traditional dojos like the Chiba Dojo shown here. There are even taikai (tournaments) in Japan just for children.
As Sensei Darrell Craig explains in his book, The Heart of Kendo, "The aim of kendo, and of all Japanese martial arts, is not the perfection of a physical technique but the development of a flowing, flexible mind - a mind that is able to react to anything it confronts, instinctively, fearlessly, and without hesitation, regardless of the situation."
In one sense, class begins when you enter the door and bow. The bow is a traditional Japanese symbol of respect for one another and for our practice space, and it reminds us to leave the day's cares at the door.
At the start and finish of class, we bow to a kamiza, a scroll identifying our affiliation to the Chiba family.
Every kendo class begins with warm-up exercises. Because many kendo students start class immediately after attending iaido class, we do not have typically stretch out before regular kendo classes. If you are joining us only for kendo, please arrive a few minutes early to stretch out.
Kendo is broken down into three parts: kihon (basics), keiko (practice), and kata (forms). We strive to practice all three components of kendo, with additional opportunities for practice during special seminars. Kendo students are also encouraged to study the form of iaido specifically developed for kendo students by the All Japan Kendo Federation: ZNKR iaido.
Basic practice (kihon) consists of old and carefully refined drills to establish the elements necessary to face an opponent. Among other things, these exercise drills focus on posture, timing, breathing, gaze, footwork, mental focus, and basic use of the shinai. Some of the exercises are executed individually to group timing, such as suburi, the basic overhead cut. Other exercises are executed with a partner, such as kirikaeshi, which involves a succession of strikes to the men (helmet), or uchikomi geiko, which allows students to attack a passive receiver. Most of these exercises are physically demanding and will give you a good work out.
In a typical class, we practice kihon (basics), keiko (practice), and attack practice (kakari geiko). While kihon, uchikomi, and keiko focus on precision, kakari geiko focuses on attacking with spirit.
Almost all martial arts have a set of kata or forms. Kendo is no exception. Kata are pre-set sequences of motions that illustrate one or more aspects of the art. Repetitive practice of kata internalizes the lessons of the kata. We practice kendo kata on the First Tuesday of each month.
Beginners should wear loose clothing in a dark color for kendo class. We strive to keep costs low for new students, so we will provide beginners with a shinai or bamboo practice sword, in addition to a bokken for kendo kata.
We strive to keep the costs of practicing low. Beginners do not need to purchase a uniform. We will provide beginners with a bokuto or bokken, a wooden practice sword, and a shinai, a bamboo practice sword.
The names of kata, basic movements, and various techniques are described in the Japanese language.
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